On location portrait lighting–basic strategies

Photographing city of Grand Terrace council members

Back in May of this year, I photographed the council members of the city of Grand Terrace.

The council chambers for this little city of 12,000 people in San Bernardino county is surprisingly spacious. Setting up in the foyer was a breeze.

Hardest part was navigating the usual double doors in the building with all my equipment loaded on my trolley.

The walls of the foyer was a yellow color or maybe cream.

In any case my first order of business after dragging out my 3 white lightning studio strobes was color temperature.

Notice the terrible yellow cast when my camera was set to AWB (auto white balance). Eeek! There was an relatively easy fix for this.

Adjusting my flash output to f11 and setting my shutter speed to 1/250 sec minimized the influence of the ambient light.

Compare the 1st and 2nd pictures, a lot of yellow was removed by just doing that.

A quick & dirty (unscientific) check on the back of my Canon 40D lcd monitor told me that the yellow walls or rather the florescent lights in their current housing was kicking in a lot of yellow.

See the first blurred self-portrait made via self-timer.

Best solution then was to turn off the overhead lights and just light the entire scene.

Why, you might ask?

Mixing light sources is generally not a good idea.

So rather than giving myself more post production work adjusting color, I decided to just “kill” the overhead florescent lights

I was lighting the whole scene already, so I switched my camera’s white balance to the “lightning bolt” icon (Flash) for white balance.

Compare the color of the walls in the background in all 3 pictures with overhead florescent lights off. Easy enough fix, don’t you think?

Once my preparations were in place, all I had left to do was to wait for my subjects to arrive.

The group photograph of the council members was a little trickier. I only had a small window to do this picture. In between items on their evening agenda, I set up inside the chambers as inconspicuously as I could.

Photographing the council members at their seats on the dais was not an option because they are spread out too much.

So I gathered them together near the bottom of the stairs for this picture.

I used a softbox on the right and another light on the left to kick in some light for the background.