Making marketing pictures at schools is one of my favorites activities. There’s endless variety in subjects and every classroom offers unique challenges in lighting. Last week I was making pictures in Oregon for a longtime client, the schools foundation. They raise money to hire teachers for science, art, music, etc. so they needed photos of students taking advantage of those classes.

Interesting actions need interesting light

There’s always a lot of action in the ceramics room. This time, one student was using an airbrush to apply glaze under a fume hood. It’s a good opportunity for a picture since it shows the student working on something with interesting and colorful tools. The best part is that the fume hood was a model I’d never seen before, and it was made of plastic — translucent plastic.

Using only the ambient light would give a lot of shadows and make a lackluster picture. But, if I could get my camera into the hood and use some interesting light, as well, then I could make a worthwhile picture.

Use available modifiers

Since the hood was translucent plastic, I could shine speedlights through it and get great soft light on my subject and her sculpture. Fortunately, it was white plastic so the light coming through was very neutrally colored. I had been using a white umbrella to make soft light, so I just turned the flashes around and shone them directly into the hood’s wall. The wall magnified the light and made it flattering and soft. Not all light modifiers have to be purchased.

You also need an interesting perspective

It was easy to get a good perspective by placing the camera on a Platypod Ultra in the back of the hood.

The camera was out of reach inside the hood, so I used the Panasonic Image App to connect to the camera (Lumix G9) and trigger it from outside.

A Nissin trigger and flash worked together flawlessly. I wanted more light, so I used my old Nikon SB-800 set to SU-4 mode so it would trigger when the Nissin flash fired and double the output of light for the pictures.

Make it great, but make it quick

My client ended up with interesting pictures, and I got to have a great time problem solving to make a portrait with a great perspective and good light. You should know, this all took less than five minutes to put together. I know how the lights work, I know how the camera app works, and I know how the Platypod works so I can coordinate them quickly. This is one picture that might get used once or twice, so I can’t afford to spend all my time making it happen. Fortunately, it came out well and not only was my client pleased, but the student and the teacher were both excited to receive copies, too.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.