This diagram set was adapted from Steven Begleiter's book 50 Lighting Setups for Portrait Photographers, published by Amherst Media. You can read an excerpt from it in the MOC Learning Center.To learn more about Steven Begleiter's books, view his work, and read his blog, visit his website.
Assignment: The portrait of the author Deirdre MacNamer was taken for the magazine Distinctly Montana. Deirdre was coming out with her fourth novel and the magazine was writing a profile on her. Visual Objective: Deirdre is known as a "Montana Writer"; she writes about Montana and the (fictional) people who live here. I wanted to visually incorporate that geographic essence of her books, so I felt it was important to have mountains as a backdrop. In addition, I wanted to move away from the stereotypical "western wear." Fortunately, Deirdre dressed in designer black. The lime green coffee cup was for a splash of color. Posing: After scouting the location, I found a comfortable patio chair and a table. I had originally placed a laptop on the table and was going to have her pretend she was working on her next book, but it looked awkward. Instead, I opted for a pen and paper—the "old fashioned" writing props. I prompted her to breathe deeply a couple times and gaze into the lens. The Story: I was fortunate to meet with Deirdre before I actually photographed her. This gave me an opportunity to learn a little about her and see where she lived. I planned out four different images for the article while I was there. As a bonus, Deirdre also gave me an advance copy of her novel to read. It was early spring and I wanted to wait until there was more foliage on the trees, so we planned a session three weeks later. By the time I met her again for the session, I had finished her novel and felt like I knew her a little better—and she felt very comfortable around me. As a result, the session went very well and pretty quickly. Tips: The key to this session was preparation, but I did have a back-up plan just in case the weather didn't hold up. It was touch and go with the heavy clouds, but the weather gods were with me again. If you plan for the worst-case scenario, you will always be prepared to come away with a successful portrait.