Recently I was asked by my boss to take some headshots of the staff. He has a vision in mind - showing "the face of the agency" in a creative way. So the gimmick was to strike a creative pose holding some sort of stuffed animal or toy.
I've been looking to get more people in my portfolio, and I need all the practice I can get with lighting. So I jumped at the chance. Using my co-workers as guinea pigs actually works out pretty good. They can't get too mad at me for anything, because we still have to work together the next day.
Nikon has the Creative Lighting System (CLS), where your camera body talks to multiple off-camera flashes wirelessly using infra-red. The on-camera flash is the "Commander" - telling the off-camera flashes what to do. It syncs the flashes to go at the same time, and allows you to control the intensity, using TTL (Through-The-Lens light metering). The camera measures the light through the lens and factors in the shutter speed, the aperture, the ISO - then calculates everything to tell the flashes what to do. In the camera's menu you can select which flashes should fire more or less brightly. A very powerful system, which takes some getting used to, but can really open up new creative avenues. Check out this DVD for all the nerdly details.
In the "let's be creative" spirit of the shoot, I used strong side-lighting rather than a more than a more traditional portrait approach. It added some nice highlights and accents, for a more interesting shot. I used one white shoot-through umbrella and one bounce-umbrella. The third flash was positioned low, and used a snoot to focus the beam. The white-umbrella was the main light. The bounce-umbrella was there to help control shadows on the opposite side. And the back-glow light helped control shadows on the wall.
Since the flashes only pop when you click the shutter, it takes a little bit of testing to get the lighting just right before you start. So a stand-in is needed to do some testing (interns, get over here!).
The next trick is getting your subject to give you a natural smile. Another reason using co-workers works well. You can gather everyone around and the group dynamic helps get some good laughs. Then, just click-click-click until you get some good takes. Here's how they came out:
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