portrait session – Steinway pianist
I had the opportunity recently of photographing Robert Wyatt, a pianist affiliated with Steinway, at the Steinway offices in New York. This photo was taken as we were set to leave after the photo session was already done. I was immediately drawn to the symmetry of the architecture and the lavish foyer below. The pose and framing was deliberately centered.
For this lighting setup, I quickly pulled out the Lastolite softbox again, and used it as a single light source. It was all that was needed for a simple portrait here. But earlier on, for the actual photo session with Robert, I used multiple off-camera speedlights and different light modifiers to get portraits with impact …
multiple flash setup, controlled by PocketWizard FlexTT5 units
Here are two of the set-ups, using three (Nikon SB-900) speedlights, each fired by PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H) – all controlled by a FlexTT5 and speedlight on my camera, acting as the master controller.
All flashes were set to manual output. With black surfaces – tuxedo & piano – being so predominant in the final composition of the portraits, TTL flash would’ve just made it more difficult. It had to be manually controlled flash. This is where the new PocketWizards made the shoot so much easier. I could control the power of each flash from the on-camera speedlight (via the on-camera FlexTT5). All without worrying about line-of-sight problems.
The pull-back shot here will explain the lighting set-up.
The light on the right-hand side here is a speedlight, bounced into the large room. This flash was there simply to lift the contrast. By pulling this speedlight’s power up and down, I could open up the shadows. Or not. I had this set as group C, and it was around 1/4 full power for most of the shoot, but I did vary it, taking it down to 1/8th power, and even up to full power for some photos.
The light on the left-hand side is a speedlight in a Lastolite EZYBOX Softbox Kit (24″x24″) (B&H). It was there to create a soft fill-light from the right-hand side. It was set to around 1/8th power, and at that distance. I controlled this as group B.
I wanted control the spill from my main light. It had to be soft, but still be concentrated on my subject. I wanted less light on my subject’s surroundings, than on my subject himself. An umbrella or a large softbox would’ve given to wide a swathe of light. To control the light, I used a gridded softbox. The softbox still gives soft light, but the grid will more narrowly direct the light. The specific light modifier here was the Creative Light 1×3′ Recessed Softbox (B&H) with the Creative Light 1×3′ Softgrid (B&H)
Changing the pose, but keeping the lighting setup fairly similar …
The edge of the gridded softbox can be seen in the top right of the frame, and could easily be cloned out. I decided not to, since I feel that small black triangle there helps with the composition, containing the geometric patterns within the frame.
Out of sight here to the right of the camera, is the speedlight that bounced light into the rest of the room to help control the contrast.
I chose to work with speedlights here (instead of the Quantum flashes or Profoto kit), because of how much control the new PocketWizard FlexTT5 allows me. Being able to change the power of each flash from my camera, made the shoot easier … and it makes me look so much more in control and cool in front of a client, when I’m not moving around, hurriedly adjusting my flashes’ individual outputs throughout the session.
equipment (or alternatives) used for this photo session
Nikon D3; Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G ED AF-S (B&H)
Nikon SB-910 Speedlight controlled by PocketWizard FlexTT5 Transceiver & AC3 Controller
or alternately, the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite controlled by Canon ST-E3 Transmitter