Getting Outside the Studio

Variety is the spice of life.” – William Cower

The majority of my corporate headshot clientele want their photography done indoors with a studio set-up—and with good reason. Studio lighting and background is the most easily controlled, the most versatile, the most consistent from shot to shot, and is repeatable months and years later and regardless of the set-up location. This last factor means that my clients can maintain a consistent look for all photography, even as new hires come on board over months or years.

However, as the quote says, mixing things up keeps things interesting. And sometimes a small team with a specific vision, and a desire to stand out, make the smart decision by choosing a “location” portrait.

A few months ago I was contacted by a high-end professional services company with just such a concept. They had a small but nice outdoor common area in their office park that they wanted to use as a backdrop.

On the morning of the photo shoot, we had bright sunshine. Great for a day at the beach, but not great for outdoor portraits. Furthermore, our shooting location was long and narrow, so there was only one orientation that would work, and it was in direct sun.

Luckily, I had come prepared with some tricks up my sleeve. My solution was to set up a 12×12 foot silk panel on a frame, directly behind my camera position, which softened the light on my subjects and much of the background. I also brought a battery-powered flash with a beauty dish reflector, which I set up at very low power to one side. This provided just a pop of contrast to make sure that my silk didn’t flatten the light too much.

Once we solved our technical problem, the actual photography went very smoothly. Everyone was on time, in a good mood, and dressed perfectly. (It’s so nice when folks actually follow the wardrobe guidelines that I send out before a photo shoot!) With the narrow green corridor to work in, the giant 12×12 foot diffusion on roller stands, my light, me, my subject, and and a handful of other people hanging around the area, it was a super tight squeeze. I wish I had a behind-the-scenes photo to illustrate! Alas, everyone was super busy and I had only a few minutes with each person, so I kept my eyes on the task at hand.

We did individual portraits, plus a group shot at the end (now that was a tight squeeze!). Afterward, we went back inside the office to review images. Everyone was pleased, and I left their office with final image selections in hand.

Logistically, this was a tough task for pretty simple-looking portraits. (Controlling nature is always tough.) But it was great to have a change of pace by shooting outdoors. I hope to do more location portraits like these in the coming months.