• The Secrets of Lighting: A Step by Step Guide to Shooting a Corporate Portrait in Ten Minutes

    Written by Eli Landes.

    Photos by Joey Quintero and Isaac Stackell

    TL;DR: Check out the on demand livestream of the shoot here

    Hey Witch Doctor, Give Us the Magic Words!

    When it comes to corporate portraits, the magic word isn’t please (or ooh eeh, ooh ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang, in case you’re wondering).

    It’s planning.

    See, corporate photographers have to shoot in a short amount of time—sometimes as little as ten minutes.

    And let’s face it—ten minutes to scout out your location, set up your lighting, call your subject in, and snap a couple of shots while running him or her through some poses?

    I’m not gonna say impossible, but it’s incredibly difficult.

    The trick is to plan things out in advance so that everything that can be done earlier gets done.

    Fortunately, the plan doesn’t have to be complicated. You can pull off the entire shoot in just four steps.

    I’m the Step Master!

    Step 1: Work out with the client what they’re looking for. You want to ensure that your vision is in sync with theirs.

    Step 2: Scout out the location to see where and how you’re going to shoot.

    Step 3: Set up your lighting. One of the benefits of scouting out the location first is that you’ll have an idea of what type of light modifiers and stands you’ll need. (Click here to read our entry on picking the right light stand.)

    Behind the scenes shot of the ten minutes corporate portrait. Figure 1: A BTS shot of the corporate shoot. As you can see, we shot in a small conference room. We used two Impact Venture TTL-600’s—one as a hair light with the Impact 7” grid and one as the main light—with three different modifiers. You can also see the LED lights we used for the livestream.

    Step 4: The shoot. Now that you’ve done all the planning ahead of time, you can nail this part in ten minutes. Walk your client through some poses, allowing a minute or two for adjustments or to show him/her how to pose, and you’re done.

    Corporate portrait taken with the Impact Venture TTL and the Impact Luxbanx Small Octagonal Softbox . Figure 2: Our first modifier: the Impact Luxbanx Small Octagonal Softbox.

    Corporate portrait lit with Impact Venture TTL and the Impact White Translucent Umbrella. Figure 3: We then switched to the Impact White Translucent Umbrella, using the Impact Circular Reflector and Multiboom and Reflector Holder as a fill.

    Corporate portrait taken with the Impact Venture TTL and 22" White Beauty Dish Figure 4: For our final modifier, we used the Impact 22” White Beauty Dish, again with the reflector fill.

    Can’t Box Me In

    As a final thought, try to think out of the box. You can definitely do a great corporate portrait in a generic conference room, but changing the location can make it even more compelling. Take your client outdoors, or have him or her lean against a window.

    Corporate portrait taken outside with Impact Venture and Small Octagonal Softbox. Figure 5: Nothing says corporate like the Empire State Building.

    Be different.

    Products Used in this Blog:

    Production Notes:

    Photographers: Joey Quintero and Isaac Stackell

    Model: David Sherman

    Videographer: Shawn Collins

    Producer: Eli Landes

  • Essential Gear: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Light Stand

    Written by Eli Landes.

    Photos by Joey Quintero, Isaac Stackell, and Michelle Cope

    It’s Raining Light Stands!


    Give It to Me in a Nutshell

    Heard the expression, “There’s no such thing as the wrong light modifier?” It doesn’t apply to light stands. Wrong light stand for the job = no job. Good news, though—light stands aren’t rocket science. There are just 4 types you need to know.

    So here’s a question.

    When did picking a light stand turn into Sophie’s choice?

    First you try picking the right light stand. But that’s practically impossible, considering that there are hundreds of light stands on the market for you to choose from. So then you lose your patience and just pick the next stand you see.

    And learn the hard way that, while there’s no such thing as the wrong light modifier, there’s definitely such a thing as the wrong light stand.

