On Location Professional Headshots for Architects:
When scouting a site for an on location professional headshot session, my mind often gets as wrapped up in the environment as much as it does the lighting and the subject’s expression. I have frequented Breakwater (one of the premier restaurants in Greenville’s West End) a few times and thus was ecstatic when Radium (the architectural firm that designed the restaurant) approached me to do its on site executive headshots there. Several locations in and around the venue would suffice for a compelling portrait, from the bar area to the main dining room to the exterior. We shot a series of executive portraits at each of these locations. While I find the image above to be pleasing, safe and definitely does the job for a solid headshot, the lighting in the interior shot (below) required a few more of my neurons to fire. The exterior shots were relatively simple – natural light and a reflector to bounce the light (as I mentioned, fun, easy, safe). The wine room, on the other hand, not only makes for an amazing signature piece, but the aesthetics were off the charts… the repetition of the bottles; the mix of track and recessed lighting; and use of colors juxtaposed against the brick entryway all come together as the crux of the Breakwater dining experience. This would make for another great backdrop for their on location professional headshot.
While the ambient light in the restaurant was amazing, in order to create a nice lighting ratio so that Brad (dark blue shirt) and Scott (wearing the jacket) are sufficiently separated from the background, a 2X3 gridded soft box (camera left) was deployed to provide the main light. The lighting falloff on Brad was a bit too contrasty so I added a scrim (camera right) for the fill light. Note that the shadow transition across Brad’s face is a bit more subtle than that across Scott’s. I wanted Brad to stand at the front of the frame because he designed Breakwater prior to Scott joining the firm. Having Brad standing in front casually leaning against the brick wall effectively blocked the scrim light from hitting Scott. That being said, I do like how the light bouncing off the bottles in the background contrast with shadow side of Scott’s face, giving the portrait a bit more depth and dimensionality. Speaking of the bottles, once I started to introduce the studio strobes, the track lighting in the background no longer provided enough light to highlight the room’s most compelling feature… the bottles. I added an AB 800 strobe and bounced it off the wall opposite the wine wall, effectively creating one diffused wall of light hitting the bottles. This adds just enough light to the background so the bottles are properly defined. When all was said and done, we had 4 light sources (main, background, outside, ambient ceiling lights) for the on location headshot session at Breakwater.
The Position, Pose, Attire and Expression:
I browsed several architect’s on-location portraits while preparing for this shoot. Time and again a common theme emerged: architect standing in front of some nondescript bland background (eg., in a park, on a sidewalk, in front of a god awful white or black studio backdrop… yuck). This didn’t really fit the personality of Radium, plus I wanted to incorporate some of their work into the photo.
Rarely do I position both the subject and the background on axis with the camera’s focal plane. In short, it’s boring. Not only are the Radium guys located askew to the background, but they are also standing slightly tangential to one another. Their relative position to one another creates a bit of interest in the photo. I liked how the rough texture of the brick played off the smoothness of the bottles. The industrial feel of the brick also signifies a sense of strength and permanence. I wanted Brad leaning slightly against the brick, but not too much or it would look like an awkward crutch. Once again, contrast is introduced here with Scott’s upright pose vis-a-vis Brad’s slightly more relaxed posture. While Scott exudes a slight bit of formality (the jacket), its not disconcerting, and the open collar and jacket have a relaxed tenor to them.
When creating a subject’s expression, the last thing I want is a “say cheese” type smile. A slight smile of amusement or a neutral expression carries much more weight than does a cheesy used car salesman forced grin.
Brad and Scott are approachable, confident and exercise intentional creativity with their work. We took a series of on location headshots in and around Breakwater. I feel that the photos on this page are a couple of the images that best communicate their work and their brand.
For more on location headshots, click here
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