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Shoot: Corporate Portrait - Day for Night with Speedlights

Lesson 23 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

Shoot: Corporate Portrait - Day for Night with Speedlights

Lesson 23 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

23. Shoot: Corporate Portrait - Day for Night with Speedlights


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Location Assessment


Gear Overview


Direction and Wardrobe


Exploring Location and Available Light


Bar Owner: Setting the Scene


Shoot: Bar Owner


Shoot: Bar Owner, Evolving the Look


Lesson Info

Shoot: Corporate Portrait - Day for Night with Speedlights

So now let's do more of a, let's do more of a working portrait for Brittany. So guys, I'm gonna want the apple box and the tripod low, 105, over there, looking this way. Brittany, could you come and sit here, if you don't mind? Cool. Okay, there you go. Now the feel of this when we start to get together is I'm gonna be looking at you from a low angle over in there. And what I'd like you to do, I'm not sure about this computer here. Make it go this way. Make this go this way. Your channel is gonna be right in here. I'm gonna seam the camera through there. So I'd love for it to be this kind of thing like you're on deadline, right? You're on deadline, and you're looking at this computer. And you got your hand up in here and this kind of thing, super senior report, term paper due tomorrow kind of feel which I'm sure you do not have any connection to whatsoever with that emotion because you always do your work at least a month in advance. At least a month. Oh, yeah, there you go, yeah. ...

