Anatomy of a shot: An evening with a Master

Here is a simple breakdown of how to light this scene using 2 lights.  I was asked to photograph a Master of a Grand Lodge in Massachusetts.  When I got to the location, there was a lot going on.  The room is filled with a lot of historical architecture and symbols.  I know this room quite well since I am also a 3rd Degree Mason.  That said, I was here to get the shot.

I wanted to create a photo that expressed a sense of power.  To do this, I placed him in the center of the room and used a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 70mm.  This created a sense of drama as the compression with this lens shortens the depth of field and the wall that was 25 feet behind him was now more involved on the frame.  the problem is that I had to light everything in a manner that was subtle, yet effective to show off the large mural in the back.  Here is a test shot using only 1 light source…

Profoto AcuteB2 battery pack with Profoto head and 3 foot Silver Umbrella Deep.  I put a softening fabric over the umbrella to create a soft box feel.  Blah.  No drama.


The solution was simple and effective.  I used a small Nikon SB-910 Speed light and placed it 25 feet behind him hidden by his body and aimed it at the mural.  I used it in manual mode set to 1/4 power.  It was triggered wirelessly at the same time as the main Profoto strobe using Phottix radio transmitters.

2 lights.  1 main light camera left softened substantially with a 3 foot umbrella and a small light in the back.  The resulting image was this…

Nikon D810 with 70-200 f/2.8 lens 1/60 second at f/5 ISO 80


By using a slow shutter speed (1/60 second) I was able to mix in the ambient light nicely and let those candles look more like candles and not 4 bright blobs in the back.  It also lets you appreciate the Jewels (necklace) in the back.  The overall image works well and did not require a large complicated set-up.


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