In most circumstances I favor a documentary photo over a posed portrait of a person. I believe that authentic (I.e. not staged) photos of people engaged in real life tell more about a subject than a posed portrait.
Sometimes, however, a portrait is the most appropriate (and only) way to picture a subject. A tight deadline, the person’s availability and the subject’s story may call for a portrait.
And, as I learned at a photo editing workshop a few years ago, never underestimate the power of a portrait.
I try to keep portraits and portrait as simple as possible, using natural light whenever possible.
But a recent assignment to photograph the new director of a local arts association gave me the chance to be more creative in the setting and to bring out the portable strobes.
I wanted to photograph him in a downtown plaza in Yakima, the construction of which had been spearheaded by the arts association. It was a cloudy fall day with no interesting natural light to use in the portrait.
I wanted to make the subject and the photo “pop” on the page so I knew I’d need the Lumedyne strobes to make that happen.
I place one strobe to the left of the subject using an umbrella to soften the light falling on the subject. I used a second strobe off to the right to light up a portion of the background. The strobe head was pointed directly at the background with no light modifier. I think I had the power of the second strobe set to yield an exposure about a half-stop brighter than the exposure on the subject. The strobes were triggered with Pocket Wizards.
The biggest problem on the shoot was the temperature. The subject hadn’t brought a coat and the temperature was in the low 40s. I had to shoot fast before he got too cold.
I’m pretty pleased with the results. The exposure was dead on and so I had to do virtually no toning on the photo.
Though I do like this portrait, I’m still a documentary-style kind of guy.