(Joe chuckles) How low were you thinking, Joe? Let's go one section. Okay, one second. Are we gonna speedlights here (mumbles)? Speedlights. And can we get one of the speedlight two boxes, please, and with the egg crate in it, the small ones, the real small ones, the ones that are right in front of you there, Ken. And let's get a Justin clamp on that. And what we'll do is we will clamp that light right here to this area of the desk console, okay? So as always, the first thing I'm gonna do, what do I do first thing, make an available light exposure, see what the scene is, see what the frame is. Oftentimes at this point in time, I don't have my subject in the picture. Right now, I have the beauty of having my subject in the picture. Now we also need to get the hazer over in here and have that starting to heat up, okay? There you go. Okay. All right. All right, could somebody do me a favor? And that computer, this nearer computer to me, slide it to the right just a little bit, camera right. That should be fine. And then take Brittany's computer and pull that to camera right just slightly as well. Joe, are thinking of coming in with the light over here (mumbles)? No, we're gonna clamp it on the desk console as if it is the light coming from the computer. How's that? That's too much. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It was Andrew's fault. He distracted me. Okay, all right. Angle. No, other way. And push. Thank you. Headphones? Let's get them out of there for now along with the other headphones and maybe some of that stuff in front of Brittany. Thank you very much. Where are you thinking to put the hazer again? That corner please, Ken. Thank you. So I'm gonna kinda move along here while all sorts of stuff is happening. Cool, all right. Nice, all right. Oops, I didn't mean for the flash to go off. Let's do this. Let's do an aperture priority exposure. Okay, make sure there's no compensation dialed in. Let's actually go ISO a little bit lower here, okay? Let's go to ISO 200. That's nice, beautiful look. Brittany, beautiful look. All right, there's a nice light from that side there. But to get that light, obviously, what I'm going for is the feel of late night or moody sort of light, which means that that window back there has to come back down, let's call it four stops. You know, one of these days, I'll grow a brain. All right, so now, let's take a look at what that looks like with a different color. Do I like that? Yeah. It's pretty nice, right? It gives a little bit of a mood to it. Okay, all right. So Ken or Brad, oh, you guys are working on that. Could we get two SP 5000s? Let's put them in group C, and let's put double cuts of CTO in them and put them on floor stands, the little plastic floor stands that come in the kits. And we'll put them off the far brick wall. Joe, CTO for the keys here? Yeah, a single CTO for the key if you don't mind. You got the flashes back there? All right. All right, so the guys are buzzing around here. We're gonna try to get two setups done in the last period of time here. We'll see how we do. You know, I think we should all somehow, everybody who's watching should, at their homes, give a round of applause to the crew here, the guys. They're working really hard. It's often an unsung job. So Ken is moving really fast. You see that. The camera's not even picking him up, he's moving so fast. Joe, real quick, main light, and then to double cut CTO. Yeah, I'll work out the position in a little bit. Just they're down low and they flash low against the wall and grade eight up. A little bit of a glow is what I'm going for, okay? All right. Now Brittany, could you look towards the main screen, please? Thank you. Okay. Okay. Hmm. You think that grid's killing too much? It's killing too much, yeah. Let's eliminate that grid. (mumbles) back wall? Yes, please. And those are group C, yes, Brad? Cool. All right, looking right at that, perfect. No, you're fine, you're fine. Just stay there, stay there. We're just messing around now. This is nice. Okay. Let me see. It's not bad. I'm gonna actually get that light out of TTL. I'm gonna go manual on it, go half power to start. Brittany, watch your eyes for a second. It might be kind of strong. It is kind of strong. Actually, Andrew, can you slide that light this way a little bit? I'm seeing the corner of the, that's it, perfect. Do you need more of a feather on that, Joe? Maybe feather it camera left. Thank you. Take, I don't know, 1.7 stops out of it. That feels pretty good, huh? Yeah. Okay. Now we got those lights back there, Brad? Yes, at group C. Group C, perfect. Thank you. I'll start with the TTL exposure back there. Okay. Dang, Brad, you put them in a kind of a sort of like completely perfect position. You're hired. That's it. Forget about Seattle. Pack a bag. You're coming back with us tonight. (group laughs) Enthusiastically. Okay. All right, all right. They're treating you well here at Creative Live, aren't they, Brad? (laughs) All right, all right. So let's pop those guys up a little bit in the background there. Very nice. That's nice. Okay, so now we got a little bit of definition to the wall there. Okay, I'm in manual 250 at 5.6. All right, so let's see if we can do this. Let's go with a little bit skinnier kind of depth of field. Let's