My Location Portrait Workflow

Since I’m really big on doing location portraits vice shooting them in the studio, I thought I would share my workflow with you to give you a better idea of how I set up for a location shoot. It’s pretty simple, yet very effective for me.

First things first, I make sure that I have everything packed that I might possibly need. That includes flashes, extra batteries, camera bodies, lenses, gels, gaffer’s tape, wireless triggers, memory cards, etc. I also ensure that my batteries are fully charged and ready for a day’s worth of shooting (even if it’s only going to be an hour). This way I save myself the embarrassment of having a battery die on me in the middle of a shoot. (You don’t get coolness points for how fast you can swap batteries in your gear.)

Once I’m sure that I have everything IN my bag that I might need, I add on my lightstands, Justin clamps, reflector and diffuser. Then I’m all set to head out the door. If I had time to scout the location prior to the shoot, then my day will be a little easier. If not, I try to leave early enough that I can scout the location prior to meeting my clients. This is VERY important to me and it has two benefits: I don’t have to worry about being late and I know I’ll be able to find some good lighting, available shade, etc. I can also pre-determine what lighting setup I’m going to use and where my lights will go. This saves lots of time when the clients show up. (Hint, hint.)

Once it’s time to shoot I try and constantly interact with my subjects so that they stay interested and relaxed. It’s a lot easier to do this if you know your subjects than it is if you’re working with complete strangers. However, it is more important than you might think. You have to be able to get your subject to open up and express themselves in a natural way. If you can master this, I guarantee that your photos will be twice as good as they were before.

In terms of lighting gear, I prefer my SBs for location shooting. They are very portable, versatile, and I can carry a lot of them in my Tamrac Expedition 7 backpack along with my D90, D40, glass, and other gear. It sure beats lugging around a full-size monolight and a battery pack! I use white shoot-through umbrellas to diffuse the light from my flashes and I use 8′ air-cushioned light stands for support. I can also use my Justin clamps to put flashes virtually anywhere.

Here’s a setup shot for a shoot I did yesterday (that’s my son holding the 42″ reflector for me):

For location shoots I like to be able to move freely and quickly and that’s why I’ve chosen my gear in the manner I have. My workflow may not work for you or anyone else, but it works for me and that’s what’s important. Find a workflow that works for you and your style and you will find that shooting on location is a lot less of a hassle than it may seem.


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