Mandy’s graduation is this weekend, so we headed out to get a start on the senior portraits Wednesday evening.  The mixed pleasure of working with your girlfriend is that the shoot ends up more relaxed and informal than it is with a client.  On the other hand, she was feeling tired tonight, so it was a bit of a challenge to get much energy in the shots, and we called it a night after just a little while.

Having been out at the same place the previous night, we had an idea of what kind of scenes she wanted, and I had a pretty good idea of how to light them.  Forwent the multi-strobe setup this time and settled on a single 430EX on a light stand with shoot-through umbrella.  Later, I added a second 430EX to a Justin Clamp, which was clamped to the light stand, and also sported an umbrella, for some clamshell-style lighting.

(On a side note, if you’re using Speedlites and don’t have a Justin Clamp, get one.  ASAP.  Super cool piece of gear that’s got all you need to mount a Speedlite & modifier pretty much anywhere.)

I’m shooting with the 7D + 50mm, at f/2.2, ISO 200, and a shutter speed that knocks the BG down a stop or so.  Still using the 580EX on-camera as a master

Here’s one with the clamshell lighting, which helps cover the 3/4 body length better than a single umbrella, while also providing flattering light.  This is one of those classic senior portrait poses – stick the subject in a tree and tell ’em to grin.  Not very progressive, but it’s constantly repeated for a reason – because it works.  I shot a series and picked this one for two reasons: first, because it cropped out the light pole at far camera right, which was a distraction in the other shots; and second, because the wind gusted through and pushed her hair back just enough to give it some pop.

The wind was another of those mixed blessings.  It can take dead, limp hair and make it look alive.  But it also has a nasty habit of catching umbrellas and tossing your light stand into the next county.  I keep saying I’m going to find/order some sandbags, but in the meantime I came up with a quick solution.  I had my Tamrac 5374 backpack with me and simply clipped it to the base of the light stand with the tripod attachment strap, and tightened it down.  With extra gear inside, it was plenty heavy to hold the light stand in place when the breeze came through – and it helped keep everything together as we moved around.

So there you have it – a low key kind of evening, a few good photos made, and another trick added to the list.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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