go to 1,250. Now that really throws the background out of focus. It's kinda nice. Let's go to ISO 100. So I'm gonna do that. Now we're gonna need some more power out of the lights. I'm in high-speed sync, but I've got a little power to play with so I'm not terribly worried about it yet. I probably should be. All right, so just to recap, okay? We started by getting the scene, available light, window's blown out, she's silhouette, very predictable. Now we're lighting her with a source that could be conceivably her computer. Now okay, that's fine. One thing I do need, guys, now is can we get like a double CTO light on a C-stand, boom it in and just bang it down on the desktop so there's a little bit of glow off of her machines? Do you want the diffuser on? No, probably not. Just gonna go 50-- Let's take the diffuser off and double cut of tungsten gel. It's gonna have to be a C-stand kind of boom deal, I think. Sorry, man. Joe, quick question for you. Yes. Several folks are asking about how you get the blue effect that people are seeing right now. Sure, yeah. I realize I'm remiss here. Let' me go back into some of my machinations. I was doing that, and then I got sidetracked in my head. Available light, natural look, blown out windows, silhouetted subject. Okay, first move, get the exposure under control. So I grossly underexposed the room because relative to the room, okay, we don't quite need smoke yet, but that's good. It's working anyway, right? Is it just gonna leak smoke? No, I turned it off. Okay, thank you. (group laughs) It's still on. This is Brittany late at night, writing an angry email. All right, so now she's in silhouette, and I have the windows under control. That's all through underexposure at the camera. Then I shift my white balance so I want a little color to the windows, and that proves to be effective in the sense that there is this kind of blueish wash to the windows now. It could be kind of twilighty. That could be kind of nice. And obviously, all of that is about the window as the driver for my exposure. So what do I have to do? I have to light upfront because everything is dark at this point. So we put the speedlight two box on the computer area as if it's her screen light. Then we put lights in the background to sorta kinda define the edge of the room, right? So now, I've got this going on. Nice. Okay, I've got a light and an edge. I've got the wall. I've got the graphic. Now this light here, in between the two main computers, please, if you don't mind, Cali. Not at all. Yeah. That might work out just fine, right in there. Cool. Turn it up, or leave it right there? No, let's keep it low and see because the computer itself is acting perhaps as a natural flag for her. I mean I have no idea how this is gonna work out. Brittany, stick with me. (laughs) All right, what group is that light, please? B. That's a B group light, okay. So now I'm gonna program in group B. I will go TTL because then I have a chance of it kind of giving me an accurate exposure, and that's just about right, just a little bit of kind of grace notes so you define the edge of that computer. What do you think about that, Cali? Yeah, I'd say I placed it pretty perfectly. I think it was absolutely intelligent and intuitively brilliant, actually, just verging on astonishing. Thanks, Joe. Yeah, no worries. So now, let's do the same thing with her little computer. Let's get another light, and we'll bounce it down over here, very weak, okay? Sorry, guys. All right, does everybody see what's going on? We're building this photograph just like we're in the bar. We're building the photograph in pieces. Now I'm gonna see if I can get a little less exposure in those windows. I'm gonna go and see if I can tempt fate and go to 2,000, 2,500. All right, 2,500 is my shutter speed. Always remember this. Every shutter speed, you go north of 250th of a second in the realm of high-speed sync, you lose about 50% of your flash power. That's not exact math. That's an approximation, but it's roughly true. So I just lost probably out of my speedlights, et cetera, probably about a stop. I don't know that I can afford that, all right, but maybe. Brad. Yes, Joe. (chuckles) Can you put yet another, the lights that you put back there, can you put one more? Same treatment, same treatment. Because I think I need more light on that back wall. But here's the vexing thing, or the math, the difficult math of it. I've got two lights against that wall. If I want one more stop out of that wall, and they're max power, what do I have to do? Put two more lights back there because light is either twice the light or half the light. I got two lights, max power. I want one more stop. I got about two more lights max power. Now I'm being kinda cheap on it and I'm saying all right, let's just go with one light. Maybe that'll lift it up enough. We'll see. My other line of defense, are the dome diffusers on those puppies back there, Brad? Yes. All right, that's my next line of defense. Before I put another flash back there, if it's too weak a response, I will pull the dome diffusers. Moving fast here, folks. Everybody with me? Okay. Joe, placement in this guy on the C-stand-- Just clamp it to that. I can just-- Yeah, just bang it right there, yeah, quick and dirty. Do you want