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On Assignment: Newspaper Man

Sometimes I miss working at a newspaper.

And when I say "I miss," I mean that I miss it in the rose-colored glasses sense. Because some of the most fun I have had in the last 20+ years has been while shooting for small, community newspapers. So a few months ago I started stringing for a local business monthly as a way to keep touch with what I used to enjoy so much.

It was in that capacity that I was assigned to shoot a full-page portrait of Stan "The Fan" Charles, pictured above. Stan was to be the cover for the Maryland Entrepreneur Quarterly section. Which is pretty impressive, considering his entrepreneur chops are being earned running a successful newspaper in 2010.

During a time when most papers' circulation charts look like black diamond ski slopes, Stan is going great guns at Press Box Magazine. (They call it a magazine, but it is really a tabloid-format newspaper.)

Press Box succeeds by serving a strong niche better than anyone else. Their motto is "Baltimore Sports. Period." And any guy who is succeeding in newspapers is by default a hero of mine. So many papers -- and so many former colleagues -- are taking it on the chin these days, it is great to see a newspaper guy killing it.

Stan is a character with a long and rich history familiar to any true Baltimore sports fan. And I wanted to give him a kind of superhero look, with a palette normally reserved for a comic book.

Believe it or not, the fedora -- complete with a "Press Box" card in the band -- was on the shelf. I could not make this stuff up. It took me about 5 seconds to convince Stan to don the hat, and we were good to go.

But the wide-brimmed hat starts to restrict your lighting style options pretty quickly. So I decided to use what is normally a ring fill at almost a full exposure -- maybe one stop down. (I used an SB-800 in an Orbis.) That gives me detail everywhere under the hat no matter what. And the ring goes darker as it wraps around the edges, for a cool look. The catchlight dead center on the eyes is a nice bonus.

The key is a bare, gridded SB-800 with a 1/4 CTO -- a very hard light source at only about two square inches of surface area. It is coming from hard camera right. You can see the super-hard nose shadow very clearly. But the ring (at only one stop down) carries lots of detail in the shadows, which somehow makes it okay. And it is aimed out in front of Stan's face a little bit, so the grid kills the beam on the back camera right part of Stan's head.

I love the hard key / ring fill combo. You can light for character and still retain plenty of legibility. Umbrellas are safe light sources in part because they tend to mold peoples' faces more towards the mean. Safe, but sacrificing personality, shape and character.

People look different, and I want to celebrate those differences more than try to minimize them. I mean, take a good look at this guy's face. It's got some character. Would you get into a poker game with him? I wouldn't.

The way I use umbrellas has changed drastically since the Lighting 101 days in 2006, and I am planning on going back and updating that post and several others.

Back to Stan, the separation light is a 3rd SB-800 with a grid being raked at a hard angle across that wall from back camera left. The color scheme was just pulled from his shirt and the surroundings.

To finish off the comic book/hero look, I used high pass filtration and cranked it up way past where I normally go. Somewhere around 85% opacity, if I remember correctly. Plus, it was going full page in the paper, so I wanted it to pop even after the newspaper repro process tried to kill it.

Rose-Colored Glasses

It was shot to spec for the full page layout (an inside section front in a multi-section tab) with space left on the side for refer text and room for a boxed headline at bottom.

When the paper came out, they promo'd it in the ear (upper right box) off of the front page, and I started flipping through the issue to see it big. When I found it, it was in black and white and not much bigger than a business card. The issue didn't did't have the space -- the full-page layout was killed.

Then I remembered why I like shooting for the web better than papers. I can run my photos any damn size I want and good repro is a piece of cake.

Next: David Tejada


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