A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Lisa at Polaris Images. It was a Friday, in the early afternoon, and she wanted to know if I was available for a portrait shoot for The Times of London. A subject of an upcoming article was in DC and The Times needed a portrait to accompany the print and online edition. Perfect, I thought. Location portraits are right in my wheelhouse and I love shooting them. There was a catch: the subject was only available from 4:30 to 5 pm that afternoon at an office on K Street. This didn’t give me much time to research the subject, prep my gear or scout the location, let alone shoot pictures. No problem, I thought, I’m the man for the job!
A quick Google search and I found a bunch of articles on the subject, Nazeeha Saeed. She’s a journalist in Bahrain and a couple of years ago was held against her will and tortured by police. Knowing this, I wanted to make sure I had appropriate portraits to go along with the story. I wanted to make engaging and compelling portraits that conveyed a serious tone. The location was near the Farragut North Metro stop and at that time of day, we’d have to contend with foot traffic if we wanted to make pictures outside.
I arrived early enough to secure a parking spot and get to the office. It was a small office on the second floor facing K Street. There wasn’t a balcony, but a few offices had big windows and blank walls. This was my starting point. Using the blank wall as my background, I set up a speedlight on a stand with a Lastolite square softbox and shot a few lit portraits. I cut the radio slave off and using the window as my light source, I made some very nice available light, shallow depth-of-field portraits.
One of the main things to consider when shooting for an agency and their client is to shoot a range of images. It’s likely only one picture will be used, but they need both vertical and horizontal options. The agency will also want a batch of images they can use for other clients, which means a better chance at re-sale down the road. Wide, medium, tight, subject looking at the camera, subject looking away, lit, available light, you name it. I had a good set of images so far and had my “CYA” shots so I decided to modify my lighting. I used a Honl speedlight snoot and cranked up the juice on the speedlight to darken the background. This would make for something a little dark and dynamic. Changing the mood by changing the lighting gave me a chance to offer a wider range of images.
Once I had a solid set of pictures inside, I proposed we head outdoors. There was a decent sized pedestrian island near the corner and it was a perfect place to get a cityscape background. Again I shot wide, medium and tight, lit and with available light, to give the client and the agency a wide range of options. I slowed the shutter speed down as people and traffic passed by while the subject remained still. This conveys a sense of being grounded, a sense of stability amid chaos.
Nazeeha was amazing to work with and a wonderful person. We wrapped before 5 pm and I had a bunch of pictures that I was happy with. More importantly, my editor at Polaris was happy and The Times was happy.
Here are some selects from the shoot, as well as the image as The Times used it.