Making a shot: “Daring family”

Sometimes you work with a family that just loves to have fun.  This is one such family.  The mom wanted a shot in front of the beautiful red bush across the street.  Mind you, this was not their property.  First, we got permission.  Once we secured the rights, it was go time.

There were many problems in this setup.  First, the sun was behind that red bush making this side the only option.  It was 3pm and the scene was very bright.  Sweaty uncomfortable bright for a September.  I needed some level of shade for my lens.  I also wanted a nice long throw (focal length) to compress the scene and not make them look too awkward so close to the bush given the limited space we had.  I could not put them on their own yard as the sun was just too overhead and bright.  That would require 3 assistants and huge reflectors.  It was just me, myself, and I.

So, the plan.  We carried the couch across the street and placed it in front of the bush as best we could without being directly touching.  The space was limited to about 5-7 feet between the active road and the bush.  Next I set up my strobe.  I used and Alien Bees single strobe on a Manfrotto light stand with large Paul C. Buff soft box set to 1/4 power (400 watts).  This was camera right and served to wash a nice soft blend of light across the family to compensate for the brightness and the dappled light that would occur.  It was not the best setup, but it was the only real option.


making a shot

CAMERA SETTINGS: Nikon D3 with 70-200 f/2.8 lens shot at 125mm.  F/6.3 at 1/160 ISO 200 and Cloudy WB.  Phottix wireless triggers communicating between the camera and the strobe.  Roughly 40 feet away from the family.

So, with a little safety secured and no cars immediately passing by, I had the family pose as fast as possible and managed to get some nice photographs.


In the end, it looks like a simple outside shot in their backyard with no real setup required.  But, in reality, it was very tricky and I am quite pleased with the results given all of the variables involved.

Things are not always as they seem in photography and people often ask me how I got a shot.  Well, most of the time it is just “being there” in good light or working a situation really really hard to achieve the final product.  This was one of those shots where I knew they wanted something and I had to be confident that I could get it.  …no matter what.


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