Whether shooting images for a commercial client, or to further my portfolio, I like to begin my images with a visual concept, drawing ideas from everywhere such as dreams, movies and just about anywhere. With my background as an Art Director, I illustrate most of my ideas on a sketchpad including diagrams, to illustrate where I would place my lights, and maybe what I want to portray in the final images. I find this technique to be a good practice and highly recommend it because it eliminates the guesswork. Even if I don’t use that particular idea, I save the notes and refer to it later, as a ‘tried and tested’ archive. It also comes in handy when I have a client wanting a specific look, which I might have already perfected.
A question was recently brought to my attention – ‘Do you ever photograph men’?
After reviewing my portfolio, I realized from my body of work that I do, however, probably not enough. I put a casting out for men, tested for hours, and finalized the shoot. It turned out great! So with that said, here is one of my approaches to photographing men.
First objective in this next lighting diagram was to have the largest wrap-around light source I could attain. I wanted to come up with a new approach in creating an image with a commercial feel and good transitions throughout the skin tone.
For this reason, I chose to start my light set-up with the placement of my fill light. I decided to use 2 large 86” white satin Westcott oversized umbrellas. I placed both of these umbrellas directly to the left and to the right of my camera, feathered towards my subject. The umbrella from camera left coming across the front of the subjects left shoulder, and the umbrella from camera right coming across the front of the subjects right shoulder. Almost a type of criss-cross. Each light was close to six feet infront of subject, and each light needed a reading of F4 individually with a combined reading of F5.6 together.This gave me a beautiful wrap around fill which cannot be attained by just one light source.
Second objective was adding a bright accent on my subject’s face with quick fall-off. I wanted to highlight the upper region and let it graduate to darker.
For the key light, I placed a 22” beauty dish fitted with a honey comb grid and a sock (diffusor) over it to cut down the light further. This also allowed me to place the light closer to the subject for quicker fall-off. This was placed on a boom directly over camera approximately 36” above subject with a reading of F8 1/2.
Third I added two more lights from behind and on each side of my subject as accent. One was a 7” reflector with a 20 degree grid set at F11, and the other was a small 16x20 soft box with little diffusion set at F11.5. A cyan Rosco gel was added for effect.
One last light 7” reflector with a 30 degree grid was used for the background. As these were a series of images, the background light metered between F11 and F16, depending on the “look”.
TIP: When photographing men, this light setup creates contour, shape and shadows.
I used a Tamron SP 90mm macro which allowed me some compression even at a small aperture. You can see where the focus falls off in the close-up of the hand. The distance from my lens to my focusing point was about four feet. Elements behind that point would quickly fall off focus.
The overall exposure was set at 125th sec at F8 1/2 ISO 100