Strawberries, babies, & a lesson in readiness.

On a recent delectable photo session, I re-learned the value of flexibility and of knowing when to stop over-thinking things. We planned this portrait session of two cute babies - which was to be on a blanket in the park, in the warm sun and green grass. We got to the park and it had just finished snowing and was frigid outside. (Yes, I did check the weather, but if you know Bend, you know weather reports are about as reliable as Yugos). Fortunately, we had a backup plan at an indoor location: a cool vintage kitchen that was part of our favorite local bookstore, Between The Covers. Switching from an outdoor location to indoor required a quick re-think of our lighting setup. The plan was to have these two adorable kids and a big bowl of strawberries - and we'd see what happened. 

The original lighting setup was pretty straightforward, a medium softbox for the main light, powered by a Nikon speedlight, a fill light for the room bouncing in to one wall/ceiling, and a studio light outside the window beaming through to simulate crisp sunlight (which nature concealed that day). My buddy Benjamin had a great idea to put another remote speedlight in the refrigerator to simulate the light inside, since the actual light wasn't bright enough to show much. We thought having the fridge door slightly ajar would add a little quirkiness to the shot - and also give the sense that mom was, in fact, nearby and had not left her baby alone on the counter top! (Good to note: we had an assistant on each side of the counter just outside of view with hands ready in case a baby did decide to meander off).

The main light was a cool Apollo softbox from Wescott that sets up quickly like an umbrella. It's designed for speedlights and has a relatively shallow depth - making it perfect for the cramped quarters of this little kitchen. The second speedlight that was aimed towards the ceiling and side wall for fill was fitted with a Rogue Flash Bender to keep the light directed exactly where I wanted it. This is a really versatile tool that can bounce light, block it, redirect it, or snoot it. I constantly find new uses for them. The light outside the window was an Alien Bee B800 attached to a Vagabond portable battery. 

After setting up the light and doing some test shots, it wasn't quite right. We tried moving the main light around a bit, playing with power settings between the lights, and philosophizing on ways to get it "just right". As we were doing this, mom put little Abbey down on the counter briefly and she lit up when she saw the strawberries and started crawling her way over to them. The look on her face was so priceless, I just started shooting and following her natural instinct to devour strawberries (inherent to females and a very large percentage of males). The light wasn't yet perfect, but the timing was. That was my reminder. Capturing great moments and expressions most always outweigh "perfect" lighting - which can be elusive and subjective at best.

The lesson here is to quickly setup a good general lighting scene and be ready to capture - even if you still need to fine tune and dial that light or composition a bit more. If your subject is patient, you can continue to tweak, but don't let your obsession with tweaking interfere with capturing the energy of the moment - it may never happen again!

The images were processed in Lightroom with my "Chocolate Pudding" preset from the Vintage Delish package - perfect to cover strawberries with!


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