I don’t do a lot of senior portraits, maybe a few every year. When I choose to do them it’s usually because of a special connection with the family or because the senior is just a cool kid. In the case of Jackson it was kind of both those things.
In planning for the shoot we’d discussed trying to emulate a (Greg) Heisler-style portrait of Lebron James or “similar” ridiculously talented basketball player. I arrived prepared for such a shot but given the combination of gorgeous weather as well as location it was clear we had to shoot outdoors.
It’s a good thing I hadn’t already written an entire blog on replicating Heisler’s lighting.
Working with seniors is a lot of fun because they are excited to do a photo shoot. It’s also fun because I’m able to assure the parents that everyone involved will walk away with images they like. In a meeting with the subject AND the parents I address them each individually as if the other wasn’t there. It’s a premeditated strategy that may seem odd but I’m able to pull it off. I start with the parents, assuring them that (as a parent) I know the kind of photos they want to print for Grandma’s Christmas present. I then tell the senior we’re going to rip it up and grab some epic stuff (in so many words.) Both parties understand the game plan. The senior doesn’t freak out because we’re doing boring “department store” stuff and mom doesn’t freak out because their kid is hanging upside down from a helicopter.
As a rule we start with the smiling, happy, my kid is about to go to college and they’ll never be the same photos. In reality those are the important ones so once they’ve been captured we can cut loose and get creative.
The image above on the left we stayed traditional with a speedlite in a softbox lighting the subject and a second speedlite shooting through an umbrella to broadcast enough light to cover the grass in the background. Jackson is a natural smiler so this shot practically took itself.
The image on the right I wanted to be dramatic. It was getting late in the evening so the light in the backyard had dropped off significantly. It was easy for one speedlite to dominate the scene. I shot this in manual mode with my 70-200mm Canon lens at 1/200th sec at f3.2, ISO 50, the speedlites were triggered with Pocketwizards. The hardest part of this shot was Jackson’s demeanor. He’s so good-natured it’s hard for him to stop smiling. It was worth the effort. Clearly this one is for Jackson (and his dad.)