to put this in B as well, or you want this in D? Go to D because it's almost invariably gonna be a different power level than the other. Cali just brought up a good point. Do I want that one in the same power as this? The answer is no. That's the beauty of this new system. They've got six zones. So now, I can differentiate my light. Once you lump two lights together in a group, they're gonna go up and down in unison. But if I have isolated groups, I can individually ratio those lights, and the power of ratio and control over that ratio is a wonderful thing to have at the camera. All right. All right, this light is hot or it will be in just a second. TTL, 00. Doing okay there, Brad, huh? Yes (mumbles). All right, cool. That's better. That's perfect. That's perfect. Nice job. What do you think about that? I like that a little bit, right? Yeah, definitely much better. Yeah, okay, all right. So now, late at night, Brittany is working on her plan to bring her company into a position of world domination. It's a manifesto that you're working on. Now could you lean a little closer to the main computer, please? Could you maybe put your left hand up on your chin or something like that? The left. Yeah, there we go. (laughs) I can be really mean and say I referenced to your school as being a really good school. No, I won't go there, I won't go there. We're just having fun together. It's okay. All right, perfect, perfect. That's an awesome expression. Awesome, way to go. Nice. Okay. Now what do you think? Do you think that shadow is a little steep there? (mumbles) I think we need to give a little bit of a separation. Yup, yup. Let's do another speedlight two box off her shoulder with a grid, with a fabric grid, please. And that has to have a double cut of CTO. I'm messing with you. Hair and makeup is on the set. A round of applauds for hair and makeup. I love hair and makeup. They're like the Navy SEALs you need on the set. They're like at your shoulder as a photographer. They see a hair out of place. They're like, "Okay, I need hair and makeup," they're in there like a commando squad. All right. Brittany, that was a beautiful expression, very pensive, very kind of like awesome. Keep the finger below your lip line though, okay? Yeah, there you go, right around the chin. Nice. Joe, for this (mumbles), do you want dome diffuser off, or you want to keep it on? No, yeah, that's a good idea. Take the dome diffuser off. Okay. Cali, I tell you. You, you, my friend, you've got a gift. No, no, you've got a gift. You've got a gift. This is E. That's E. Cool. I hope folks are having fun. I'm having fun. (laughs) I mean this is where it happens. This is like field work. This is like time behind the camera. This is what you live for. Now is this picture gonna soar to the heights of brilliance? Absolutely not. Brittany is lovely. It's gonna be a nice portrait of her. But it's one of those pictures you shoot because you need to, right? It is kind of you're assigned to do an interesting corporate portrait in an environment like this. Understand, you walk into a room like this, you put a thousand photographers in this room, there'll be a thousand different pictures made. Everybody will do something different. This is just my way of interpreting it. What I think is a good thing to do, having done that portrait, seeing the whole room, I think this more detail oriented shot is a good one because it gets the feel and flavor of work, and it is very different. So if I walked in here and I had an hour or so, and an art director wanted a couple of solutions, and I did the team, and I did a nice available light shot, and I did a single of Brittany that's nicely lit, and all that sort of stuff enclosed with this, that would be a fairly productive hour or two. All right. Here we go. That is now E light, TTL, 00. Are you seeing this? Nope, I'm good. Nice. All right, I got the-- It's working hard. Sorry. It's working hard. Yeah, yup. Two gels, right? I tell you what-- TTL right now too. All right, so I'm gonna go full blown manual on it, and let's edge it in as close as we can, Cali, when I get my eye on the camera here. Cool, cool, cool. Nice, hang in there. All right. Good, beautiful look. Beautiful look, Brittany. Now I have the edge of the softbox and a tiny little edge of it. All right. Okay, picking up a little bit of detail, it's opening that up just a tiny bit, bring it forward a little bit. Cool, okay. That's better. That's much better. Okay, cool. Tiny little move, right, a simple little move. And the light was not expressing itself. Angle of incidence, angle of reflection, very powerful thing. So what I got now is just a tiny bit of detail back in here, right there at her temple area, a little highlight on her, she's got dark hair, lovely hair, but I want to put a highlight in there so she doesn't get lost. Okay, sharpness is good. All right, now final settings. Where I am is, oh, yeah, yeah, we should go into raw. Just don't go consecutive 12. (Joe laughs) All right. So just a quick recount, okay? This started off fairly simply, main light on the computer, but then everything else kind of falls into place, right? And that's the way you build it because that one light is the main light. Okay, that's your key. That lights her pretty well, but everything