January 16, 2020
A quick recap of a hilarious and fun personal brand portrait session with Latesha Lynch Designs! We shot at White Wall Woodstock studio and got a bunch of great content, including some funny behind the scenes moments! I describe how I shape light in an all-white studio to vary the images and add variety.
Bring on the laughs!
For those who don’t know, a personal brand session is essentially a commercial shoot but for a freelancer or solo entrepreneur. It’s merely a matter of scale! With social media becoming such a massive piece of the marketing game, companies are needing more content for their channels. Freelancers and solo entrepreneurs have taken this by storm since social media has become an incredible marketing machine. In contrast, larger companies have only recently come around to this (hence why you can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram for more than 5 posts without seeing an ad). Nothing earns trust like potential clients connecting with the real people doing the work to provide a service or product!
Ew, that felt gross. Okay, back to the session.
Latesha runs a company that specializes in website and brand design. She spends some time on her computer doing graphics. Still, mostly it’s doing a ton of research into what visual elements help a business attract clients. You should hear her talk about the differences between serif vs. sans serif fonts and the moods each elicits. Mind = blown.
The goal of her session was to capture content for her website and social media channels. That meant a lot of different poses, scenes, outfits, and props. That also meant I brought way too much gear because I wanted to be prepared for anything. In the behind the scenes video below, you’ll see how much equipment I didn’t use. Ha – I used maybe 1/4 of it.
Latesha’s brand uses a lot of organic colors, so I suggested White Wall Studio in Woodstock as a location. The studio is gorgeous – it’s a giant white box with amazing window light. I opted for this look because organic colors are very subdued, and shooting outdoors on location would have been tricky. Finding the right shade of red brick wall to compliment her beige and browns? Yeah, hard pass. The other benefit of a white studio is that the focus is all on Latesha and her elements, no distracting background elements from her personal brand.
Now the blessing and curse of shooting in natural light, white studio: It’s all white!!!! In terms of shooting, that means the floor and walls act as amazing reflectors, AKA minimal shadows. That’s great, except for how I like to shoot. For me, shadow is essential for making images look 3D and also for drawing a viewer’s attention to specific elements of a portrait. That meant using a flash with a big modifier, and a large black/white reflector called a VFlat to shape the light. Strategically placing my lights and Latesha relative to the window light was key to getting the look we wanted.
For the first set of shots, I put myself between the window and Latesha so that she would get the full advantage of all that natural light. I placed a 60” silver umbrella camera left to add some light from the side and make the images a bit snappier. Flashed images are a little crisper than natural light images, which I prefer because I’m a sharpness freak.
For these next portraits, I kept everything pretty much the same, except I added the white side of the VFlat reflector camera right. This would fill in the shadows on that side and make the portraits a little more balanced.
These sitting shots were great but also a major PITA. I put Latesha and her mom, Marilyn, between me and the windows, effectively creating a backlit situation. This situation really challenges the focusing capabilities of any camera, and luckily mine didn’t wholly fail here. I placed that big 60” silver umbrella to my right, as my key light, to illuminate the front of Latesha and Marilyn. This made Latesha and Marilyn visible instead of silhouetted shadows.
Next, we had Latesha sitting at a desk. The window light was coming directly from her left, so to balance out the light and reduce the shadows, I placed a single speedlight flash on a lightstand on camera right. I pointed that flash at the white wall to the right so that it would bounce off of it and make the wall act as a giant reflector. The end result of this made that little flash create light as if from a giant modifier. The bigger the light source relative to the subject, the softer the light AKA it looks natural and visually pleasing.
Back to pesky backlighting for these next shots. Similar set up as the previous backlit images, but because the light was coming from camera right, it wasn’t as difficult to focus. I just placed the white side of that VFlat reflector camera left, facing Latesha and our stand-in “client,” Lauren.
Finally, Latesha wanted some “Linkedin ” style headshots. I wanted something a little moodier for these images, so I had Latesha face the main windows (with me between the two). I took the black side of the VFlat reflector and put it on camera left, which sucked up that light and created a more contrasty look. These shots have way more dimension and depth than the rest, and honestly, they’re some of my favorites for that reason.
Now, I know this was all super technical and boring, but it’s hard to describe just how much fun we had during this session. Below are a couple of video clips showing just how much we did for this 4-hour shoot. Don’t worry, the major one is sped up to comical speeds, so it’s only about 5 minutes long.
BTS in detail:
A taste of how goofy my shoots typically are and why I love my clients:
If you have questions about my lighting set-ups, working with Latesha or me, or about the recent Witcher series on Netflix, feel free to Contact Me!
Latesha Lynch Designs
White Wall Woodstock
Below are some of my favorite images from this personal branding session with Latesha!
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