Evolution of an Image: SimplyTapp, Inc.

Earlier this year, my wife and I decided to move from Springfield, Missouri, the place where we were born and raised, to Austin, Texas, where Kara found work as an Oncology nurse. We moved in to our new place last month and have been enjoying our time getting to know a new city. This week has been especially encouraging to me as I’ve landed my first freelance gig, making head and shoulders portraits for tech startup, SimplyTapp, Inc.

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Tom from SimplyTapp contacted me late the week before the shoot to see what I could do for them. We quickly brokered an arrangement within their budget and agreed to make these portraits happen at Town Lake the following Monday morning.

Being only slightly familiar with the area, I convinced my wife to make an extra stop at the lake as part of our Sunday errand-running. I wanted to find a background that included the lake, some greenery, and the Austin skyline. It didn’t take long to find the perfect spot on the lakeside running trail.

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On Monday morning, I picked up my subjects and brought them to my recently scouted location. To even out the exposure difference between my subjects, which were standing in the shade under a bridge, and the sky, I brought along an Alien Bee B1600 powered by a Vagabond portable lithium-ion battery. Without it, my exposure would look something like this:

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I metered an exposure for the background and adjusted the power on the B1600 to balance the exposure for the subject. I bracketed the background exposure so I could have some options for its intensity in post.

Normally, I would trigger the strobe with my Yong Nuo radio remotes, but, being the dingus that I am, I left an adapter at home. No matter, because the B1600 can be triggered by an external flash, my on-camera flash in this case, which is pretty darn cool and especially handy.

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However, this did cause a couple difficulties. First, I had to be sure the sensor on the back of the B1600 could detect the on-camera flash. This meant that I had to be further away from my subject and have the B1600 at a certain angle to the camera. I switched lenses from the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8, both great portrait lenses, to ensure the on-camera flash would hit the B1600 at the right angle. This pushed me further back onto the trail and in the paths of runners.

Second, the direct angle of the on-camera flash to the subject caused a catchlight in the subject’s eyes that looked unaesthetic and unnatural. By the way, these catchlights are a trademark of on-camera flash photography and one way we know a photo was exposed with a flash. This problem was easily remedied in post-production with the healing tool, but ultimately added time to the project and could have been avoided if I had just remembered to bring the adapter!

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Once I had the exposure right, I ran my two subjects through the gamut of head and shoulders pose:  face straight, face pointed left and face pointed right. All in all, I spent the bulk of the shoot prepping the lights and determining exposure, about 20 minutes, and only photographed the subjects for 10 minutes.

And there you have it, my first Austin job!  View more images from this shoot here.

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