I love it when I have the chance to do a shoot where we have creative control. We were able to make this happen on a recent portrait photography assignment when we headed over to the Gatorade Corporate Offices in Chicago for a photo session with the former NFL wide-receiver, Martin Nance. The University of Michigans’ Ross School of Business was looking for final images that were a little more gritty and high-contrast. In order to achieve this, we departed from the cross lighting that I often use in my corporate lifestyle and portrait photography and played with side and key lighting, emphasizing harder shadows in-camera and high-grain achieved through post-production.
We started with full body shots of Martin and modified the lighting as we pulled in closer for 3/4 and tighter head shots. Using 2 soft boxes with grids (to prevent spill) on each side, we created a frame of light around the edges of his face with a strong shadow featured in the center. To illuminate the paneled wall behind him, we had two reflectors with 20-degree grids and barn doors powered down by about 3 stops on camera left and 1.5 stops on the camera right. Finally, on a floor stand to camera right and behind our subject was a reflector with a 30-degree grid and barn doors, powered down by one-stop, illuminating both the floor and the right side of Martins’ jeans.
I’m a big fan of lighting diagrams and you can make your own here.
The modification we made here was to move the backlight that was being used as a skim to the front of the set and to the right of the camera in order to illuminate the Gatorade cooler while also lowering the backlights on their stands. This is the shot that was approved as the Hero image for The University of Michigan.
And coming in closer, these were my personal favorites. We toned down the back lighting by both powering down the strobes to the lowest settings and moving to a higher speed on the camera. And yes, that’s a SuperBowl ring, Steeler’s 2009!
Mistakes can also prove to be valuable. As I was playing with the dials on my camera, I accidentally set the speed to 1/300th of a second which is the point where the mirror on the camera no longer syncs with the strobes but in this case it created a cool vignette. I caught Martin while he wasn’t posing and it proved to be my favorite image from the entire photo shoot.
In post-processing, I pulled my favorite RAW selects from the session and enhanced the vibrance and clarity along with contrast in Photoshop. Following this, I used the Topaz Labs Adjust 5.0 plug-in which has a variety of pre-set filters ranging from classic, stylized and HDR modifications which allowed me to make local and global adjustments to the images. For this, I went with a lighter detailing filter which enhances the shadows and highlights, creating more contrast while giving a bit of a boost to the details…i.e. grain.
It’s always a pleasure to have the assignments that come through with so much creative control and a subject who is incredibly generous with their time. Thanks to The University of Michigan and of course, Martin Nance. Stay hydrated!