Sydney based Corporate photographer Philippe Flatt of Image Technique explains why you should ask photographers if they use portable lighting for outdoor business portraits.
How often have you heard a photographer state “I only shoot in natural light” It implies that only natural available light will yield less “artificial” and ascetically more pleasing photos. Don’t get me wrong, countless iconic images have been created by talented street, landscape, portrait and photojournalist photographers who happened to be in the right place at the right time or who waited patiently for a moment to unfold. I admire many of them.
Yet when I see photographers offering a commercial portrait service who fall into the category of “I only shoot in natural light” the alarm bells start ringing. To me it says I haven’t learnt how to use a Speedlight correctly or even I haven’t invested in any flash equipment.
So why use a flash outdoors? In many instances the available light just may not be suitable. When I accept a booking for corporate portraits in most cases my clients have a busy schedule and the session needs to run quickly and smoothly with minimum fuss. Many people already feel uncomfortable about having a business portrait for their website or LinkedIn even more so in the blazing sun than an air conditioned studio so outdoor shoots need to run faster.
Recently I was commissioned by Macquarie Telecom to photograph the team at one of their data centres. The brief was to shoot headshots outdoors with the company logo out of focus in the background. The logo was located on a sign attached to the building’s exterior at the main entrance.
The only way I could fulfil the brief was to use a 100 mm portrait lens and place the subject in the car park far away from the background under the harsh unflattering midday sun. Its conditions like these that would either force the natural light photographers to seek a different location or to persevere and yield less than satisfactory results. Within 30 minutes and the help of my assistant I had unpacked the equipment and established my strategy. I would need to use a large diffuser so my clients wouldn’t be squinting in the sun. I quickly determined my exposure to get the background looking good and simply created a flattering light by connecting a soft box to my portable flash. Because I needed a wide aperture to render the background out of focus it was important to have a camera & flash combination that could sync at high speed.
Within a couple of hours I had completed photographing 12 individuals, adjusting the intensity and position of my portable flash to suit the different skin tones and facial features of my clients. The ambient sunlight took care of the background.
The next day I received a thank you email from my client commenting on how happy they were with the outcome. When shooting corporate portraits outdoors portable lighting is imperative.
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