Directing an Athlete Portrait: Indoors
We're gonna switch gears entirely and go into shooting portraits now, both with available light, I always like to start by shooting with available light, show you what it looks like, and then we will start layering in some strobes so that we can really control our environment. Couple of questions that came in over lunch that I think are worth sort of pointing out. Number one, we were working with Profoto Packs, and I was working with the Profoto Air System, and it's worth pointing out, you know, and it's hard when you're live teaching to sort of, I'm trying to think about what I'm gonna say, but also use equipment. I can actually control all of the packs, there's three channels. I can actually be controlling the power of those packs. Oftentimes, you saw me calling out to Jeff or to Brett or to Bly, the idea of this, is that you can actually do it remotely, so that as a one-man band, I can actually be ratio-ing up or down the strobes remotely, so worth pointing out. That said, we're gon...
na still be shooting on Profoto Heads for this next segment, but we're gonna switch away from using this transmitter and we're gonna be using PocketWizards, and the rationale is, I want the guys to have the ability to shoot on their non-Nikon cameras, and this is a Nikon transmitter and so we couldn't put it on the other cameras. So the goal is gonna be, I want you guys obviously to be able to make some pictures here. I wanna say, I wasn't playing favorites, but I am a Nikon shooter. And I wanna reiterate, everything that we're shooting today, it's much more about the teaching process than it is about making great portfolio hero photographs. In most cases, I would spend a lot more time refining those moments, and I know the four students here, Red Bull Photographers, they would do the same thing, and then we're sort of sliding into these moments, making a few frames, and then we're moving on to try to illustrate, you know, what else is possible, what's our next opportunity. So with that said, let's switch into a hypothetical situation. So anytime I'm doing a project for Red Bull and virtually any client, I'm being tasked with bringing back, not just action photographs, not just details, not just lifestyle pictures, but also portraits, and I would probably put in priority order, first, it's action, you know great peak action moments. Next in line tends to be shooting a great portrait. Something that, whether Red Bull, or one of Corey's other sponsors wants to profile Corey or the press is asking for a photograph, or it's a bio on a website, it's an image that either showcases Corey's face, or his entire body. And hopefully with the context of what he does, what his specialty is. He's a BMX street rider, and so the idea we wanna see his bike, we wanna see, of course, the branding, because he's a Red Bull athlete, so Red Bull is very clever in the way they do that. It's usually either he has a drink in hand, and those are really kind of found moments along the way, or he's wearing a hat, whether that's a helmet, a beanie, a ballcap, and so, we're gonna make sure that in all of the portraits, and as a professional athlete, he knows he needs to have that hat on, but that's also my job when Red Bull hires us, and you guys know this, we need to make sure that we're actually shooting some of that branding, or we're gonna get a disappointed phone call in the aftermath. I'm gonna kind of create a hypothetical scenario. We're not just gonna shoot one portrait, we're gonna kind of evolve the portrait. And we're gonna start by actually trying to match some light that our assignment editor has described, he says, "Look I want kind of a soft light, "something that's clean, not too stylized, "I want that, and then get creative." Then you can start shooting more to the endemic audience and create some kind of harsher, I shouldn't say harsh, but more radical light, more dramatic light. So at lunch, and that's one of the things as a photographer on assignment, you know, oftentimes you have one day or a few hours to make a shoot happen, and so you're trying to maximize your time, so when we go to lunch, you know, Jeff and I sat next to each other and in between sandwich bites, we were talking about what are we gonna do, what's our step by step process, how are we gonna light this, and whether Jeff is with me, or whether I'm alone, we're always having that conversation around sort of what's gonna happen five minutes from now, what's gonna happen 10, what's gonna happen 15 minutes, from now, so first step, Corey, if you're willing to, I might have you come in, and guys, maybe we can have that apple box, so we can set Corey's clothes on it. And one of the things I do when we slow down and we get ready to shoot a portrait is I wanna see what we have to work with in terms of clothing, so Corey, what if you come in, and let's give Corey a mic, you can either set it on here, yeah perfect. So one of the things I'll do is just actually ask Corey, you know, and I ask before the shoot, just bring a bag of your clothes so I can see what we have to work with. You know, already we've shot him, and I think he was in a slightly lighter pair of pants, but we shot this United shirt, United obviously is his bike sponsor. He's got a ball cap on, looks good, gray ball cap, I think, is that the same hat we shot?
Yeah, this is the only one that I've just been using pretty much all day.
It's kind of like my go to riding hat, if I'm out doing stuff, getting sweaty.
Great, so maybe just show me real quick, and I'll jump out and say first, I kind of like the dark outfit, like all black, you know, when we're lighting, it's really dramatic, because we can control where we're putting those shafts of light, and we're not competing against a bright wardrobe, so I'll start by saying, that I'm already sort of convinced we're gonna go for black that he's wearing but nonetheless, I wanna see he what has with him.
