Classical Musician Portrait Shoot – 1

Location shoots are my favourite as you never know what to expect. You have to be more creative combining strobes with available light.

For a recent shoot, I was asked to create promotional group portraits for a newly formed band who perform classical music, but more with a rock influence. In this first of two posts, I create an edgy look to go with the electric strings and club outfits.

The venue was a cool basement club in Peckham. However, the typical dark room with low ceilings really pushed me. I had little space to work in or position my lights. There was a space at the back of the club where they sold vinyl records. So I posed the musicians around a trolley full of records, using it as a centre piece. I only had 3 strobe lights, which when shooting 4 people is not always enough. So I used what available light there was in the club as well.

First, meter for available light

First, I metered the available light, using the above strip light as a hair kicker. Then, using  a Canon 580 EX II with a grid placed behind the back right pillar, I hit the vinyl to separate the models from the background.

Add back light to separate models from background

For main lights, I used a Profoto B1 + magnum reflector with a tight grid to camera left. This was specifically to light the two musicians on the left. The Profoto magnum reflector gives a great harsh lighting look as you would expect in a club. It also looks great with B&W. However, its mainly used by photographers for recreating a beautiful direct sunlight quality on location shoots.

CLF SHoot-BTS-10
Using grids in tight spaces really controls light

On camera right, a Profoto B1 + 1×3 strip + grid was angled to light the two musicians on camera right. Strip lights are great to use in small spaces as their long thin source can be used in many ways and angled that a squarer soft box couldn’t. I always grid my shots to shape light. Otherwise in such a tight space, the whole image would have been blasted with light and would have looked out of context for a club.

All set to go with 3 strobes and the strip light above for hair light

It was not easy to shape light and shadow in such a tight space, with a low ceiling. In fact, I could not shape the light as I wanted to. Sometimes, I just have to just settle for what I can get.

I always craft my light for a specific pose. This does not leave me much room to change poses…by choice. When I see something I like, why change it?

Classic Musician Portrait
I kept the strip light and sign in as its works with the compressed scene

I did a second pose and converted to B&W (which I prefer) for more contrast. On a note for this, I actually craft my lighting in set up for either colour or B&W depending on what I want for the final edited image. which I always know before.

Classic Musician Portrait B&W
Low ceiling made framing difficult

So two different looks created for the more edgy electric strings side to the band.

In the next post, I will cover a different set up for the classical strings and more elegant outfits of the band.

Gear used: Canon 5d3, 2 x Profoto B1’s, 1×3 Profoto strip + grid, Profoto magnum reflector + grid, Canon 580 EX II + grid.

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