    But here’s the good news. There aren’t hundreds of light stands out there; there are four. Four categories of light stands that you can divide all those many, many others into. And understanding how and when to use each one is pretty simple.

    Of course, differentiating one light stand from another isn’t always easy; some people will have a different list. Ours looks like this: reversible light stands, aluminum light stands, steel light stands, and C-stands.

    Let’s dive straight in with the first.

    Reversible Light Stands: All about the Legs

    Impact Reverse Legs Light Stand in use Figure 1: The Impact Reverse Legs Light Stand—a lightweight, compact option for quick jobs.

    Give It to Me in a Nutshell

    Reversible light stands have legs that fold backwards against the column and lie flat against the floor. Pros: very compact, very lightweight. Cons: least stable light stand. Great for quick jobs in controlled environments.  

    In case you’re feeling a little rusty on light stands in general, here’s a quick reminder. Light stands hold your light source steady so you’re free to focus on taking the shot, checking the score of your favorite sports team—the important stuff. They all have an adjustable column—called a riser—and they all have legs. From there on, though, there are a lot of differences.

    Reversible light stands—also called reverse legs light stands—are all about the legs. Instead of arching against the floor like a tripod, the legs of a reversible stand lie completely flat on the ground. Likewise, when they fold, they fold backwards (kind of like an inverted umbrella).

    The purpose of this design is simple: since the legs fold backwards, they take up no extra space. This makes them the most compact form of stand. Since they’re also very lightweight—they’re always made of aluminum with thin columns—they’re incredibly easy to travel with.

    The downside, as you can imagine, is that having the legs lie flat against the floor does not make for a very firm base (picture a person doing the perfect split and then being hit by a ball). In fact, they are the least stable type of light stand you can buy. It is highly recommended to sandbag or at least tape the legs down so the whole thing doesn’t topple over. They’re also capable of bearing only light weights.

    Still, they’re perfect for quick, controlled jobs. Say you’re running to do a headshot in an office. You don’t need a bulky stand for that—you just need something that’s easy to carry, easy to set up, and that will hold your light source up while you snap a couple of shots. The reversible light stand will do that perfectly.

    Aluminum Light Stands: Light Stands on the Go

    Impact Air-Cushioned Light Stand in use Figure 2: The Impact Air-Cushioned Light Stand; an example of a standard aluminum light stand. Can hold up to 8 lbs, extends to 96”, and folds down to just 29.6”.

    Give It to Me In a Nutshell

    Perfect for light jobs or traveling shooters, aluminum light stands are more stable while still being lightweight and compact. They’re only a step up from reversible stands, though—they’re also not great in uncontrolled environments.

    Next up: aluminum light stands. Portable, lightweight, with legs that fold into a compact shape, these stands are the most popular form of light stand. They’re more stable than reversible light stands while still being travel-friendly, making them the go-to option for many traveling photographers.

    What’s more, many of them come with casters (wheels), and some are even air-cushioned; when you loosen the knob, the riser slowly descends to a gradual stop. This is a lifesaver if you accidentally loosen it with your light source still attached (though it’s a little annoying when you’re on the clock, and the riser is taking its sweet time to come down).

    On the flip side, though, they’re still somewhat situational. When using them in uncontrolled environments—like a busy street with bad weather conditions—you should use extreme caution (and a sandbag or two).

    Of course, this is all in general terms. Aluminum light stands include many different stands. Some are taller than others; some are more heavy-duty. You may find that, even though one aluminum stand isn’t right for your job, another one is the perfect match.

    Impact Heavy Duty Air Cushioned Light Stand in use Figure 3: The Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand carries more weight and offers greater stability than lighter stands, while still being lightweight and portable.

    Steel Light Stands: A Steady Hand

    Impact Lowboy Steel Stand with Combo Head in use Figure 4: Good things come in small packages. The Impact Lowboy Steel Stand extends to 6.5’ but can hold incredible weights. When not in use, it folds up to a compact size.--

    Give It to Me in a Nutshell:

    Steel stands: a diverse range of stands that are all as sturdy as a rock. Not as lightweight as aluminum stands, but much more stable.

