Tuesday, April 24, 2012
portrait for CT
Thanks to Nate Clarke (his website here) Christianity Today approached me earlier this year to shoot a portrait for their “Who’s next: people you should know” section of their magazine. This particular profile was for Nikki, the Urbana 12 Program Director (her blog here.)
This is the last page from the May issue of Christianity Today.
After getting the assignment, my first thought was, “Great, how do I visually show Nikki's role at Urbana when I don't have access to a large stadium filled with 20,000 people?”
After I got over the fact my budget could't afford that, I contacted a large theater in town (the Oveture Center) to see if I could gain access to their staging for an hour, and to my surprise it was not only possible but also easy to do (sometimes all you have to do is ask and pay a small fee.)
My main thought was to get her into a setting that not only hinted at her role at Urbana, but also placed her in someplace more unique than her living room.
I have been thinking a lot about story, and in talking to some real story tellers I have gleaned that for me, visually, a story is simply a subject in a setting in a moment. This means for a photo to tell a story, my setting is just as important as allowing my character to be herself and capturing a moment.
Here are the shots that I submitted to Christianity Today.
Not sure why they chose the one they did, and I trust their reasons, but Nikki's and my favorites are below.
Technically, I created each photo by thinking about the setting first, lighting second, and then I worked with Nikki. The setting was great because I had free reign (sorta, I had a guide) of several old theater stages with plenty of cool accessories, so I just looked for something interesting. Lighting was always dictated by the setting. In almost all cases, I used the ambient (iso 1600 and up) as a base and then added 2 lights for shaping: the key was bounced via a partially folded umbrella (so that it didn't spread too far, almost like a soft box, see photo at top) and the second was a bare flash for fill, hair, or an accent of some kind. Once I had the setting and the lighting locked in, I could make sure to get Nikki's expression, look, and posture right.
We soon fell into a rhythm and had a blast...find setting, light subject, fire away.
Working with designers in the past has taught me to shoot a little loose on composition, they often need an image to fit into something other than a rectangle, and by seeing some of the other photos they have used for past articles like this, I shot so that a square could be designed around.