≡ Menu

CEO portrait, Strobist-style


In my ongoing project of shrinking my equipment bag for quick portraits on location, I have now reached a milestone. This time I just had to pack one Speedlight SB-910, one black/white umbrella, a Lastolite TriFlip collapsible reflector and two light stands. Plus the connectors and clamps needed to attach them.

I usually bring two Profoto D1 or one AcuteB 600R for assignments like this, but as this was inside a building and no sun to battle, bringing just enough to get the work done felt like a good idea. And it was.


Quick, but not dirty at all

The office I was visiting was only three or four blocks away from my studio, and being able to carry my backpack and just one small bag there was something very nice. It felt easy to work, and very flexible.

Flexible and quick was also some kind of keywords for this assignment. We had time to shoot at a few different locations inside the building, but with this setup I had more time at each station to get good portraits rather than having to find electricity and spending time packing and unpacking my big lights.


I started the assignment with getting the exposure right, and had help from the CEO’s assistant that happily acted as my test model. For all the shots I used ISO200, aperture f/2.8 and shutter speed 1/60 second. That gave a good mix of flash and ambient light so the background became interesting.


Shooting with a D700 and a 85mm/1.4 I could place the Speedlight with the umbrella very close, and the same with the reflector from below. When we were finished with one location, I took the stand with the Speedlight and the CEO took the reflector. As I said, very flexible.


One spot – two styles (at least)

This is a kind of technique that I try to remember as often as I can. When shooting portraits like this, find a way to get different styles from one spot without having to move the model. Set up the lights and walk around him/her to vary the angle and background.


For this portrait, I just move the light to my right and walked to steps to the left. First she had the wall behind her, and now she has it to her right, leaning on it a bit.

If the model can stand on one place, they don’t have waste time walking to a new spot or figuring out how to pose. Those things always steal time.


This assignment took about 30 minutes from start to finish, and 20 of them I could use shooting portraits of the CEO. That was a little more than I had, but with a little charm and luck, you can often squeeze out a few minutes more.

The three locations we used were all in the same reception area, maybe ten or fifteen meters apart. Spending most of the time you have shooting portraits instead of finding new spots and getting the light right is very good. Then you can deliver a wider range of portraits which in turn will probably make the client more happy with how effective the photo shoot was. And they might order more portraits.

For now only use Profoto Air transmitters/recievers and full manual, but should look into PocketWizard Mini/Flex system for better control and sync. It worked very well this way, but everything can be improved.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • 601 Photo December 16, 2013, 18:02

    Very nicely done Stefan! I have lots to take away and make notes from this one. 🙂

    I’ve been a fan of your blog for a few years and always enjoy your blog posts. Keep them coming!

    I can understand your wanting to keep the amount of gear to a minimum, last week I shot 21 headshots in 4 days for a specific project, which generated two “on-the-spot” requests (and photo shoots) for general use headshots. I too tried to keep my gear low for quick movement between offices/buildings: D800, 24-70mm lens, two flashes, two stands, a large shoot through umbrella, PW+IIIs, and an apple box to stand on (for me, if needed). The head shots were all taking place in small-ish offices, so no real good location choice (the people were busy, top brass types) and I had very little time with each of them – maybe 10 minutes from the time I arrived to the time I (and my assistant) finshed tearing down the gear.


    601 Photo

  • Tom July 27, 2015, 21:17

    Great article. Any tips for people wearing glasses?

  • Stefan Tell August 30, 2015, 00:52

    Thanks for your comments,

    I have almost stopped using Speedlights except for on-camera work on events and such stuff. Using a Profoto B2 has made it so simple to travel with a light backpack and a stand that I can’t really go back. If they only did a Speedlight you could use with Profoto Air and just one dial, then I might buy one for quick shots.

    just work the angles. That is the easiest way of getting around the reflections. Place your lights at an angle so the light doesn’t bounce back right into your camera, it might sound stupid, but it is really that simple.

    And make your models clean their glasses, many people have smudges one their glasses that makes the reflections so much worse.

    I would recommend searching on YouTube, there are a lot of people there explaining it a lot better than me.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: