I’ve done some gig shoots of True West, a local country-western band, and they asked me to do a portrait session with them. Not exactly in my comfort zone, but that’s what made it exciting. I’m getting a real appreciation for photo assistants — and an even greater respect for those amazing portraits done by a solo photographer. It’s the details that make or break a photo.
A little background on each image: We waited till just after the sun set to shoot the image above. The band has roots in our town of Maynard and we wanted to create a connection to it. The sun setting on the Mill Clock works nicely. (I would have stayed out longer and waited for some lights, but it was rather chilly and it’s bad business to kill your clients.) The band is illuminated by a 550EX off to the left – more or less where the sun was a few seconds earlier. I should have CTO’d the flash – but I warmed it up aggressively in Lightroom instead.
I received permission to shoot at the Mill (thank you Clock Tower Place) and we picked a stairwell that had some character. It didn’t take long for the band to warm up from their “roof-top” session.. With 5 members in the band, the hard part was typical for any large group — the probability of everyone looking in the right place at the right time drops precipitously close to zero. Just to make things even more “exciting” I’m using a Cactus radio gizmo to fire the flash. The Cactus is 10x less expensive than PocketWizards and appears to not fire about 10% of the time. It’s a great way to break into off-camera flash, but you definitely run the risk of missing “the shot”.
The 550EX is off to the left and shooting through a white umbrella with a green filter to try to match the stairway fluorescents. With 5 people and one light it’s hard to put too much direction into the light (at least for me it is).
Fun with Lightroom… My little blunder here was not increasing my depth-of-field so Mike ends up a bit soft. I had plenty of flash power left so I could have cranked up the aperture a bit.
I brought along my 24mm Tilt-Shift lens. What I needed to bring with it was my tripod because based on the review of my shots with this lens I am incapable of positioning the focus zone just by looking through the viewfinder. If I had schlepped the tripod inside I would have used the Live View mode to achieve perfect focus with this finicky lens. I don’t know if Lensbaby is going to make this kind of shot a cliché, but I like it and want to use it more in this kind of setting.
We found a funky area in the basement level and I used a zoomed flash (no snoot) to try and create a different feel from the other settings. Not sure this is what the band is looking for, but they were willing to experiment – which is great. You will note that Jim is, of course, wearing a black hat while standing in front of a black void… I used a Lightroom local adjustment brush to paint his hat and bump it up just shy of a stop, teasing it out of the shadows. If they were to choose this image I’d probably fine tune that adjustment a bit more. This was pretty good for an early draft.
Near the end of the shoot we realized that we really had not shot any verticals. Heck, I’m struggling to get 5 of them packed into the horizontal frame! We found a stairway and shot a few (the flash is at picture left, white umbrella, greened up, and aimed up the stairway). With white shirts and 8 feet of fall-off, this needed some work. I used Lightroom’s graduated neutral density filter to drop the foreground 4/10′s of a stop – bringing the light into a bit more balance. Again, this was a 20-second tweak — that I was able to apply to a number shots by synching the adjustments.
The band is reviewing the early drafts of about 50 selects from the session — I’ll post the final versions they pick. I hope they had as much fun as I did.
(I had 3 video shoots and one photoshoot this week — when it rains it pours, and I have to say I had just about everything go wrong that could… but I believe the overall results were good.)