else starts to go into darkness. So what do I need? Dimension to the room, lights in the background, definition of the computer, a little bounce over here, definition of that computer, a little bounce over here, a little bit of luster and coloration to her hair, that light there. Okay, so we rapidly went one, two, three, four, five, six, seven lights, seven speedlights. Cool. (group laughs) Yup. Okay, Brad, you in the back there? Yes. Okay, take the far left light, please, and push it camera right. Okay. You think that's too much? In the back? In the back. It's kind of cool. It's kind of cool, but it's too much. It's a little hot. Yeah, it's too much. So that was C group. Take that down, minus 1.3. Beautiful, nice. That's better, much better. Okay, cool. All right, so we are ready now to shoot. Let's just rattle off a few frames. Interest, intensity, at the screen, nicely done, way to go, Brittany. Fantastic, that's beautiful. I have to modulate here because my lights are generally running at full power, so I have to be careful, right? I have to be careful. I'm gonna loosen up the camera at tripod. I'm gonna try to keep her eye right on my cursor. Nice, nice, nice. Or my cursor right on her eye. Nice, good look, way to go. Beautiful, beautiful. Looking good, looking good. Now I'm risking a couple of things here because as I move my frame, I'm kind of getting that softbox in there. But okay, so Brittany, hang out there. Let me do this. Let me just readjust, readjust. There we go. Stay with me now. Stay right in that neighborhood. There you go, stay with it. Beautiful, beautiful. Nice, cool, good attitude, good demeanor. Eyes, intensity, good, good, good. Okay, maybe bring your right hand up onto the keyboard of the small, and bring it closer in so I can maybe see it a little bit better. There you go, there you go. Nice, good. Cool, cool, stay with me. Awesome, perfect. Looking absolutely lovely. Beautiful, beautiful. Stay with me now. Stay with me. Good, good, good. Okay. All right, so before I abandon this, I'm gonna let the team kinda look at it and tell me how badly I did. (laughs) Yeah, these are great. The color looks good, lights are holding up. Yeah, softbox in a couple of them but you're kind of edging on the, I'd really focus on keeping the laptop in. That's like a perfect amount of room. That's just a little too close. And I think I overshot a little bit. I moved too fast, so the lights didn't completely recycle. So there's a couple of dead zones. So I'm gonna shoot another five or 10 frames, and then we're done. Let me do that. That's actually a very cool look. Let's see though, but it's not gonna work. See the way, the major difference there when she just turns her head slightly this way. She's got to key in to that main box. Beautiful, that's gorgeous. Stay with me. Okay, here we go. Good. Just be careful when you rest your hand, very lightly. Nice, nice, nice. Cool. Very pretty. Okay, one more thing. Here we go, good, good. Oof, ugh. Brad, Brad. Yes, Joe. Do me a favor and push again in this way. All of them or just the left one? Just the left one. Further. Keep going. Okay, cool, thank you. That feels better. Good. Nice, that's great. Now specifically, look right at the light source as if that's the area of interest. Perfect, very nice. Stay with that. Stay with that. Cali? Yeah. Do me a favor and take the speedlight box and crank it, feather it back away from camera. So now with her angle of her face, it's skating right past her. So just kinda push, push. Good, cool. Yeah, that's a little better. And that is what group? It's E. E, yeah, I'm maxed on that group. Okay, wild. Nice.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Joe McNally Gear List
McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews


What is there to say, this is a master at work. I feel like I owe Joe a hundred lunches for the information I’ve learned from him and used in jobs through the years. Personally I relate to his slightly self-deprecating style quite well. Joe’s a confident, supremely knowledgeable and incredibly experienced photographer who doesn’t need to wear that on his sleeve to get the point across. He is also clearly a great leader who has built a terrific team. I snap up everything of Joe’s I can find and use it as a library, where every time you watch you take away something new. Thanks Joe, you’re a legend and good on Creative Live for offering this wonderful and beautifully curated course.

ileana gonzales photography

When I saw the chance to learn from the great Joe McNally I jumped through the screen at the chance to be in the audience. It's one thing to see how a fantastic photographer works, thinks, composes and styles, but to get a behind the curtain view at the way his entire shop operates was truly amazing. By allowing us to see Lynn's processes and Cali's workflow it encouraged me to diversify before taking the plunge into the business side of photography. Truly an amazing team and an unforgettable learning experience.


Joe is fantastic! The wealth of information, experience and extraordinary talent he shares is invaluable! He's also a very engaging, humorous instructor who keeps an audience a part of the "discussion." Don't miss a Joe McNally class, seminar or workshop opportunity!

Student Work