Photos by Pretzel Man

How my coworkers saw me today.

Before I joined the Orfalea Foundation, they invested in a website upgrade, and I think the designers did a fantastic job. It’s a great looking website. There are still some content gaps I need to work on, but the site looks good. Except for the “Our Team” pages. All that effort and investment to make a beautiful site, and then we handed an intern a camera, stepped outside, and created the weakest link on our site. So now I’m on a mission to rehabilitate our photos, and it’s been tougher than I expected.

Last week, I brought in most of my studio gear to photograph our founder, except that an unexpected circumstance prevented him from showing up. My boss sat in, but neither of our hearts were in it. Still, I realized that if I created a new look for the website using multiple lights and stands and modifiers, I’d have to drag that stuff in every time we wanted a new photo.  So I set about figuring out how to get professional, interesting looking pictures with as simple a rig as possible.  Fortunately, I’ve spent a chunk of this week reading Joe McNally‘s books The Moment It Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries.

Because the web design calls for small, square images, I decided to go for tight – maybe even overly tight – headshots. I programmed the camera to underexpose by 1.7 stops, and set the flash to fire at +.7 stops. I used the rig as shown in the photo above, trying to keep the flash low and close to the coworker’s face. The coworkers themselves have mixed emotions about the results, but this is one of those rare and marvelous cases where I am both the client and the photographer, so I’ll keep working on this until I’m satisfied, and not a moment longer.  I think I’m close.

But let me tell you, when you don’t shoot all day every day like Joe McNally, it’s exhausting to manage the camera with one hand while extending and aiming a flash with the other.  But the results suggest I may be getting a lot more practice with this technique. Wish I could get more light to the eyes, though.




Now, you might be thinking, “Why the yellow/gold/sepia cast?” And “What happened to Adrianna’s piercing blue eyes?” The color cast is my idea.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like a slight sepia tone to even out skin tones, but in this case I also want to reference the copper and black tones of the website. I’m not satisfied with the color yet. As for the eyes,  I tried to address this by aiming the light, but so far I haven’t figured it out.  I may have to go to a two light setup. Stay tuned, and by all means, offer suggestions. Thanks.


Filed under Camera Gear, Lighting, Portraiture

7 responses to “Photos by Pretzel Man

  1. Myrna Cambianica

    love the crop … perhaps crop even tighter on the women, especially top of the head … not sure on color … going to look at the website

  2. As I’ll demonstrate in a future blog, the eyes are better lit than I thought, but the post-process colorization is dulling them. I may be able to stick with the quick/dirty/simple lighting technique and hold the eyes by removing the warming gel, which isn’t playing well with the sepia wash.

  3. 0ldspice!

    I’m trying to figure out the picture of you taking your own picture. Maybe it is backward, as it would look in a mirror. Are you a southpaw? Also, why do you want to hold the fill-in flash all the way across your chest? Can’t you just hold it on the other side, in a more comfortable position?

    Nice pix. (I’m sure they are beautiful people to start with, but a good photographer helps.) Yobroinlo

    • That is a mirror photo. I am left-handed, but that’s not relevant, because the camera’s controls are for the right hand. I move the flash-wielding arm across my body to provide additional support for the camera, which is too heavy for one-handed stability.

  4. Myrna Cambianica

    o.k. … looked at website … do not see lots of sepia tones in the team page … still like the close crops … suggest having some sort of neutral background for each team member … and then you may not have to go sepia … the portraits are right one, but backgrounds a bit distracting … can you take all of them at the same location

    • I’m not sure which of your comments apply to the new photos and which apply to the existing ones on the website, but I’m dropping the sepia and going for a slightly desaturated look with a bit of kick to the warmth. As for backgrounds, my goal for the finals is that the backgrounds will be about 2 stops less exposed than the foreground, so they will be less distracting whatever they are, because I cannot take them all at the same location.

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