Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Environmental Portraits: Location, Lighting, and Composition - Bringing It All Together

Good Morning Everybody,

Planning Calender Wow!  Only four more days before the end of the year – and what a year it’s been, time has certainly flown by.  As I sit here today, we’ve already began planning for the new year and I’m really looking forward to how it’s shaping up.

I’m also looking forward to jumping on that plane Friday morning and heading to Florida.  That’s when the plans will get locked into place and I grab an opportunity to start my new book.  While in Florida, I get a chance to visit my children, Aaron and Elizabeth. Heck, there’s even talk of us trying to fit a visit to the mouse while we are in Orlando. 

Also on the agenda is a trip to Kelby Media world headquarters which is always fun.  We’ll probably shoot a Photoshop User TV episode or two. Matt K and I have some planning to do for another round of Kelby Training videos. So, lot’s coming attractions later down the pike, for 2011.

Hey gang, I’ve got a nice Technique Tuesday planned today so let’s get right to it.  Here we go…

Environmental Portraits:  Location, Lighting, and Composition - Bringing It All Together

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you know that David “Wedding Photographer” Ziser is my name and brides and grooms are my game ;~)  I’m been discussing how we capture those great bridal portraits in those fabulous locations, how to bring the lighting on the subject to make the bride and groom look amazing, and how to compose the image for it’s best visual impact.

1280x800 - Inspiring Volunteers 1 Today, I want to take all those techniques and apply them to on-location portraiture.  What happens if you don’t have the best place in which to work – the background is not perfect, the lighting is lousy, etc – how do you still pull off a great shot? The answer, of course lies in how we handle the location, lighting, and composition. All the rules are the same – only the names have been changed. Boy, I think I’m starting to sound like Dragnet’s Joe Friday ;~)

Over the last several years I’ve been involved locally in a very special project called the “Most Inspiring Volunteers In The Arts” of Cincinnati, Ohio.  The project showcased those individuals who did the most on a volunteer basis to make the arts more accessible to everyone in the Greater Cincinnati area.  The project was co-sponsored by Inspire Magazine and David A. Ziser Photography.

The biggest part of my job was to photograph and capture great portraits of the 20+ volunteers.  I wanted these portraits to be special and felt they needed to  be made in the locations in which the volunteers were associated.  That meant we would be shooting at Music Hall, The Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera offices… you get the idea.

Clock - LRTwenty volunteers, 20 locations, all spread throughout the city.  The challenge was to NOT tie up days of the studio’s time and resources to photograph all the individuals while still knowing we had to capture, produce and deliver outstanding images.  We allowed 60 minutes for each portrait session.  That time included showing up to meet the inspiring volunteer, visiting with them a bit, taking the portrait, and driving to the next location to only then repeat the process. 

Race Car Our goal was to complete all the photography in only two days.  That meant 10 portraits a day, one portrait every hour beginning at 9:00 a.m. and wrapping at 7:00 p.m. for two straight days. Lunch breaks, ha – we grabbed a McDonald’s en-route to the next stop.  It was a scheduling nightmare – both for the volunteers and the locations in which we needed to make the portraits.

To make a long story short, with very efficient shooting and lighting style, techniques and judicious use of the settings in which we worked, we captured a terrific set of images which the volunteers and the magazine loved.  Why not hit the PLAY button and let me walk you through a few sessions.


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  Next week look forward to Part 2 of the this post.  We got our Columbus, Ohio friends, Kent and Sarah Smith from Kent Smith Photography, stopping by in a few for a holiday visit so I’ve got to get moving.

How about I see you tomorrow for Quick Hit Monday on Wednesday.

Hope to see ya’ then,  David


  1. Hey David,
    Wouldn't that 15 - 31mm be a 10 - ~20mm lens if you were shooting APS and Lightroom did the conversion? Or did I misunderstand (it happens a lot).

  2. Hi David,
    The 10-20mm did not exist in 2004. It had to be the 18-35mm. That's the widest lens I owned then.