Crafting Simple Professional Portraits for Your Team

Christian Rudman Blog 0 Comments

Creatively telling honest and encouraging stories of gospel transformation that inspire the Church to worship Jesus Christ for who he is and to remember what he has done; this is the passion of all of us here at the Story Team. That is our core mission, but we love enriching our volunteers with resources and tools they can use in their own professional careers outside of serving with Story Team.

One way we did that recently was capturing head shots of all our current and future contributors for use on Storyteam.org. They also now have studio quality portraits to use in their own personal work and professional channels. We wanted to share with you how we created these portraits and hopefully help you to do something similar with your own team.

Here is a quick rundown of the gear used for this shoot:

Background/Setting

We wanted something easily reproducible for future team members, so we chose the nicely textured concrete wall at our permanent campus auditorium. You can also do this by using a seamless or a background, but for this shoot we wanted the tone and texture that the concrete wall provided. Since it is the auditorium there was also plenty of space to move around and set up in, which is really important for any studio-style shoot. For this kind of setup, you will need a minimum of 20’x20’ floor space, and a ceiling height of about 10’ or more.

Lighting

Once we decided on the location, choosing our lighting scenario was next. We knew we needed something simple, not a 4 mono-light ordeal with 20 flags, silks, scrims, and reflectors. A basic 2-point light setup works perfectly for what we need. Here you can see the full setup :

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Note: I used a boom pole stand because we had the space and its easier to get the key over the subject without being in the shot, but you can use a basic light stand like the one I used for the background.

You can see on the left that there is a main (key) light to light the front of the subject. The PCB PLM umbrella has great coverage due to its parabolic design and the diffusion fabric makes it work like a 64” round softbox. The parabolic umbrella design throws light onto the subject with a bit more drama than the equivalent softbox.

To pull the subject out of the background, the background light on the right was necessary to create an impression of separation. You can see the nice graduated effect the background has thanks to the shovel reflector and how there is a definite outline for the subject without blending into the background. Here is the photo as it was shot, no retouching applied yet:

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Lighting Specs

The key was set to 128th power while the background was set to 256th. This balance draws the focus to the subject without leaving the background too dark to be seen. You can see how the setup plays out with a subject in the proper place:

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Camera

I used my Fujifilm X-T1 and 35/1.4 (50/1.4 equivalent in 35mm) for this shoot. This is my personal setup, but you can use practically any gear configuration as long as it has manual control and a hotshoe for triggering the flashes.

One of the things I really appreciated about using this setup is that the Fuji X-T1 can be operated wirelessly. See me on the right in this photo holding the iPad?

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That’s me pushing the button to trigger the photo through the iPad. Fuji still has plenty of room for improving how this functionality works, but I absolutely loved using it for this shoot. I shot every single photo of the 299 I took that day using this iPad tethered to the camera. It was great for our contributors because I could show people how their hair was looking live on the camera, as well review images to make sure we got one they would be happy with.

It was great for me, as I was able to step away from the camera and coach each person as we took their photo. It helped me not to have to be as focused on operating the camera, which I think helped me relate better to everyone who stepped into the set, which made every portrait feel more natural. I don’t have solid research to point to on this, so take it with a grain of salt; it seems to me like people tend to be more relaxed in front of a camera if they don’t feel like the photographer is looking directly at them through the lens. But, that is a conversation for a whole different post.

Post Production

Once the photos have been taken, I imported everything into Adobe Lightroom CC for cataloging and edits. Use your preferred program of course, but these shots were processed through LR CC and VSCO’s Kodak Portra 160 preset with some other minor adjustments and brushing to remove the blemishes in the wall. Here is the final product:

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If you have additional questions on process or other details you are curious about or simply would like to see other posts on a related to the camera or lighting or post production processes brought up in this article, please post in the comments and let us know.

Christian Rudman

Follower of Christ, husband to Jasmine, friend of many, photographer, designer, filmmaker. A volunteer photographer with Story Team since 2012 and serving as the Photo Team Leader since 2013. View his other works at the kindredfold.com artist collective.

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