I was chilling at my computer the other day when a little project came across the computer screen. Matthew Anderson, the American wedding photographer living in Winterthur, Switzerland was looking for a respectable portrait for his website. Matt and I are neighbors and we do little shoots together from time to time. Previous little projects included portraits of me (the Urban Poet), and doing a little testing of the Panasonic LX3, Elinchrom RX strobes and some Coffee Madness flying through the air. So, naturally I said yes, as he was coming over with some beers.
Plus, what caught my attention is that he wanted, well, a more conservative portrait. The type of portrait that would instill confidence in the mind of perspective wedding clients. The type of portrait, which would instill trust and, possible even encourage people book Matt for weddings or portraits, or other jobs. This was a challenge. This was intriguing for me since it’s totally opposite to what I normally do with photography. I enjoy taking a normal looking person and infusing in a bit of strangeness, just subtle enough and brewing below the facade of a normal life. I want that strangeness to come out in my portrait, and Matt would need a normal, confidence instilling image, it couldn’t be more opposite. So, I said yes as a sort of challenge to myself to see if I could pull off a professional portrait of a fellow photographer, devoid of strangeness.
Matt already had an idea in mind of what he wanted for his portrait. Some nice shadows here and there, and including a camera of course. It would need to show his face with nice definition, but also have that Doors feel to it, of a person coming out of the darkness. I started off with a very sharp transition to the shadows, and on request brought out the features of his face in a more even lighting sort of way. The main light was an Elinchrom BxRi 250ws in a small Photoflex octabox. From the back left there was another BxRi in a gridded CreativeLight softbox to add some definition to Matt. The gridded softbox is great for lighting things like cameras since it gives a nice highlight to objects without much need to precisiely flag the light against spilling too much. I added some barn doors to the octabox by putting out the velcro panels from my Think Tank Airport Acceleration bag and putting then on the front of the octa. In the end, we pulled it off nicely, and it took far less time that I had planned for.
In the end Matt was happy with the result of my efforts, and I was amazed that I can take a normal looking portrait. It’s not something I plan to exploit in the future, but it’s nice to know you can pull off things like this if needed. Some people have been living in German-Switzerland for years and can’t speak enough Deutsch to order a beer in a bar. I’ve been into portrait photography for like 3 years now and I hadn’t attempted a normal professional portrait like this before – it just never occurred to me. However, I’m glad Matt contacted me for this little project, it was a fantastic learning experience. Naturally, before Matt even showed up I had done some lighting tests, pulling out my favorite hat and 3D glasses. I love strangeness in mild doses, it makes you look twice and, well, I have to admit that I like looking at myself. And so can you in the gallery below.