On Assignment: Miller Mobley's Birmingham Chaplain
Back in December I was commissioned by a local magazine in Birmingham to do a series of portraits on hospital Chaplains. To be honest, I had not been given any art direction on how I should execute the photographs, I basically had the freedom to do what I wanted -- it's a great feeling by the way!
I immediately started to concept some ideas for the shoot. Unfortunately, I was not able to do a location scout of the hospital sanctuaries where these portraits would be taken. I decided that if I liked the location then I would do an environmental portrait and if I thought it was drab and boring I would setup a background. I had been practicing a new lighting setup that I really wanted to try on the Chaplains. So I was hoping for the background setup, and to my luck it just so happened.
There are two important points that any photographer should know in a situation like this. One is to always test before going out. There are definitely times where this is not possible. But most of the time, testing proves to be invaluable. The second thing is to always try and have a backup plan.
The lighting setup here is very simple, yet powerful and iconic in a sense. There are only 3 lights used here in a very basic setup. I will explain below….
The Key Light
For my key I used a Profoto Compact 600R with a gridded reflector. The light was placed just outside the right camera frame, it was probably only a foot away from the subject's face. I raised the light about a foot above the subject's eye line because I wanted the light to be shining down… it give a somewhat "Holy" feel to the photograph.
The Fill Light
This is probably the most important light. It's crucial because this light is what makes those dark/black shadows open up. The important thing is the intensity of the light, too much light and it will over power the effect of the key light, and if the light is too dark then we will lose the left side of the subject's face. The fill light was a Profoto Compact 300R with an octabank attached. This light was placed a few inches directly above the lens of the camera, shooting straight eye level with to the subject.
The Hair/Background Light
For this light I used another Profoto Compact 300R with a gridded softbox, raised about 4-5 feet directly over the subject's head.
The most important aspect about this lighting setup is the intensity of each light. I used to think it was all about where you placed the light. And don't get me wrong that's very important, but I believe paying great attention to the intensity of each light can yield incredible results.
Obviously by looking at the photograph above you know that the key light had the most intensity. It really makes the subject pop, while the other lights have been toned down a bit. I wanted there to be shadows, but I wanted the viewer to be able to see into the shadow. That's where the important fill light came into play.
All in all it's a pretty simple light setup, but powerful at the same time. If there's one thing I've learned about taking on all kinds of different assignments -- from food to interiors to portraits -- It's about taking an assignment that could easily be executed with no creativity and pushing yourself into making it something beautiful, inspiring, and truly special.
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Next: Finn O'Hara: Mixing Light