Behind the page :: single portraits for magazines

After all the excitement of Average Kings (oh, and being on holiday…), today’s been back to the more normal side of things (ie it’s time to clear up my desk – four hours of tidying and no-one would even know I’ve touched it…). But while I’m doing that, here’s something a little more interesting – some of the ‘behind the page’ stories from last year I’ve not covered before.  A lot of my work involves photographing people in their workplaces, and making them look great, so I’ve put a couple of these in here. And to start with, there’s a story from last Saturday’s Guardian on the Lincoln City manager, Chris Sutton, shot as they were due to play Bolton in the FA Cup third round.

Chris Sutton was England’s first £5 million footballer, and played for Celtic, Chelsea and England amongst others. I photographed him at the Lincoln City training ground just after training on New Years Eve for the Guardian.

Chris Hutton :: Guardian 020110

Lumedyne head with small 60×60 softbox just out of shot to the right at head height.

Here’s a couple more tearsheets and portrait examples from 2009:

Rachel Quesnel :: leadership focus

Ms Quesnel’s a headteacher in Oldham, and the piece was for the NAHT magazine, Leadership Focus, commenting on the first anniversary of Diplomas in England.  The diplomas are more vocational than academic, so the screens on the wall gave a sense of the hi-tech setting of the diploma-based learning in the school.  Technically, again a single Lumedyne head and small soft box, this time to the left of the shot, and on low power to balance with the ambient light from the screens (checked on the back of the camera to make sense of the different light levels in the narrow corridor). The outdoor version that I sent down to the picture desk is below (higher power lighting to drop the background cloud to ‘glowering’). Although dramatic, it doesn’t give the same impression of technology and learning as the image used above.

Rachel Quesnel :: Oldham

John O'Keefe :: the Marketer

John O’Keefe (above) is the marketing director of Office Direct – this was shot at their offices and warehouse near Leicester, which had quite a few interesting corners to shoot in.  One of the internal pics was taken in the warehouse, which was dramatic and full of busy context, but I really liked this use on the cover of the Marketer – larger softboxes left of the shot and behind his head, and to the right of the shot as strong side-lighting. I felt it was a strong and bold design use of the picture.  The main spread was as shown below, using a similar shot, but with deliberate space for the copy:

John O'Keefe :: the Marketer - 2

I also went down to Boots in Nottingham to photograph Stephen Lehane (group HR and corporate affairs director) for People Management (the CIPD magazine). They have a fantastic campus location, and there were some nice externals that were used later in the piece as well as these two office based shots that were the cover and opening spreads:

Stephen Lehane :: People Management

Stephen Lehane :: People Management spread

A lot of the time I’m working (like most photographers) in venues and locations that aren’t really all that attractive on first glance. This portrait of Jacob Sibley, Operations Manager at the National Teaching and Advisory Service, Wilmslow, for the TES magazine was shot in a pretty small boardroom, with not a lot of space around us. For a full page portrait like this, you either need really interesting context, or great simplicity, and here the only real option was simplicity.  The lines running up the wall were electrical ducting of some kind, but are ‘clean’ enough to actually add a graphic element to the picture. Using the small (60×60) softbox on the Lumedyne head off to the left of the picture, level with the subject’s head creates enough tension and contrast to draw you in.  We did some alternatives outside as well – the office was in a shopping mall, with a big car park, so the only real option there was shooting from low-down against the clear sky, which was fine, but not as dramatic as this.

Jacob Sibley :: NTAS

Sometimes the sky is the best option though – this is a portrait of Marie McNamara, a nurse who returned to learning at Oldham College as an adult, again commissioned for the TES. It was about to rain, and I liked the simplicity of the storm clouds behind her, and the rather delicate lighting – this time from a larger softbox on the Lumedyne head. This was shot in her garden, from a slightly low angle to avoid the other houses and gardens down her street getting into the background of the shot.

Marie McNamara :: TES

All these shots are typical of the kind of work I’m doing for newspapers and magazines most weeks – trying to make an interesting and compelling portrait of someone who isn’t necessarily used to having their picture taken, in a relatively short space of time. Although I’ve talked about the lighting on these (and all of them are lit), a lot is about trying to make the person you’re photographing feel comfortable, and that they want to be there with you. And also being ready with ideas before you start, so that you’re able to concentrate on the picture once things are underway. I’ll post again at some point about portraits with more context – the shots here are all very simple, ‘clean’ images, shot with design space in mind.