Portrait photography can feel like a balancing act, between on the one hand creating a wide variety of images quickly and efficiently, and on the other hand, coming up with that custom, exquisitely crafted portrait that emerges only as much time is expended. As it turns out, photographers end up doing both, since fast paced and slow paced shooting both create their own unique look. In the case of this senior portrait of Emma, the slow, time intensive approach was taken. There was so much that needed to be done outside of the frame of this portrait to make the portrait what it turned out to be. Off to the right, the sun was setting, blasting the area of the portrait with harsh, unflattering light. So we put up a 6’x10′ scrim to soften the light, and when that turned out not to give enough coverage, we clamped a white, king-sized bed sheet to a low hanging tree branch. The light that this provided was too flat, so we set up a portable strobe with a soft box to the left, in order to create wonderful light on the face. Since it had rained the night before, the patio needed to be raked clean of blown down leaves, and then thoroughly swept so the puddled water would dry. Multiple cluttering distractions, including an ugly ground pipe coming off of a downspout, needed to be removed from the background. A selection of potted plants was artfully arranged to balance the composition. All in all, two hours of setup went into preparing for this single portrait. Now, the portrait itself didn’t take that long—once Emma arrived, the portrait in this location took no more than ten minutes. Which is good, since it was hot on that patio–the stone had absorbed the heat of the afternoon summer sun, and it was well above 90º when the portrait was taken. But the final effect is simply lovely—a classic summertime portrait with a breezy, yet timeless feel that will still look great fifty years from now. Which is good, since Emma and her mother chose this image as their wall portrait, to be displayed prominently in their home!
Tom Launius, CPP