Office Photography On-Location

September 19, 2012 · 0 comments


Setting up a photo studio in a client’s office is often a lot of work, but I really appreciate that my clients uses their own people and places to create stock photography-looking photos instead of buying generic ones.

In many ways, it is easy to follow the stock photo recipe, and it creates photos that are easy to use for my clients. This day, we did four different settings, and the “discussion between colleagues at the coffee bar” was one of them.

The problem was the rain pouring down outside with heavy grey skies and almost no natural light to use to get ambient light into the scene.

Behind The Scenes On-Location


Lucky for me that this office was rather big, not so much when it came to how high I could place the lights, but I could place my lights and models without having to be in the way of everyone working there. A little perhaps, but I didn’t have to disturb their working day too much.

For this assignment I used three lights, I seldom bring more on-location as it makes the equipment bags too heavy and hard to move from one floor to another (this office had two floors with a small spiral staircase connecting them, not so fun to move things that way).

A large space and just three lights

I could have used a lot more lights to get the the background exactly like I wanted it, but then it would have been no space left for the people working there. So it is always a balance between perfect and doable. I usually go for doable. Even when I try to get the light in a large office to look natural.

The main light comes from camera right (or rather, all three lights come from that direction in this picture) and it was a Profoto D1 250 Air with a Profoto 5-foot Softbox Octa. That is my main choice for the main light most times I am working on location, from single portraits to smaller groups. I have used it often and I know how it behaves, quite nice to know when working with a tight schedule.


Lighting Setup Diagram On-Location at the office

The main light together with a round collapsible reflector on the other side was all I needed to get good light on the man and woman talking at the coffee bar. The two other lights were used to get the background right.

One of the background lights was pointed in the same direction as the camera to avoid creating ugly shadows. I added a couple of layers of diffusion on the Zoom-reflector to make the light a little softer.

The last light, I used to get the nearest parts of the background even brighter to separate the man and woman better from it. But with its direction from right to left, it also acted as hair/rim light on the couple which made them stand out even more. The useless windows were to the right, so on a sunny day, the light could have looked a little like this with hard light coming from that direction.

To control that last light a little better, I used a 3-foot Creative Light softbox Octa, a very small light modifier and easy to use.

Sunlight or fake light

I have been to their office a sunny day, and I think I could have produced photos looking almost like this with just natural light. Maybe one or two reflectors to lift the shadows a bit. But being there on a rainy day, the sun was of no help.

To get the studio lights looking more natural, I used a shutter speed of 1/60s together with an aperture of f/3.5. It might be a bad mix of lights, but I think it looked pretty natural. As natural as images like this can look like, to be exact. It is a fake situation, but I am not thinking too much about the light.

One or two more lights

In a perfect world, I think two more lights would have removed the small imperfections I see in this picture. The major one is the ceiling that is a bit too dark far away in the background. Again, if the sun had helped me, it would be a lot more light in that area of the picture, but a light far away camera right could have solved that too.

And maybe another light to shine in through the windows in the right part of the picture, where the guy in blue/black is talking on the phone. It would have been nice to get light from that direction to lighten it up a bit.

But, with just three lights this is what I achieved, and the schedule didn’t allow for much more time on this one.

To sum it up, this is what a lot of my assignments will look like the next six months or so, living and working in Sweden. Relying only on natural light is not really an option, maybe for quick portraits in the middle of the day, but never for booked stuff like this when we have to get the pictures when we can get the people and locations together.

Preparing for the darkness

Reducing the workable days to just one or two hours around lunch time is not very economical, better to bring your own light and work on getting really good at making it look pretty. Without having to have a bus load worth of equipment that requires assistants and hours of preparations. That is not really my style.

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