Photograph nearly 60 women from around the country in 6 hours? Do the math and that's about 5 minutes per person, allowing for a couple of breaks and a few minutes for lunch. Normally I spend at least 30 minutes with just one person.
Oh, and you have to pack up your studio and bring it with you?
Julie Timm, whom I met in November on an editorial assignment and pictured above, is a Senior Executive Director for Thirty-One Gifts. She hosted a leadership retreat for her team in Sherman, Illinois, last month and wanted her ladies to have nice headshots that they could use in their businesses. So Julie commissioned me to make portraits for the 60-ish women who'd be attending the retreat.
On January 17, I left Lincoln early with my friend Landon (who volunteered to assist and schlep gear). The retreat was held at the Illini Bank Community Center in Sherman, and our "studio" for the day was a small storage closet. I brought a 60" roll of white seamless paper and a portable backdrop stand for our background and my ALZO Pan-L-Lite kit to light our subjects. I chose the Pan-L-Lites because I felt the continuous lights would be easier on our subjects--no flash pop-pop-popping all day long. But I brought a handful of small hot shoe flashes anyway--just in case.
Landon and I pulled into the parking lot around 7:00 AM and started to load in our equipment. We assembled our makeshift studio in about 30 minutes, with the backdrop at one end of the closet and our camera position and lights at the opposite end. I wanted the option to have the background go solid white or light gray, so I'd need a flash to light the background and have the ability to turn it on or off. I positioned a hot shoe flash off to the right (behind our subjects) and controlled it with a Pocket Wizard remote from the camera--good to go.
The Pan-L-Lites were set up in a kind of "box" configuration: one panel each on the right and left and a third panel on a boom overhead. A reflector was positioned underneath to bounce light up into the face as well. Once everything was in place, the setup looked something like this:
In retrospect, I should have added a second background light on the other side (which is what I do in my "real" studio). I thought about it, of course, but figured this would work. I spent more time in post-production, though, on the white background because the background wasn't lit evenly. Lesson learned.
With our "studio" set up and ready, we started to photograph the team. I chose to use the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 body, my trusty "go-to" camera/lens combo for studio portraits.
Julie had done a fantastic job of organizing a shooting schedule ahead of time and had two stylists on site as well. All the women went through hair and makeup stations (so they looked great) before coming into the studio. Even though we had only five minutes with each lady, I wanted to do my best to help them feel comfortable. I introduced myself to each of the women as they entered the studio and took a few moments to ask where they were from, how long they'd been with Thirty-One, a little about their work and family.
After a a bit of chatting, we started to make pictures. I'd have them turn one direction, make a few pictures, then turn the other direction, make a few more. Depending upon the direction our subjects were facing and whether I wanted shadows, I was able to switch the Pan-L-Lites on and off to get the light I felt was most flattering for each person. Once I was confident we had at least one good look, I thanked them for their time and we ushered in the next subject.
Having worked our way through the list of 57 women, we finished shooting around 2:00 PM. Landon and I packed up and then unloaded the gear back at the "real" studio in Lincoln.
After the session, I sorted through the images and posted proofs to a private Zenfolio gallery for the team. They then chose their proofs by submitting a form on my site (which fed into a Google Spreadsheet). Once I had everyone's selects, the files were sent off for retouching. A few days later I had the files back and did a final "quality control" check then prepped them for downloading. The selects were available in another private gallery where the ladies could download them.
And that brings us to today.
All in all, the process went very smoothly--mostly thanks to solid planning on Julie's part. Shown below is a small sample of the 57 women we photographed during that 6-hour session. I also received some wonderful compliments from several of the ladies after they viewed their proofs--here are a few:
The whole gallery is amazing! You made the experience so easy and painless. Thank you so much!
Thank you so much, you were great to work with and the pictures turned out really nice!
Thank you so much for your time, talent and effort! The photos were great!
Thank you so much for taking these beautiful pictures.
Thank you again for these pictures Michael! I have never felt pretty... but looking at these pictures I feel like I look good... You've given me a priceless gift.
You are awesome! Thank you sooooo much! I never ever get a good picture but I'm so pleased with these!
You did an awesome job! I love my photos!
My warmest thanks to Julie and her entire team for such an enjoyable experience.
If you're in central Illinois (Springfield, Bloomington/Normal, Decatur, Peoria, Champaign/Urbana) and interested in learning about how I approach business portraits (AKA, headshots) in the studio, you'll find descriptions, videos, and testimonials on the Business Portraits page.