    Steel light stands—being made out of steel—are far sturdier than aluminum ones. It takes a much greater force to topple them, and they can hold considerably more weight. They’re obviously heavier, though, making them more difficult to travel with—although the legs still fold up into a compact size.

    Steel light stands include a diverse range of stands. Some are incredibly small, while others tower at almost 20 feet. Some come with casters, and some have a leveling leg—called a rocky mountain leg—to use on uneven surfaces.

    Impact Lowboy Steel Stand with Combo Head used on stairs Figure 5: The Impact Lowboy Steel Stand’s leveling leg is perfect if you’re shooting on uneven ground, like stairs.

    As you’ll see, C-stands are also made out of steel, and are far more versatile than steel stands. However, steel stands are more portable, they have greater variety in size, and they all either come with casters or can have them installed on. They’re also simpler. If all you need is a stable stand that can hold your equipment up and stay put, the steel stand is your choice tool.

    Impact Lowboy Folding Base Stand in use Figure 6: The Impact Lowboy Folding Base Stand is a short, compact stand that is capable of holding heavy loads and comes pre-installed with casters—perfect for rolling to your shoot.--

    C-Stands: The Beast

    Impact Turtle Base C-stand in use Figure 7: What can’t you do with this C-stand? Sturdy, versatile, and able to carry heavy loads, the C-stand is your choice tool against the unknown.

    Give It to Me in a Nutshell

    C-stands in a nutshell. Let’s see: they’re sturdy, incredibly versatile and can hold heavy weights. Cons? They have to be dissembled, they’re heavy, they’re bulky, and they’re a little complicated.

    The C-stand. Made out of steel and very sturdy, a C-stand differs from other stands in two ways. First, the legs. Called a turtle base, these legs lie close to the floor, creating a low center of gravity that adds stability. They’re also staggered (one is higher than the others). This allows you to place several C-stands very close to each other. Like steel stands, some C-stands have an adjustable leg.

    The other difference is the extension arm. This arm allows you to articulate (control) your light source to move it in any direction. You can also mount your light straight to the riser or even onto the turtle legs (with a separate adapter). In short, a C-stand lets you mount virtually any way and in any direction you want.

    There’s not a whole lot of variety in C-stands. The only variation you’ll find between different C-stands—aside from quality—is that sliding leg we mentioned and the length of the riser: 20”, 40”, or 60”. The size you go with will probably be dictated by the size of your location.

    While C-stands are the most versatile and stable form of light stands, they have two main drawbacks. First, they’re the hardest to travel with. Unlike any other stand, they have to be dissembled into parts, making them a strain to carry. They’re also the most difficult to master, as the extra parts mean you have more to learn.

    Picking Your Stand

    So, to sum up: aluminum and reversible light stands are portable options that are great for controlled environments; steel and C-stands are stable solutions for more uncertain jobs. In particular, the stability and versatility of a C-stand lends you the peace of mind of knowing that, no matter what happens, your stand is up to any task.

    If you know what you’re going into, pick the stand that best fits your needs. If you don’t, though, and there’s potential for things to go wrong, the C-stand is the best option for withstanding anything.

    Of course, there are exceptions. There are photographers who will use reversible light stands on top of mountains because they’re so easy to travel with. With enough practice, you can make any lighting tool work. But the first step is to follow one of the most important rules in photography.

    Know your lighting tool.

    Further Reading:

    Products Used in this Blog:

    Production Notes:

    Photographers: Joey Quintero, Isaac Stackell, and Michelle Cope

    Model: Rachel Michalik

    Fashion stylist: Derya Kurt

    Hair & makeup: Amanda Forsyth

  • Essential Gear: Fluorescent vs. Flash: Explained

    Written by Eli Landes.

