Outdoor Corporate Portrait Photography Tips & Techniques

Filmmaker Jay P. Morgan, a Los Angeles based commercial photographer, inundates us with dozens of useful tips on outdoor corporate-style portraits in this short tutorial. It will walk you through a high-end Wall Street portrait session, focusing on the use of honeycomb grid spots and colored gels, and how they can impact and define the look of an image:

Honeycomb grids are a lesser-used item in the lighting world, especially with the popularity of the softbox and its signature diffused, even tone. To create depth, drama, and character, though, a grid is a fantastic way to craft extremely specific lighting situations. Grids basically do the opposite of a soft box – intensifying and directing the rays more or less acutely, depending on the span. They are measured in degrees, referring to the coverage; a 60-degree grid illuminates a larger area, whereas a 10-degree grid is quite focused, looking much like a spotlight. With these, the photographer can light only certain areas of the subject, drawing specific attention towards one element and away from another, directing the viewer’s eye and helping to tell the story of the image.

corporate portrait photography
Near the five-minute mark, Morgan mentions the concept of feathering your light, which is an excellent thing to consider for any situation. Most photographers, especially when they’re just beginning, will perform their basic lighting setups (Rembrandt, butterfly, side, etc.) exactly as they learned them – straightforward, with the light pointed directly at the subject. Morgan emphasizes that using the edges of the light’s beam, rather than the hot spot in the middle, gives greater variation of light quality and intensity, giving an image a more distinctive look.

There is an awful lot of information packed into an eight-and-a-half minute clip, so you might want to watch it a couple of times – more information seems to pop up with every view. Morgan describes his theory, setup, equipment, and post-processing with simple but detailed tutelage. Despite the vaguely rushed demeanor of the video, the tips that he has picked up in this twenty years of working in the field is complete, well thought out, and invaluable to both amateur and experienced photographers wanting to work in high-end portraiture.

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