Last year I did an assignment for a Swedish company that runs a lot of clinics, and one of the places I visited to photograph image photos for their new web site and annual report was, of course, quite small.
In a small room, lighting the background separately can be a problem with so short distance from the models and everything else. Even with a tele. But we had some luck as the door to the doctor’s office were the type with a large panel of frosted glass in the middle, a perfect diffusion screen.
Instead of using a big softbox to light the background, or place my Chimera panel with diffusion fabric inbetween the light and the background, I could just put a Profoto D1 with bare bulb outside the door.
The angle and everything worked just fine to imitate the light from large windows, but from the “wrong” direction (which doesn’t matter if you haven’t been inside that room), and it hit the glass doors of the book shelf in the background in a way that gave them a good, diffused glow.
The main light came from another Profoto D1 250 Air, with a large 5-foot (150 cm) softbox Octa placed close to the desk, and with me shooting from under it. Using a Nikon D700 and a 70-200/2.8 VRII made it possible to get a little shorter DOF and in the same time not getting all the other stuff in the picture. It was quite crowded with machines and instruments in there.
Having the main light almost straight on made it easier to position the models in different angles without having to adjust the lighting, and placed a bit up pointing down made it look natural, I think. Maybe natural deluxe?
The first thing I did when we arrived at the office was to find an angle that got the right amount of details in the background, after that we adjusted his desk a little bit.
This was done the same day as we did the shoot with bare bulbs and white walls, and I think the key to getting good, natural looking photos like this done in a reasonable time is to keep it really simple.
One advantage with this kind of photos is of course that the models stay in one place, so it easier to set up the lights for that. If they had moved around, it would have been so much harder.