My First On-Location Portrait Session

05 May 2009


I shot my first real on-location portrait session over the weekend -- senior portraits for a member of Claire's family.

I started out at 4pm setting up a basement studio for use later that night, and then Bridget, Mary, and I proceeded to the nicely shaded Steinman Park in downtown Lancaster. That was followed by a trip to Musser Park, and then a return to the house to finish up with the outdoor and studio work there -- about 4 hours of shooting total.

I carried all my gear, since I'm mostly geared up for on-location and make-shift studio photography, so one of the biggest lessons was to see what I use and don't use.


Gear I used:

Gear I didn't use:


We shot our way down through Steinman Park in natural light first, and then we started using the strobe and umbrella. We got some surprisingly moody light with natural light, but we made it really pop with the strobe. From the first lit shot, we were all feeling good about the images.

Steinman Park proved to be a great location with nice even light, since it was all shade -- we spent over an hour shooting there.


At Musser Park we got a few more shots at the stone walls and sitting at the checker tables. These were some of my favorite shots. We again lit Bridget with a 42" umbrella on the monopod about 2 or 3 feet away. Having Mary hold the umbrella on the monopod allowed us to move pretty quickly. I kept trying to gel the light with a full CTO, but it always came out oranger than the setting sun, so I had to back off to a 1/4 or 1/8 CTO. It produced nice warm tones, though.


At the stone wall, I figured I'd switch it up, and had Mary hold the silver reflector instead of strobes. This makes it really easy to keep the color balances in check, and I was getting bolder and more experimental by now.


We finished up back at the house -- first, we shot outside against some trees and the fence covered with ivy. These images have lush green backgrounds which look more familiar for standard portrait photography. I punched up the contrast a bit to make them look a bit different though.

At this point, we had been shooting for hours, and it was time to eat. Bridget was keeping up like a champ. By the time we went inside to shoot the studio stuff, we really saw little purpose in it. We had been reviewing the outside images, and we were happy.


I popped up the 2 umbrellas for the inside shots, shot one, and bang, it looked just like a school portrait -- boring! I had even varied the lighting ratio correctly, but it still didn't compare to the outside work. We were also a bit tired by now.

This is when I realized that studio work is probably more about props, so we vary up the seating a bit, and pop a few more shots before calling it quits.

Working with Bridget was amazingly easy, and a great first shoot. She did a great job, and I'm really proud of the images we made. I had shot about 570, narrowed it to 260 that were usable, 28 that were worth processing, and 10 that were just the best. I can see why some people really like portraiture.

As gear goes, I couldn't have been happier with my setup. I shot almost exclusively with the 50mm Series E, and my YongNuo CTR-301 triggers worked flawlessly. I couldn't have asked for more -- I didn't have to think about gear at all, and I could focus on getting the best shots and capturing Bridget's expressions and poses.

Filed Under: Photography