Queens For A Day – Port Charlotte, Florida

When Harbor Style called and asked if I could photograph some “queens”, needless to say I had a few questions. First, was “What did you say?” Let me back up a little bit.

Harbor Style was gearing up for their annual womens issue. The main theme of this years issue was going to be the “queens” of the different  art centers that are in the area. The women in the photo are directors from the Visual Art Center in Punta Gorda, the North Port Art Center in North Port, the Englewood Art Center in Englewood and the director of the Charlotte County Arts and Humanities council.

I started by going to all of the local area art centers and getting the “portrait” or “profile” shot. You know, the usual corporate looking photos for the story inside. I photographed each lady differently so when the reader is flipping through the story, they all don’t look the same. That was the easy part. Now I had to figure out how to “queen” this up. Like with any shoot like this, coordination, cooperation, and patience goes a long way.

How I photographed this…
Well, I needed a location that would be big enough to hold possibly four chairs and who know what else. Some phone calls were made to the local theater and the manager was more than kind to us. She allowed up to use the facility for as long as we needed. Location….CHECK! Costumes? The editor wanted them to be in full dress as Queens. Again, after a few phone calls, one of the local theater groups had some costumes that “might” work and they couldn’t verify sizes. The editor of the magazine went to look at the costumes and figured out what would work. Costumes….pretty much CHECK! The last detail that was missing from the costume, the tiara. I could see myself walking into a jewelry store and asking for four of their best tiaras….on loan please. Ugh, no. Off to the party store! For about $5, tiara’s all around!

One last thing….ugh, light? Since I knew that I was going to have to light four people, I grabbed for my trusty 60″ shoot through umbrellas. Since this was going to be printed, I need to get Harbor Style something that their press could reproduce. I wanted to light everything since this was going on the cover. For the light source, I used my Nikon SB800s. Some of you are probably thinking, “A 60 inch umbrella is kind of big. Can one flash fill it?” That thought had crossed my mind as well. My solution…double up on the flashes. This wouldn’t give me more power, but more even light. I had two options, call B&H and pay $125 for light brackets that would hold the flashes. Or, go to Home Depot and get a $9 piece of aluminum extrusion and make my own. Guess which one I did. A half hour later I had my brackets made. I can put another post on how I did this.

At the shoot while the women were getting dressed, I assembled the light stands and fitted them with the umbrellas and my new handy dandy light brackets. I put the camera on a tripod and walked up the aisle where the seats were to help get a level shot. The women were on a stage so I wanted the camera lens level with them. I used a 18mm-200mm lens. Fitted in the hot shoe is my SU800 Commander unit so I was able to wirelessly trigger the flashes. On camera left I had those flashed set to “Group A” and camera right set to “Group B”. This way I could play with the lighting ratio from the camera position. Slick!

During the light tests, I wanted to keep the power of the flashes to 1/2 power or less. This would allow fast recycle times so no one had to wait. Being backed so far up the aisle, I knew I could get away with a lower f stop. I chose f/5.6. My ISO was at 400 at 1/250. Both flashes were at 1/2 power. I really wanted to go to f/8 or f/11, but I didn’t want to go to full power on the flashes or increase my ISO. As you can see from the thumbnail it turned out fine. The shoot lasted about 20 minutes. During the shoot, the editor was taking some cell phone pictures and sending to the art director to make sure that we had all of the possible layout angles covered. We couldn’t afford to do this again.

At the end of the day…
Really this wasn’t a real complicated lighting layout. Two big umbrellas with two flashes. This is your typical portrait set up. Looking back at it, I might have wanted to try and lower the flash power on the right side a bit to get some dramatic lighting. However, being a cover piece, they wanted to be safe.

If you have more than one flash and you need to light a big area, double them up. They will spread the light evenly across the area that needs to be lit. I hope that you can try this layout some time.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


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