How to Shoot Dramatic Portraits in Dark Locations

Senior portraits are a big thing, and there are a million different things that can go wrong, especially if you’re asked to take photos in a dark location. Photographer Matt Hernandez faced the task of shooting senior portraits inside a local swimming club:

Hernandez was faced with a peculiar challenge. He had expensive lights and expensive camera gear but he couldn’t afford to expose too much of the background or else the less than spick and span interiors were going to ruin his images. His answer was to use the Westcott 59” Deep Parabolic Zeppelin.

The advantage of using a really deep parabolic umbrella in a shoot like this is that it’s, well, deep. That means you can really focus the light on your subject without spilling any of it on to the background. In this case the background had a lot of distracting elements, such as paint shifts, banners, and items that really did not add anything to the images.

Westcott 59” Deep Parabolic Zeppelin

Inside silver lining of the Westcott 59” Deep Parabolic Zeppelin

This particular piece of light shaper does have a secondary advantage though. Normally, for a shoot like this, you would set up your speedlight at the back of it to make it function as a standard softbox. But you can also mount the speedlight on a separate stand, cover the rear of the umbrella with a reflector plate, and voila! It now assumes the role of a powerful reflector, enhancing the light output.

senior sports portraits in a swimming pool

One of the final images from the shoot

eliminating background distractions

After a lot of splashing around testing the weather sealing of his D800 and lenses, Hernandez managed to produce some stunning images.

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