Last year, 2011, we spent 3 months from September to December in Sweden working with Youth With A Mission. During this time, I had the opportunity to redo / update the staff photos for the 80 odd people currently working there.
This was a great opportunity, and after many chats with Rob in the Media department, he was happy to pass the project over to me, with complete creative control. What a great thing that is! Not only did I get the opportunity to take this collection of photos, but I also got to be in control of how I would do it.
I decide that a collection of portraits showing not only the individual, but captured in a way that would also show something about the person would be the way to go. The temptation to shoot everyone on a standard background was there, but the possibilities of some awesome creative portraits won out and I took the much more complicated, and challenging path.
I got to work with a great collection of subjects, most who were more then happy to collaborate on something that they could and ultimately would be proud of. Sitting down with each subject, discussing what their likes, hobbies, passion and fun is, taking that away with me to come up with an idea, and a location, lighting plan, timing (natural light) and fit this into the subjects often busy schedule.
All the portraits were taken on my Nikon D2x using either 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens. Often the lighting was simple available light, some times I used a bit of fill with an either on or off camera SB900. One of my most used items in my camera bag has to be my 5 in 1 reflector, using it to bounce in some light or as a large diffuser for the sun or a speedlight. Occasionally a more elaborate setup was used incorporating 3 speedlights added to the available light.
Here is a walk through of a couple of my favourite images from the collection.
Pierre-Marie is one of the Kitchen staff and is also one of the biggest characters I know. Bucket loads of personality, all ways ready for a laugh and a joke. I wanted to show something of his personality in the portrait while still showing a part of what he does. This portrait is lit entirely with speedlights, the first on camera bouncing off the ceiling to give some shadow fill and also acting as a commander for the 2nd speedlight zoomed out to 200mm and placed about 10 meters back and at about 45 degrees on camera right. The distance and the hardness of the zoomed speedlight gave me the strongly defined shadow on the wall. My idea was to have Pierre Marie holding a knife but have his shadow in a different pose. I accomplished this in post by combining 2 different shots in photoshop. The placement of the plate stacks was to fill the negative space while also emphasizing being in a kitchen. I really cooled down the image in post while keeping the skin tones, to give it a more clinical feel.
Jacob works in the Maintenance department, which is buried away in a basement under-neath a block of apartments. The first thing I noticed walking into the workshop was the wood. All around was beautiful rich wood and a huge collection of tools. The quantity of light was low and initially really made me work for the photo. But the quality and colour of the light was so beautiful. After several test shots, I decided on the above location. Jacob is lit using a speedlight from camera right through the diffusion panel on my reflector. Another speedlight on camera bounces into the ceiling picking up the warmth in the room and adding some subtle fill while also acting as a commander for the other flashes. The 3rd speedlight is off to camera left and zoomed in to about 150mm and popped into the background to mix with the subtle available light to really bring out the colours and textures in the tools and materials behind Jacob and adding some depth to the photo while separating him from the background. This is one of my favourites from the collection.
Gookin, my South Korean friend, loves to sing, play guitar and write songs. With the beautiful location in Restenas only minutes from the water, it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful location and the talented Gookin. I had Gookin sit on the rocks, and popped a SB900 over his head through the diffusion panel on my reflector. An SB800 was used to add a bit of light onto the dark outcrop of rock in the distance behind him. The other SB900 was on minimal power on the camera, giving a little front fill and working as a commander for the other 2 lights. Easy.
What a great project this was, and I felt privileged to get the opportunity to photograph these wonderful people. Have a browse below and check out a few more of the photos from this collection, Let me know what you think!