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Shoot the Bloggers: J.D. Roth

While I was in Portland last month I photographed J.D. Roth, the man behind the blog Get Rich Slowly, for my ongoing project on bloggers.

J.D. had earlier escaped the shackles of a big wad of credit card debt, and has since created a career out of teaching others how to manage their money more sensibly. For the shoot, we did some standard headshots which would be useful to him for his public speaking appearances, etc. But I also wanted to do something a little more intense and/or cerebral, which is what led to the shot above.

If the ambient was decent, I could've done this with one speedlight. But as it happened, the ambient in the room was pretty low so we used three flashes. The first step, as in the Betty Allison shoot, was to kill the ambient. This one would be lit completely with flash.

Betty's shoot is actually a pretty appropriate example, now that I think about it. The lighting setup is pretty similar, even if the look is very different. Once I killed the ambient, I started from the back with a domed SB-800 against the wall. This gave me a very controllable gradient on the background.

Next, came the on-axis fill -- in this case an Orbis with an SB-800. The exposure on this flash was sufficient to light J.D. to the level you see on the far camera right side of his face. It's a little deeper than normal at almost 3 stops down.

The key light, coming from close-in high camera left, was another '800 in a LumiQuest SB-III. But as you can see the light is not wrapping around on the camera-left side of J.D.'s face. That's because I partially gobo'd it with a piece of cardboard clamped to a light stand between the key light and J.D.

This is why he looks like he is emerging into an interesting shaft of light. Because that is exactly what he is doing, only it is a static setup. You tend to see this light in real life a lot more than you might think, only it is usually very brief when it happens.

I still did not quite like it, as his forehead was a little hot. Luckily, the cardboard envelope I was using as a gobo also happened to be my gel kit. So I took a 2-stop ND gel (sized for my studio flashes) out and further cut down the light as it was traveling up the upper camera left side of his forehead.

That gave me the look I wanted -- something more interesting than the standard umbrella headshot. Depending on where / how it will be used, one may be more appropriate than the other. But it is nice to have both.

For a second look we did something a little more pulled back -- and with a little more content, too.

As you might guess from the name of the blog, J.D. espouses the theory that slow and steady wins the race. So my idea was to get him rolling coins at the dining room table.

And it wasn't much of a stretch, as he of course had jars full of saved pennies and other coins.

Again, I am looking for light that is not the standard umbrella/softbox stuff. Where possible, I like to have light that is both motivated and interesting -- but also something I can control.

So I used a normal light stand and a mini-boom to light him from overhead (just in front) with the Lumy SB-III. It had an "overhead lamp" kind of look, which was appropriate for a dining room table. Fill was with (surprise) an Orbis ring at about two stops down.

That retained the shape of the overhead light, but gave some legibility into the shadows.

Here it is without the fill, and you can see how much the ring light is really doing -- without calling attention to itself. There's a little ring signature shadow on the wall, but I am okay with it. Would been easy to kill by moving everything a few feet away from the wall and sticking a flash in there to light the wall only to it's natural level from the key. That would kill the shadows without adding anything.

Start a Project

I am really enjoying the shooting the blogger project, for a number of reasons. Committed bloggers are very interesting people for me to meet. The shoots are cool, but even better is the conversations that happen around them. We tend to work alone, in our respective caves, and it is a cool thing to connect with like-minded people. J.D. and I exchanged good ideas all day long. Not to mention his wife Kris's praline upside down cupcakes...

If you have a camera, some enthusiasm and just enough knowledge to be dangerous, I highly recommend embarking on a personal project of your own. The bloggers are really a side project for me at this point, but I do have something more significant that I am working on.

A little thought (more like 3 years worth, for me) goes a long way. And my hope is to get some of you thinking in terms of a sustainable project of your own. After all, what is the point of growing your skills as a photographer if you don't do something fun and worthwhile with it?

And if you'd rather get rich instead, you would do very well to start with J.D.'s blog.

Next: Nataniel Welch, Men's Journal


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