Sometimes in my job I'm required to shoot an editorial portrait in an incredibly tight time frame and in a totally uninspiring location. I really like these situations and have realised over the years that I work better when I'm under pressure. The more experience I get as a photographer, the more I manage to turn these high pressure situations into a fun and exciting challenge.

Case study

I recently had a shoot that was a perfect example of this. I was hired by a long term magazine client to shoot a potential cover portrait of world renowned architect Lord Norman Foster. When I shoot editorial portraits, many clients give little to no creative direction at all. There's no call sheet, no picture editor on site and no hints as to how they'd like the results to look. The brief I got for this shoot was an address, a time, and a heads up that I'd have a maximum of two minutes to get what I needed. Through previous experience I already had enough info to get a pretty good idea of what I could expect........

For a start the location was in a hotel and during a huge conference. This meant that I was likely to only be given whatever room the journalist was given to conduct her interview. There would almost definitely be chairs, a table and walls. It was unlikely to be anything more than a meeting room so my best bet was to think along the lines of a head/upper body portrait. When you're given a hotel suite to work with its a totally different story, but knowing this was being done at a business conference there was a 99% chance of being given nothing more than a meeting room. 

Here's what I had to work with. This is the hotel's press room complete with no natural light and taken up almost entirely by a huge table.

My first thought was "Wow, I cant even put up a backdrop in here!". I'd brought one of my home made canvas backdrops but there wasn't even room to spread the legs of the stands out with that huge table in the way. So my next thought was to use the wallpaper as a backdrop. The room has matte textured wall paper which I knew would work for what I needed. At one end of the huge table was just enough room to position my subject in front of the wall and shoot from about 6 feet away. 


The journalist and I had ten minutes in total with Lord Foster. 8 minutes for the interview and 2 for shooting the portrait. I set up my 39" Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa with a Profoto B1 and took a couple of test shots using Lord Foster's press officer. Once the interview was over Lord Foster stepped in and I managed to shoot roughly 30 frames with the journalist holding a reflector for me to highlight Lord Foster's eyes. Here's the results.