On Assignment: Nathaniel Welch for Men's Journal

UPDATE: Adds available-light-only version of the photo, inside.

New York based photographer Nathaniel Welch shot the above photo to illustrate a story for Men's Journal on the flaws of sunscreen. I thought it really popped, and talked to him about the lighting while he was en route to Boulder Colorado.


Welch lit his subject with three Profoto 7B's, each in a white beauty dish which he prefers to the silver version. One was used as a key light directly in front up high, with the other two as rims on each side in back.

"Sometimes I like a silver in front," he says, but generally prefers the light quality of the white ones. He will occasionally remove the disc that blocks direct light in the dish (which he did for this shot) noting that it changes the quality of the light and gives him an extra stop of output.

UPDATE: Here it is, without the strobes. Ambient exposure is based on the sky, and the sun is pretty much a non-issue for the subject:


"The brief was fairly tight to be honest," Welch said, noting that is normal for a cover but not so much for inside photos. "This was one of the most directed editorial shoots I have had in a while. There was even a photo editor onsite."

He shot looser versions, which he preferred as it showed more of the subject's skin. But in the end end the magazine chose the tighter image and ran it almost full page.

"In the original, the reflection in the sunglasses was too dark," Welch said. So for this shot, he placed the sun behind the subject and lit him entirely with flash. The front beauty dish key light was angled to mimic the light of the sun, then they shot the sun separately and stripped it into the glasses.

Welch usually seeks to use minimal retouching, and has a very good blog post on the subject, if you are interested in that kind of thing. Actually, his whole blog is quite good and very much worth a spot in your RSS reader.

As for the platform, Welch uses a Canon 5D Mk II, which severely limits his sync speed. The 1/200th sync is tough enough. But like many Mk II's, he has to open his up to a 1/160th to get a full sync with no dark stripes encroaching on the bottom.

"It sucks. It really sucks," said Welch of the sync speed.

True. And the net result is that low sync speed forces him to bring more flash power to make up for the higher resulting apertures when balancing outdoors in full sun.

(If you cannot see the video above in your email or RSS feed, click here.)

To get a sense of who Nathaniel Welch is, check out his Redux interview/portfolio video above. And you can see more of Welch's work (definitely worth a look) on his site.

Next: Bionic Arm


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