Behind the scenes of an editorial photoshoot

Today I wanted to share a behind the scenes look into one of my recent higher education photography assignments. I will walk you through the pre-production planning along with details about the two editorial photos that were published.

I was hired to photograph Mark Dean for the University of Tennessee as part of a series about Volunteers making an impact on communities, academics, the economy and the world. It was great working with Mr. Dean. Not only is he making an important impact within his field, he is also a great person to work with. Follow the link to read more about Mark Dean’s story.

About a week prior to the actual photo shoot, I met with the client and graphic designer to scout our location. While they only needed 1-2 images, we found multiple options that would work. Once back in the office, I sent our scouting photos to the graphic designer. She then made a few mock ups of how they would be used, including the specific dimensions, where text and graphics could be laid, along with which locations were their higher priority. At this point, I began to brainstorm on different lighting scenarios that I could use for each photo.

On the day of the photo shoot, we were only scheduled for 30 minutes with our subject. Whenever I have portraits with a limited time frame, such as this one, I like to arrive really early. I don’t want to keep the client waiting, especially during crunch time. Not to mention the times that the subject arrives early, which is what happened on this day. I had just finished setting up the lights for my first two sets when our subject walked through the door, ahead of schedule.

If you are a photo geek, continue to read. Otherwise, you may just want to scroll down and look at the pictures. 

For my first picture, I had two different lighting options designed. The first and easier setup included a speedlite inside of a server rack. I wanted to put a warm glowing light on my subject’s face. To intensify that warmth and set the mood of the room, I would gel the rest of the room blue. Unfortunately, the speedlite was having trouble receiving the signal to fire while inside the rack. This meant moving to option number two.

Now my main light was a Dynalite Baja B4 hung on a c-stand above my subject. I chose to use a reflector with a warming gel and grid as my lighting modifier. This would allow me to light the subject while eliminating spill onto unwanted areas. To color the room I used two lights. A standard reflector to camera right with a blue gel. This would separate my subject from the background and while adding intensity to the color. Then I had a Westcott Apollo Orb with a blue gel for a straight on fill. As I was testing the lights, I noticed the plastic labeling covers over the wires to the left were making a horrific reflection from my softbox. They were also hiding the texture of the wires that helped bring interest into the scene. Luckily, with one request, our host was able to remove them. It is the attention to detail like this that makes your photos better.

For the second shot, I switched the mood from an eerie blue tint to a vibrant orange. You can never have too much orange around here. I found a place in the corner of the room where not all of the server racks were in use. I placed our subject in an aisle between the two racks and shot through a hole. This would give me depth in the photo and help hide my strobes from the camera’s view. For this shot, I used a mix of Dynalites and speedlites for a total of 5 strobes. As I channel my inner Joe McNally, here is a chicken scratch of my lighting diagram.

There were two strobes with a CTO gel aimed at the camera shooting through the servers behind my subject. On the aisle where my subject was standing, I had a Dynalite B4 with a small collapsible beauty dish boomed on a c-stand about a 45-degree angle in front of my subject. The rack on the left side of the frame was going completely black. So I aimed a speedlite with a CTO gel at it to match the rest of the scene. Finally I bounced a reflector with some CTO gel off the wall behind me for a little fill on the server space I was shooting through.

I hope you have enjoyed the information from my behind the scenes photoshoot blog post. If you like what you see, feel free to share through the social media buttons below. Oh yeah and don’t be a stranger, come back and visit.