"Mastering the 5 – minute portrait…" Newburgh, NY 14•May•10

“Sometimes the images are there waiting for you to just show up …”

Graduating college student in an empty hallway in Aquinas Hall at Mount Saint Mary College in the City of Newburgh, NY on Friday, May 14, 2010. She is graduating with her MBA and has a job lined up with a local accounting firm. College graduates nationwide are facing the worst job market in a generation. Times Herald Record/CHET GORDON

In the midst of a busy week, particularly after Thursday’s gang raids by the FBI at dawn, and the subsequent press conference down in White Plains with the Feds, it was really a pleasure to spend a few moments with two graduating college students at their nearby campus. The assignment called for portraits of both women to highlight a story on the bleak job outlook faced by graduates in this dour economy. I had a few ideas in mind and upon arriving on campus, I was relieved that they were both waiting for me and Magda (above) was dressed appropriately for her portrait. For the other student, Amy, (right) I had the idea of posing her in an empty classroom and just lighting her with a single strobe. (it’s a good technique I like to use a lot in portraiture where I really get to control the light quality & direction.) I knew if we could find an empty (and unlocked) classroom in the building it’d be a good start for these portraits. While I was busy moving the strobe around on a light stand to make the first images of Amy, I spotted Magda waiting and sort of posing by the teacher’s podium. That was exactly the pose I wanted to capture with her – instead of trying to do something outside in the blazing afternoon sun. I wanted her image to have a straight-ahead, corporate type feel to it, as she was dressed in a business suit and looked absolutely stunning. As we made small talk about her background (which included a brief modeling career in San Diego) while I moved the light stand and strobe out into the hallway, I was also relieved to notice a few of the ceiling lights were out. With the light pouring in from the far window down the hallway, I positioned her in the shadows, and aimed my strobe to highlight her head and shoulders. The only prop we added was the small leather briefcase she’s holding in her left hand (which is barely seen in the shadows anyway). That’s just a thing with me and formal portraiture, as I like to sometimes have a subject doing something with their hands, as it adds to a relaxed feel in the final imagery. All in all it was just about a 5 – minute shoot for both subjects, but the scouting time in the building for the empty classroom and setup / breakdown time took about an hour altogether. It was so refreshing to work with an experienced pro (former model) who knew exactly the type of imagery I was trying to capture. ~cg.

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