Change of plans?

Sometimes as a photographer you need to be ready to change your plans.

The other evening I did a corporate headshot session at a financial institution in downtown Toronto. This means driving there with an SUV full of lights and associated equipment. My plan was to shoot in front of a window, showing downtown. I have done many of these before, mixing ambient and flash light, like this  (straight out of camera, unfinished):

Headshot (Photo: Michael Willems)

But in this room, at this time, it just wasn’t happening. Here is my excellent assistant and second shooter Denise (who is a very good fashion photographer) – and of course this is just the main light, not a finished portrait:

Denise McMullen (Photo: Michael Willems)

But even this main light alone already shows me too many reflections (see her top reflecting behind her?). And the background is too dark even at 1/30th second. And the building in the background is a competing institution.

We tried for about ten minutes. And then I decided – “fugeddaboudit”.  You have to be willing and able to cut your losses. This can be tough – but it has to be done. Could I have done it? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it wasn’t worth more trying.

And as it turned out, not a loss at all – the texture of the wall on the other side of the room was good, especially when I lit it with a gridded speedlight, to get that nice oval of light:

Denise McMullen (Photo: Michael Willems)

Nice, no? And another one:

Denise McMullen (Photo: Michael Willems)

And just like every doctor in my opinion needs to undergo a digital rectal exam before graduating, so every photographer must be photographed. So here’s me:

Michael Willems (Photo: Denise McMullen)

The moral: know when to cut your losses and try a different approach. Just like a pilot needs to be ready to decide to  go to an alternate airport: “get-there-itis” causes many deaths.  Do not stick with an idea if it is not working. Go to your alternate.


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