This past fall I had the honor of meeting and photographing, Andrew Hamilton, the new president of New York University. My task was to create a series of “official” portraits for the school to have in hand for when Andy began work in the new year.
These were to be images which had a sense of place, felt natural, and which showed students along with NYU’s Greenwich Village campus.
Above is a BTS photo of the library setup. Only a small fraction of the library could be cordoned off and we were asked to be as undisruptive as possible. To that end, I used only battery powered lights. For the image I mimicked the light in the room since it would be seen spilling through the background of the frame from left to right.
Andy was lit with a Profoto Deep White Umbrella XL + diffuser on camera left. This kept the light directional but still soft and natural. It created highlight on his right (camera left) and wrapped around him beautifully. A medium Chimera softbox to camera right provided fill. Both lights were Profoto AcuteB 600R’s.
In addition to the Profotos I used a few Litepanels’ Astras. One to separate Andy’s legs from the floor and two others to provide a bit of light on the students walking through the background. It would have been impossible to light the space, it was too large and we could not have that level of production, so the background Astras boosted things up just enough to make a difference on the students. By using continuous lights I was able to get some desired motion blur in the students without getting a strobe-created shadow or freeze + blur combo.
The outside portraits were lit with three Canon 600ex-rt speedlites on a Joe McNally tri-head bracket shooting through the same medium Chimera softbox. I thought it would be easier to balance with the daylight than one of my AcuteB 600R’s (the speedlites allow for higher sync speed and can be controlled from the camera), but if I had to do it again I would use the AcuteB 600R instead.
For the outside scenario, I was right next to the Chimera but despite that the 600ex-rt’s radio trigger failed about halfway through the setup. Batteries were all new and all fine but the flashes stopped receiving the signal. I suspect that the crazy number of wireless networks at that corner didn’t help. Luckily, I had a Canon remote cable with me which allowed me to place the transmitter right at the strobes. This solved the problem but… one of the AcuteB 600r’s would have been much simpler and more reliable than three 600ex-rt’s along with their 8-AA external battery packs all hanging within a softbox. Kudos to those who can get that kind of setup to work. I find it always drives me nuts.