Back in November I was hired by First for Women to photograph Marla Wilson, a Springfield, Illinois, resident. First profiles a reader in each issue who has made a remarkable change in her health, and Marla was being featured in the January 19, 2015 issue.
First's photo editor, Christie Geiger, contacted me to create "beautiful, evenly lit portraits" of Marla for the story. The assignment called for one full-length vertical image of Marla, composed to the right of the frame to allow space for copy on the left. Since the story would appear in a winter issue, the setting needed to be indoors. Christie would make arrangements to have a hair & makeup artist as well as a wardrobe stylist on set.
One obstacle we had to overcome immediately, however, was the setting. We couldn't do the shoot in Marla's home so we started looking for alternative locations in Springfield. I'd want to use a longer lens so we could make the background go soft. And since we needed a full-length shot of Marla, this meant we would need a space with a lot of front-to-back distance.
I called a couple Realtors in Springfield, explained the story, and asked if they had any homes for sale that we might be able to use for the shoot. Within an hour, I was given the name of a family in Sherman (on the north side of Springfield). They had a beautiful 5,600-square-foot home and would be willing to let us come in on a Saturday morning to make the pictures. Perfect.
On the day of the shoot, Marla arrived at the home with Kila Alexander, our hair & makeup artist, as well as Julie Timm, our wardrobe stylist. Marla had consulted with Julie prior to the session to discuss clothing choices, so she came prepared with a couple of attractive outfits. And Marla had requested Kila since she's done Marla's hair for years.
When I arrived, Kila was working on Marla's hair so I started scouting locations inside the house. I made a few pictures of Julie in several locations before landing on three strong options. I decided to use the Olympus OM-D E-M5 body with the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 prime lens for the session. As Marla and Kila wrapped up, I started setting up lights.
This was the first location we used. We had a lot of front-to-back distance and plenty of room for copy on the left. Marla's being lit with a LumoPro LP180 flash in a 60" umbrella (to the left) and I set up another LP180 in the back hallway to create some separation. I like this composition and pose a lot, but the photo intersecting Marla's head is distracting to me. If it had been my home, I'd have taken it down but I didn't want to push my luck in this instance.
After a few more images by the stairway, we moved into the kitchen for another round of pictures. I lit Marla with the 60" umbrella to the right and added a bare LP180 behind her to the left to create separation. This gives a nice highlight on her hair and body. I really liked the compositions and poses here, especially since the window to rear provides a nice sense of framing.
The third location we used looked back into the living room. I lit Marla with the 60" umbrella (on the right), bounced a second LP180 into the ceiling for a fill light, and bounced a third LP180 into the living room ceiling to illuminate that room. We did a few poses here and the image below was the one Christie selected for publication.
And here's how it appeared in the magazine:
While I was shopping in Wal-Mart a couple weeks ago, I noticed that the magazine was on the newsstand so I Instagrammed a little video.
Here's our entire project team—Marla with Kila and Julie as well as homeowners Lola and Glen.
A HUGE "thank you" everyone who helped both before, during, and after the shoot. And huge props especially to Marla for doing the hard work to get healthy.
Curious to see more like this? Here's my session with Caterpillar VP Kimberly Hauer for Talent Management magazine.