I had an interesting assignment last week. American Jazz artist Larry King contacted me. Larry was in Paris shooting a video and asked if I'd be able to come over to take some images for his up and coming European website. I would basically have 30 minutes to get a nice portrait followed by 30 minutes shooting some candid shots from a distance whilst Larry performed. He wanted the 2 sets of images to have a very different feel.
They were shooting in a Jazz club in central Paris. When I arrived I was greeted by Larry and his great stylist Michael. They informed me they were running a little behind schedule and I would have about 20 minutes to get the portrait shot. That included set-up time. I also noticed the location was far from ideal for the clean portrait I had in mind. A mix of cables, some tie-dyed 1980's style curtain in the background mixed with terrible ambient light.
I had 3 light modifiers with me. Reflective umbrella, shoot through umbrella and soft box. First thought was kill the ambient, completely. Larry was dressed in a classy black suit, the piano was black. There were a couple of nice details in white, the piano keys, the musical score and an interesting silver microphone. The mic's important as Larry's not only a great pianist but also a wonderful singer. I was beginning to see the image in my head. Larry etched out of the darkness with some details to tell a little about who Larry is and what he does.
So which modifier? The softbox. I wanted to control the spill of light and the softbox is ideal for that. I positioned it as close to Larry as I could, paying attention not only to the light falling on Larry's face but also the details I wanted in the shot. I moved Larry into position at the piano and told him to make himself comfortable whilst I tweak the lighting. Larry naturally positioned himself almost perfectly. I tweaked the position of the softbox to get a nice Rembrandt style triangle of light on the right side of his face and positioned his hands so the light was hitting them nicely.
Once I was happy I rattled off a handful of frames. I tried adding a reflector to the right side of Larry to add some fill but it sort of killed the ambience I wanted. If I had a little more time I'd probably have added a snooted light behind to add a little separation between subject and background as I did with this shot of Alexandre. Still we managed to get the shot I had in my head in spite of the challenges, and more importantly Larry is very happy with the result.
As soon as Larry's new site is up and running I'll update this post with the address. If you get chance to see him performing I highly recommend it!
Some of the 'Larry in Action' shots whilst they were shooting the video: