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Lighting a stock photo-ish meeting


I am often hired by companies to take photos for their image banks, and many times they more or less request a style that is seen often in stock photos. Clean setups in a bright room, one or two persons having some sort of meeting and a relatively simple background. Photos that are easy to use on the web, in financial reports and newsletters, but with their own people, not generic models.

Using ordinary people to act as models can be tricky, but it can also be very simple. In this case, where they would be having an informal meeting around an iPad, I just told them to play meeting. And that is something most people can to, and even find amusing. As soon as they start having their fake meeting, I start shooting, giving them as little directions as I can. Sooner or later it looks almost natural.

Lighting this kind of photo is mostly done by adding light in a fashion that makes the image bright and clean. I try to imagine how the light would be if they where in an office with very large windows.


Behind the scenes

We used the cafeteria/kitchen in their office, and the distance from the models to the background was very short. Instead of re-arranging the furniture hoping to blur the background by moving things around, I set the lights so the panels/curtains in the background were evenly lit. No shadows at all, except from the panels/curtains themselves.

Windows as background

Outside, the weather was grey and boring, so trying to get a blue sky with puffy clouds outside the window as background was no option. Instead I let the highlights be blown out, surrounding their heads with white.

I often use windows as backgrounds, it is an easy way of incorporating natural light even if the rest of the lighting is artificial. And it is also an easy way of framing the models, adjusting the panels/curtains gave me the right ratio of window/panel/curtain that I liked.

White walls as reflector

My main light this time was from camera right; a Profoto D1 and a 5-foot softbox Octa adding a little character to the light. To get a fill that was big and looked natural, I pointed another Profoto D1, bare bulb, into the white kitchen walls, bouncing the light back at the models.

That is also a technique I use quite often, bouncing light in the wrong direction to make the light less obvious. Most of the time, natural light looks natural because it has bounced around and transfered colours from surfaces it hits, it is seldom just one perfect big source, more like a lot of different sources from approximately the same direction.

Traveling light

This was a setup with two lights, and that was enough for this photo I think. I am working mostly in Stockholm where I live, and where my studio and stuff is. This assignment was is Gothenburg, a three hour trip by train, so I had to pack as little equipment I could, while still being able to get the photos right.

Two Profoto D1, a 5-foot softbox Octa, umbrellas, a Chimera reflector/diffusion panel and a couple of light stands, that can do almost anything like this. The problem might come if the room is too dark and to big and trying to light it, and models, with just two lights. But, as I am working on my own, with no assistant, having more than two bags and the camera bag, makes traveling a lot more complicated.

So I think I have tried to create photos that can be done with less equipment than before, when I carried around a lot more just to be sure. Often the resulting photo is just like this, one or two people, and a little space around them.

The goal is to deliver photos that are easy to use for my clients, and looking at what they use on their web sites and in printed matter, there is almost always just one or two heads, in some kind of environment. Just like in tv-series.

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