Hello and welcome to Sundays blog post and a special welcome to all my new subscribers! This week I'd like to talk about a portrait session with Ólafur Arnalds I shot for Spitfire Audio late last year. I will be going through my lighting for two different set ups, my equipment and bit about my inspiration for this portrait shoot.
First of all I would like to thank Air Studios who let me take over one of their recording rooms for the day to set up my studio. Also a big thank you to Ólafur for taking time out from a busy day recording to sit for me. If you missed Tuesdays post this portrait shoot was the first of three for Ólafur Arnalds latest collaboration with Spitfire Audio's Chamber Evolutions project. You can read my previous post here.
We had spent three days recording at Air Studios and on the last day I set up a studio to shoot the main artwork for this new product. I was also shooting the recording sessions so I only had time during the breaks to shoot in the studio. Luckily I met my assistant super early to get everything set up and tested so when we found time to shoot I was ready to go. This was also the first time using my new Canon 5D MkIV so I was excited about testing out the new models capabilities.
The first lighting set up you can see above was an arrangement that I've used quite a bit on my personal project Acid Priest. This set up is an evolution of a lighting technique I picked up in my assisting days, where I use a ring flash as a fill light slap bang next to my camera. There's a clear influence of Nadav Kandar's portrait work here. I believe Nadav also adopts this technique of using a ring flash as fill. The reason for this is that the ring flash creates unnatural shadows which can dramatically change the mood of an image. It has a quality that separates the subject from the background with a directional shadow you don't get by having the ring flash on camera but also visually creates an illusion that the subject is sitting really close at the same time. Quite hard to explain... I really like how the shadow from the key light contradicts the shadow cast from the fill flash as it makes you look twice as it's quite unnatural for light to act in this way. I wasn't actually using a ring flash in this instance but a zoom reflector with a grid acts very similar in this position. I have also found playing around with colour temperature gels for this set up also works really well for the shadows. For this shoot I decided a full CTB worked best giving the portrait cold shadows contrasting nicely with the warmth from my key light which was measuring at 5500K. My key was a Profoto D1 with the Profoto Softlight Reflector in White with grid attached and skrim. I was blocking this light from the background with a black flag as I had a Profoto B1 on a small stand under the stool creating a slight vignette on the colorama that I didn't want to spoil. I also had a 2x3 gridded soft box on a stand up high acting as a hair/fill light.
My second set up was a quick lighting change to something I had wanted to try out for a little while. It was quite a simple set up with just one bare head positioned super close to my subject. I asked Ólafur to sit with his eyes closed for a profile shot. Having the bare head so close I used a 3/4 skrim to defuse the light as it was a little harsh without. I wanted the light drop off to be as severe as possible hence why I put the light so close. I knew that I wanted this image to be B&W before I shot as I didn't think this kind of lighting would work in colour. You can add so much more contrast when working in B&W. When working like this I always make sure everything that I can see images on i.e camera and my MacBook I tether too was also showing B&W for me to see exactly what the light is doing. The end result has an almost statue-like quality with a slight rim glow where the light was set ever so slightly behind Ólafur. It's amazing what you can create with one light sometimes. I love keeping things simple and testing new ideas as much as I can.
Final campaign artwork deigned by Art Director Tom Howe.
Thanks for tuning into this blog post. I hope you enjoyed taking a lot behind the scenes of one of my favourite shoots from last year. If you would like to follow my work please SUBSCRIBE to my blog to receive weekly posts (something to read on the tube) comment, Tweet, like, share or whatever you're into would also be much appreciated as it keeps me posting.
Tune in next week for a behind the scenes look at a campaign shoot for Spitfire Audio Orchestral Swarm shot in Snowdonia last year.
Until then... bye for now,