Portrait – Zack and his Piano


Here’s a little fun photo set I recently shot of Zack Richard from Swing Connexxion. I used a very simple and portable setup of one flash tethered to my camera and a reflector (a tri-grip reflector to be precise, oooooooo!). I was actually just there to shoot portrait mug shots for Lunou and Zack and maybe a few dancey-dancey pics but I always like to warm up a shoot by shooting something a bit different – hence the piano idea. Sometimes the best shots you end up taking were the ones you didn’t even intend for at all.

Knowing that I was doing mostly portrait shots for this shoot, I made a conscience decision to only bring one lens to the shoot – an 85mm 1.8f. Carrying camera equipment around everywhere is such a pain in the ass that I try to shoot as light as possible and bring exactly what I need and no more. People often ask me why I shoot with just one lens when I’m out for a dance event or photo gigs and honestly fifty percent of is laziness. The other fifty percent is about getting real good with a particular glass rather than spending time packing and unpacking and experimenting while on the clock.

The 85mm lens, in my opinion, is perfect for the “only top-half of the body” look. The pictures always end up being super sharp and having the option to shoot with a shallow depth of field is always interesting compositionally. I used to have a 85mm 1.4 back in the day but I sold it and bought a much cheaper 85mm 1.8 that pretty much does the same job (at $600 less to boot!). The auto-focusing on the 1.8 isn’t nearly as fast as a 1.4 but when you are shooting subjects that don’t move, you don’t even need auto-focusing really.

Admittedly, it would have been easier to have a wireless trigger to control the flash but the $30 tether cord did it’s job. There were some discomforts though of making sure the cord is not in the shot so if you have the cash, definitely go with the wireless option.

For this particular shoot, fellow photographer Jessika was also in the studio so I coerced her of course to be the lighting assistant. Mah hah hah. Often times when I ask people around to hold the flash, hilarity and mayhem ensues. However, having the eye for light herself, Jessika was able to actually come up with some clever angles by holding the reflector with her teeth, positioning it with one hand AND holding the flash with the other hand. Love it.

The flash bounced off the reflector at a 45’ish or so degree angle from Zack’s face, positioned right up against the wall and the piano. You can actually see the reflector in Zack’s eyes if you look closely enough. Neat! It’s worth to point out that I had a little dome diffuser on the flash itself to even out the light on Zack and the piano when it bounced from the reflector.

Since I only had the 85mm lens with me, I had to get a little bit creative and REALLLLY close as there were mirrors right behind me and a wall to my right. I’m not really sure why I crouched down but that’s the angle that I came up with. It would have been interesting to have various height differences though (for example, directly besides or behind the piano) so I’ll file that away in my mind for future shoots.

Randomly, I added a fake rose on the piano for funsies and it actually worked out well to give the image a just a smidgen of contrasting color from his dark blue suit. Oh yah, this entire set of photos took about 3-5 minutes to shoot.


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