Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes Toto, There's An Illusion Behind The Curtian

Earlier this month I was invited back to the Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale by photography teacher Steven Nestler, who asked me to show his Introduction to Photography students examples of my environmental portraits. For this visit I decided to pull back the emerald green curtain, just like Dorothy's little dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and show the very ordinary reality of location photography.

While photographing an attorney on top of wind swept terrace high above Coconut Grove, I was unable to keep my usual soft boxes from blowing over. So I improvised, taping a silk down, and blew light up from it, filling in his face with a tight grid spot.  Lession, wing it, but hide your tricks behind a curtain. (Andrew Hall, defense attorney for John Ehrlichman of Watergate fame, for the ABA Journal.)

The students were so early in their studies, Steven explained, that they had no idea how portraits of people could be created outside of a studio.  Previously, for more advanced classes I've gone into detailed explanations of cross lighting, light modifiers, lighting for depth, dragging the shutter and playing with color temperature. I've then followed up with live lighting demonstrations, picking a cluttered classroom, an empty stairway or outdoor parking lot in which to create an interesting portrait. The students would haul out my lighting kits, and under my direction, set up the scene, translating the theory they had been learning into real life photos.

At those live demos students told me they were surprised you could make such interesting portraits out of such uninteresting locations. So for this most recent class visit I thought I would speed over a lot of the technical stuff that the beginning students had not covered yet, and stick to opening their minds to the possibilities of location portraits.

Photographing in a tiny office, the main soft box stood barely a yard in front of subject, causing me to just poke my lens from underneath. A hard light outside the window projected through blinds from camera left, and a strip soft box stood outside the slightly open door at right. Magazines helped with positioning. (Rita Johnson for My Business.)

From my digital archive I dug out several series of photos, first the final successful portrait, then the very first test shot with no lights, followed by images showing the lights as I added them in. The work in progress shots showed the less than ideal locations I had squeezed photos out of.

It's the finished photograph that counts, I explained, not textbook lighting diagrams and mathematically precise ratios. You do what ever it takes, placing the lights where you are able, flying by the seat of your pants, just so the subject looks great and your client receives a terrific story telling portrait.

And while sweating the lighting, calculating exposure, schmoozing the subject and shooting, I advised, don't let anybody know that behind the photographic magic curtain, there is an every day guy pulling the levers as best he can, hoping for the best. In the end, getting back home to Kansas is all our readers and clients really care about.

To view more Miami corporate photography, please visit my portfolio web site.

No comments:

Post a Comment