The inspiration for this week's team portraits came from an issue of Women's Wear Daily, beautifully shot in black and white by celebrity photographer Nigel Parry. 

The inspiration for this week's team portraits came from an issue of Women's Wear Daily, beautifully shot in black and white by celebrity photographer Nigel Parry

Mike Spectacle is a tough act to follow, but I'll give it a try. 

"Art begins in imitation, and ends in innovation" — Mason Cooley

When you make your living with a proven lighting technique, it's easy to get complacent.  This project is a refreshing challenge to try new things, and test out ideas on our colleagues.

I'm most comfortable surrounding my subjects with light from all sides... which generally is the most flattering light.  So when it was my turn to produce a set of team photos, I decided to get way outside of my safe zone and try something different.  This summer, a friend gave me a copy of WWD, which had a striking portrait of the Olsen twins on the cover.  The image stuck with me, so I decided to try my own version.

Deep black shadows and harsh side lighting scare the heck out of me, so I figured I'd give my coworkers the chance to help me get over my fears.  

The Science:

After studying Nigel's images in WWD, I decided to use a single softbox.  No reflector, no fill, no hairlight, no background light.  I used a 4' x 3' softbox horizontally, about 4 feet from the subject, and high enough to create a shadow under the chin.  In some of the shots we achieved the traditional Rembrandt triangle on the far cheek.

I used a mottled background about 6' behind the subject, and adjusted the softbox until the spill illuminated the right side of the background just enough to separate the subject from the background.  Normally I'd make the subject pop off the background with a hairlight on camera right, but this subtle separation is a very satisfying alternative.

I really like the flattering perspective from a distance of about 8 feet away, so I shot this with a 70-200 lens at 200mm, and wide open at f/2.8 for nice shallow depth of field.  Fortunately, the Paul Buff Einstein strobes go as low as 1/256th power, which allows a wide open aperture with the big softbox very close to the subject.

Although we did get some smiling and laughing shots, it seemed that this solemn and serious lighting setup should have expressions to match it, so we selected more thoughtful looks.  


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