Absolutely, yeah, so, basically I brought a few different hats, you know the more snap backs that I usually wear.
That's actually, the black one I like.
White would be tough, just with light, but the black with gray bill.
And then got a couple different more beanies that I have options of as well.
And the same thing, I like the blue, I also like the black.
The darker, yeah?
This is just a basic three-quarter sleeve, plain t-shirt, just no logos, same thing with the white tee, and then we got other ones that for the sponsorship stuff it's the solid gray with the United logo, then like the maroon with the Cinema logo for the wheels. This is kind of the standard clothing that I bring with me on trips, nothing special. Few different bottom options, you know, got the dark, the blue jeans, and then a khaki option.
Cool, that's great. And I'm partially going through this process, so everyone can see it. The reality is, I actually like the black that he has on, and so I think we're gonna start with, let's actually start with black and the gray cap, so it's black outfit, United t-shirt, and then we'll start with gray ball cap. And I guess the other thing that I should describe is before we came back from the lunch break, I sort of looked around, and I'm trying to assess, you know, where is the best spot to shoot, and it's not just what is the best background, it's also, what's the best background, but also where do we have the most mobility in terms of moving lights around. Kind of we're just dead center in the middle of this skate park, and it's sort of ideal. There's this gray textured wall, and I think we can make this look pretty cool. We can drop the exposure down on this wall, you know, people in studios pay big money for a piece of fabric that looks like this.
I was just at a place watching a show, and the whole place was transition walls around me, and it was like this is incredible, perfect for a studio.
Right, right, that's right, yeah.
But obviously, first thing I'm thinking is riding the walls.
In a high end studio, they would paint these white, or gray, and so anyhow, we're gonna start this way. I think I'll just, we can move the clothes out of the way, and we'll start with what you have one. And guys, I think what would be good, from a idea perspective is let's set up the lights, but I would love your participation in terms of how are we gonna pose him, right? And I'll kind of lead it, but I wanna hear some ideas come at me, once we figure out the light, because the truth is, there's kind of two approaches we can take. One is Corey without his bike, one is Corey in the context of he's on his bike, and I think, in the ideal world, if this were a real assignment, I would try to, every lighting set up, I'd shoot you both ways, right? So there's the kind of cool guy, alone, you know, looking tough, you know--
That's certainly me.
Whatever that pose is, that's you, tough. And then there's the add the bike, so that we're in the context of in 1/1000 of a second or 1/250 of a second, the viewer understands, okay, he rides BMX. Like he's a professional athlete, he's on his BMX bike, so it's either, in context or out of context, we're gonna shoot those photos, and it's really our responsibility as photographers, give our editor both options. Make them both look cool, but we'll let our editor decide which one works. Cool so Corey I'm gonna have you--
Yeah, I'm down, make me offers, for sure.
And that's also worth saying in the portrait world, and I think you saw the interaction between Corey and I when he was riding, my whole goal is to make sure that you're comfortable. It's sort of like the instant a professional athlete, any subject that you're shooting isn't comfortable, or isn't having fun, you know, one, it makes like your quality of life go down, because you're not having fun--
And Corey's willingness to cooperate sort of goes down, it's sort of like, I don't know, I could think of a lot of other things I'd rather be doing.
It's just one of those things that's awkward and being in front of a camera when you're trying to like get a portrait of, you know what I mean, it's just not my type of thing. I'm much more comfortable behind a bike, I guess. But yeah, no, I'm definitely down to try this.
Cool, all right, so bear with us if you're watching from home. And guys, by all means, chime in, if I don't shoot what you think is a good idea, it's not because I don't like it, it's just we're trying to move through this scenario, and hopefully, we're shooting on PocketWizards, as I said, so now, everyone, I'd love to actually hand the camera over to the PocketWizards, just to get you guys shooting, I'd love to look over your shoulder, and so I think a lot of it is not changing the light, you can change the lensing, think about the posing, it's sort of what are you gonna be asking him to do, okay? The other thing that's probably worth pointing out is I'm switching to the Nikon D810, so I've shot on the Nikon D5 I think for the last two days, up until right now, and the reason I'm switching to the D810 is now I'm shooting a portrait, it's not about speed, I don't need the ability to shoot 12 or 13 frames per second. I want maximum resolution, I'm shooting one frame at a time, I'm waiting for my lights to recycle. And the D810 is a 36 megapixel camera, so these are gigantic files. You know, you're sort of right on edge of shooting on a medium format sensor when you're shooting on this camera. And so I wanna give my editors as much resolution to work with, so that if they decide later, they wanna wrap Corey's face on a bus, and they wanna crop it horizontally, they have enough data to work with, to actually do that crop. I'm also defaulting to sort of the highest resolution camera that I can work with given the situation that I'm shooting. It's not to say that you can't shoot on your D5, it's just if you have the option to go higher resolution in a controlled environment, where speed's not an issue, go for it.