    Photos by Joey Quintero, Isaac Stackell and Michelle Cope

    It’s one of the great questions, up there with the likes of Canon vs. Sony, and chocolate vs. vanilla (for the record, it’s vanilla). Which one is better: fluorescent or flash? Do you (gasp) use both?

    There’s only one way to answer this. Let’s check them out.

    Contestant 1: Fluorescent

    Annette Schoeman lit by Impact Octacool-9. Figure 1: The Impact Octacool-9: a 9 bulb fluorescent light source with an included baffle. The result: flattering, even light spread.

    Fluorescent lights are continuous—meaning, the light output is consistent. Unlike tungsten lights, which are also continuous, fluorescent lights are cool to the touch.

    BTS shot of model with Impact Octacool-9 Figure 2: A behind-the-scenes shot of Figure 1

    There are two reasons to use fluorescent over flash. Firstly, since the light is consistent, you can physically see how it’s lighting up your shoot; there is no guesswork involved. Flash is also only used in photography; if you shoot video in your studio, you have to use continuous light.

    Contestant 2: Flash

    Model lit with the Imapct Astral Extreme and Impact 12" Smoothy. Figure 3: To compete with the Octacool’s even spread, we used the Impact Astral Extreme with the Impact 12” Smoothy.

    Flash units—also known as strobe—fire off an intense flash of light when you release the shutter, flooding the scene with far greater power than any fluorescent you could buy for your studio.

    BTS of model lit with Impact Astral Extreme with Impact Smoothy Figure 4: You know the drill. A behind-the-scenes shot of Figure 3

    This increased power allows you to reach more F-stops for greater depth of field. It also lets you freeze action (the extent depends on the strength of the flash).

    Freeze action of Tom Caserto lit with Impact Venture TTL Figure 5: Catching falling water midair. Shot with the Impact Venture TTL.

    And thirdly, it lets you overpower the sun.

    Model lit with Impact VC-500 and Impact Small Softbox Figure 6: Letting the sun run wild. Shot with the Impact VC-500 and the Impact Small Softbox.

    To explain this, take a look at Figure 6. Though you can still see the model, everything else is obscured with a white glare. That’s what happens when you shoot outdoors in intense sunlight. To counter that effect, you need a light source powerful enough to overpower the sun, like in Figure 7. Fluorescent can’t do that; flash can.

    Rachel Michalik lit by Impact LiteTrek Flash Head Figure 7: Taming an unruly sun with the Impact LiteTrek Flash Head.

    Finally, because flash lights are much smaller than fluorescent, you can use narrower light modifiers—like fresnels and snoots—which can’t fit on fluorescent lights.

    Zacharay Stackell shot with two Impact Fresnels. Figure 8: Are the 30’s back? Shot with two Impact Fresnels.

    Despite its many strengths, there are two disadvantages to flash. First, like we said, it can’t be used in video. Second, since it’s the flash that lights your shoot, you can’t see what your lighting will look like until you’ve actually taken the shot. You’re forced to do a test shot and then use the camera to see what it looks like.

    The Bottom Line

    So, to sum up: fluorescent lets you see exactly what you get, and can be used in video. Flash has to be tested out, but it grants you more power, allowing you to reach higher F-stops, overpower the sun, and freeze action.

    Which one is better? It’s like the great chocolate vs. vanilla debate. It all depends on what you want.

    Products Used in this Blog:

    Production Notes:

    Photographers: Joey Quintero, Isaac Stackell, and Michelle Cope

    Models: Annette Schoeman, Rachel Michalik, Zachary Stackell, and Tom Caserto.

    Fashion stylist: Derya Kurt

    Hair & makeup: Amanda Forsyth, Sara Goldberg

    The furry star: Prince

    Production team:

    • Matt Hill
    • Shawn Collins
    • Kevin Berrey
    • Karri Reid
    • David Ben-Yshay