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):
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:
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:
Nice, no? And another one:
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:
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.