We recently had an assignment for a mining company here in Denver and the location of their offices in the Tech Center struck me instantly as an excellent setting for some portfolio portraits. The building's main lobby in particular is quite grand in scale and design, complete with a beautifully tiled floor, huge chandelier, and a colorful archway leading to the elevators. Our assignment that day had nothing to do with shooting people so we didn't get the opportunity to use the lobby in our shots but I promised myself I would return and speak with the powers that be and ask permission to come back and use their lobby. I returned the following day and spoke with the head of security, they gave me the "okay", a somewhat rare answer in a post 9/11 world.
With a solid location, all I needed was a subject, a time, and a lighting plan.
At our most recent Small Strobes Big Results Workshop, I exchanged information with one of our models in the hope that in the near future I could call her for this very reason. She was very receptive, we met and formulated a plan. Appropriate wardrobe and time was decided on, I had a little over a week to wait before she was available, plenty of time to pre-visualize the shot.
I arrived on location around 2pm, expecting the model at 3pm. I used that hour to set up and dial things in. Because I was without an assistant, I asked the security guards there if they would like a nice portrait of themselves to forever remember their job in this wonderful building. They agreed, and one of the test shots was nice enough that I have included here.
The lobby is 2 stories in height and has North facing windows that extend floor to ceiling. I decided to try natural light first, often overlooked by those of us who are lighting junkies. My second lighting plan was to use a large Octabox for a soft main light and let the Ambient do the rest of the work for the background. The natural light idea quickly faded with the sun outside as we didn't really get started until around 4pm. I ended up using the Octabox, close to the subject and forward enough of her to allow for fairly soft non-directional light.
We went through a couple of wardrobe changes and used three different set-ups. I used 2 lenses, my 20-35 2.8 and my 50 1.8. The camera is a Nikon D300 and the strobe is an SB800 attached to the speed ring of the Octabox using a Justin Clamp. We shot for about an hour and a half and I was pleased with the results considering we had no make-up artist or hair stylist, no clothing stylist, and the model is not an experienced pro.
As a photographer, I am always on the lookout for locations like this. I keep a databank in my mind of places I could shoot various subject matter and refer to them when things get slow or I am inspired by a lighting idea. A well planned shot will usually give you a predictable outcome and practicing the craft is a must in this competitive industry.