Friday, December 18, 2015

Location Lighting Tip – Arrive Early

I had a major executive head shot the other day. We were to shoot in four locations with multiple outfits.

All the locations were onsite at the corporate headquarters. Thus I had to set up all the lighting on location.

I think I may have left a couple things as far as my lighting gear, but pretty much everything I owned came with me.

I arrived several hours ahead of the time the executive was to show up.

I setup  each shot and had my assistant stand in the place of the executive.

These are just a few of the many test shot I took. I am not posing my assistant for the best photo, I was wanting to see how the light looked and compositions with the lenses I would be using.

Here is a quick walk through for each location:

  1. Composition first – I want to test before I set up any lights the lens for a shot. I am looking for being sure the background is wide enough behind the subject to work. This might require me to move back and forth as well as moving the subject back and forth between the background and the camera.
  2. Custom White Balance & Test Shot with Available light – You would be surprised how often you don't need to do a thing but just click the shutter and everything looks great.
  3. Test for aperture – how much depth-of-field do I need. With one person I can shoot pretty wide open, but if you start doing group photos you need more room to work.
  4. Review the image for the 4 basic lights and evaluate as to which ones may need help.
    1. Main/Key
    2. Rim Lighting
    3. Background Light
    4. Fill Light
  5. Going one light at a time that I will add I shoot a test shot and then make adjustments until I get the desired look.
  6. Repeat until all 4 light values and color temperature is all set for the look I am trying to achieve.
  7. Pull up the images on my laptop whenever possible to see the best image. LCD on the back of a camera just doesn't do justice for fine tune evaluating of images.

Problems I often encounter

  • Lens Perspective and Location – sometimes the only way to get a background, like a company logo on a wall, into a shot has me shooting with a super wide angle which isn't flattering to the subject. Better to have test shots to show a client to steer them to another location. Sometimes you just cannot back up enough do the a room to make it work.
  • Lighting gear gremlins – I have had some strange things happen through the years. 
    • Plugged lights into the walls in a classroom and then all of a sudden they just started flashing. Apparently when they wired the room the polarity wasn't correct and caused the strobes all to flicker. If I unplugged on them from one side or the other of the room no problem. Fixed it with extension cords.
    • I had a transformer in a light blow once and smoke came out of the light. 
  • Radio Remote Triggers not working – Sometimes I just need to replace the batteries and other times there are radio signals or the structure of the building is interfering with the signal. Changing channels, running long sync cords and many other solutions I have had to dream up at the last minute.
  • Lens Failure – I had oil in the lens get so hot from sitting in a car that it got all over the aperture and had it stuck wide open. Had to use another lens.
  • Flash damaged by airlines – This happened recently when I flew to Chicago. Had to not use that flash and adjust accordingly. Luckily I had more than just one flash.
There are many other problems that have occurred throughout my career. The point is simple–Arrive Early.

If you run through all the scenarios before the client arrives then the odds are now in your favor. Arriving just in time to do a shoot and just go with the flow can make you look bad in front of the client. 

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