Here’s an example of an assignment shoot. This is a portrait for the website poker.de. We wanted a portrait of a “poker kingpin” type and I knew my buddy Ed would fit the bill. Here’s how we did it.
I knew I was going for a high-contrast black and white look, something dark and edgy. Ed showed up in a dark jacket looking like a poker pro — a very excellent touch! So the very first thing I did was set up a bare speedlight right behind his chair. This gave me edge effects for his hair and shoulders, defining them from my simple black bedsheet backdrop. I put a second speedlight off camera right with a Honl grid. I knew I wanted an edgy look so I put it at a steep angle to give a lot of gnarly shadows on his face and shirt.
I wanted to get him “splashing the pot” so we did a lot of takes trying to get a nice spray of falling chips. As we were doing it I, realized I’d need to bring that action out of the shadow so I tried a hand-held gridded speedlight so I was able to follow his hand. This gave me some extra light on the table which actually worked out well to give some reflection of the chip stacks. I knew if I even got one good drop, I could composite it with another take where we liked the head angle. As it turns out with about 20 drops we got one that had everything all in one shot. When we saw the centering of the chips reflected in the sunglasses, we knew we had it. Score!
So, all in all three speedlights, triggered by IR. I was tethered to a laptop so we could review head and hand placement in real time — an invaluable timesaver on such a shoot. We shot from a low angle to give him more of an imposing, intimidating feel. Since the camera is looking up at him, he feels bigger. Another key was getting his hand and chips to be well framed in the dark area of his jacket to give everything a nice balance. When we got it, there was such a rush, like hitting that flush on the river and taking down a big pot!
Post-production was very fast. I didn’t mind a little grit in the texture, so it was a b&w conversion in Lightroom with a few local adjustments and a little dust removal from the backdrop.
Here’s a cameraphone shot showing the set-up. Very quick and dirty! The whole thing took less than two hours from concept to final product — and only about 40 minutes with model in the chair — a breeze.