Studio Group Portraits - Behind the Shot

Recent clients including a married couple and a mother-in-law stop into the studio for some portraits... Group, couple and individual shots.

Here's how I went about capturing them.


One of the "final" pics.

One of the "final" pics.

1. Before the shoot...

Now my studio space being of a modest size, but surrounded in white walls and a large window I decide to put my subjects on a bench at first for some comfortable sit down portraits. The bench is located about 8-10 inches away from the white wall acting as the background.


The next step, position my lighting.

Now, you definitely can do natural lighting (there are some final shots with just that) but I wanted some really nice and evenly lit portraits at least at first. I want them to have that clean white background. I take my large 60" Photek Umbrella with diffusion and place it opposite of the window and facing slightly away from the subjects as to feather the light and allow bounce around the room for that even look.

Now with that placed I look to fill in the slight shadows left. I use the small section of wall in between the window and the background wall to bounce a small speedlight source, making it much larger and softer than a plain head on shot from the speedlight. 

In this first shot, I have the speedlight positioned and take a test shot... I notice that the size of the bounce is not as big as it could be, I reposition the head and aim it up slightly for much more coverage.

Screenshot from Adobe Lightroom to help illustrate the spread of light using the highlights alert function. Notice how the red spotlight is much bigger with just a slight aim difference.

The Shoot...

After greeting my subjects, offering them a water, ask if the heat is ok (Shot in December)... I approach this group shot as I would a larger event like a wedding party. Start with everyone, then branch off into groups as no one likes to be the first victim and you can also group people back together after they are more warmed up so to speak.

I have this giant white bench normally used as my waiting, bag, purse holder. I use this as a easy first shot telling them just act like they are on a park bench of sorts, relaxed, no pressure, and I show them the results of the first few shots.

Next up...

I take the husband away and grab some shots of the mother/daughter. (Always be conscientious of your clients comfort level, I had this group next to give the mother a rest as she was elderly.)

Same lighting, I just move slightly closer and zoom in from around 45-50mm to about 60-65mm.

Working with families, non professionals etc etc, you will have things occur like breaking eye contact with the camera, fading attention and people will look at each other. Let em! It's all good and you will get some sweet moments in between. I will say that a quick "ok, eyes on me" will work once or twice but don't badger your subject, and also do not be silent Just let the mood flow, redirect as needed and give feedback. When you see something you like, a pose, a moment, say "oh that", "yes I like that" something small and positive. 

Next Up...

I grab my other model and swap him in. I give my cushion office chair to the mother and have her sit on camera right.

Same settings, same focal lengths basically. Now my subjects have been together for years and they are totally comfortable with each other, I guide them a tad with some standing position choices and let them have at it, only mentioning when to repeat a certain something.

*Note: These images, two of them are "cut off". Absolutely and my fault, i was chimping (not recommended all the time) and looking a images on the screen, then has this cute moment and I raised and shot and just cropped out the full shot. I keep them though because it still works, there is a great mood there. 

Next and last for this post I take some single images. This type of shoot is tricky because I am not a great poser (hehe... Poser)... But I do love it when my subjects are calm and comfortable. I grab some stools then, one tall and one short, I have them pick and position themselves. This serving the purpose of getting them in a position where in their head naturally comes forward giving emphasis on the face and two it gives a natural placement for the hands.

Same Light, same settings, I zoom in and out for the best composition ranging from 40-55mm.

Take Aways...

Editing was very light, only some highlight correction, lens correction, slight cropping and a bit of sharpening.

Gear Used

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II

Flashpoint R2 Pro Remote Trigger

Xplor 600 Monolight

Photek 60" Umbrella

Yongnuo YN600EX-RT Speedlight

Impact C-Stand with Arm

Sand Bags!

And if you are interested in purchasing any of these, please follow the links here, it will help me out Thanks!


Now, have any questions? Feedback? Hit me up! 

Either in the comments,  email me at or find me social media! @Lmsorenson

Until then...

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Portrait of a Sixth Grader - Behind the shot

Recently I had the opportunity to take some portraits of a creative and stylish young lady, a sixth grader. He mom and I picked a date and time, I had them come to my new studio space and here is some information on how my mind works before, during and after a shoot.

Portrait of a Sixth Grader

Portrait of a Sixth Grader

1. The Space 

Now, the space available to shoot in is a smaller studio space with hard floors, white walls and one big window. 

We pick the wall just next to the window and decide to shoot with ambient light since it is sunny and strobe lighting is not really needed.

2. TheShoot

Now how do you interact with the subject? How do you interact with any subject?

Make the subject feel comfortable, confident.

Now, my subject being a sixth grader, there isn't much on the table that we can talk about. But wait, her mother said she picked out her outfit, picked out her hat, that she loves hats. So... I tell her that I really like her hat! Her face lights up, she is grateful that I said something, I look back and forth between her and her mother asking about themselves, their interests. And when there is a lull in the conversation, I take a shot.

Now, the trouble with any shoot, any interaction really. How to make the interaction flow, how to avoid pauses, avoid the awkwardness to creep in. As I will be the first to admit, I am not the best at this, I am not. I try... But I am bad, but here are a few tips and I used some in this shoot.

a. Relate to your model or subject. Now with my subject being a sixth grader there isn't too much under the sun that we can relate to but, I did remember her mother saying that she picked out her own outfit for the shoot, picked out each piece including her hat and that she loves hats. So I took that, I was honest and I told her that I really liked her hat... Boom! Her face lights up enough to know that she will be good with a few shots. I add on to that by saying that colors she picked really look cool against the white walls of the studio. And we take some more shots.


b. Talk to your subject, ask them about themselves and keep it going. I took the small breaks from changing settings, using the tripod, adjust my feet and I asked my model and her mother about themselves. I was able to find out that in fact she was a 6th grade student at a local school (which I had not known until then), that her mother is a teacher at a school that was known to me ever since I was little. I learned that she is an only child, she is creative, she loves creating things and she has been practicing posing in the mirror at home before the shoot! 

She was sitting in my chair as we took a break and I saw from the corner of my eye that she was doing this simple, cool, super relaxed pose. I told her to wheel herself over and we were going to do that again.

She was sitting in my chair as we took a break and I saw from the corner of my eye that she was doing this simple, cool, super relaxed pose. I told her to wheel herself over and we were going to do that again.

c. Encourage your subject! Is there a look, a pose a face that caught your eye? Say something! "Oh what you did just there"..."That thing you did with the hat"..."How you put your arm there"... Giving this feedback is not only nice to hear from their perspective but is great for you because it will reinforce the looks you are going for, they will grow from that and learn as the shoot goes. Makes it better for everyone.

Silly face 2 of 3 in the quick series for best faces.

Silly face 2 of 3 in the quick series for best faces.

d. You can be silly. No saying this has two parts to it. One, you do not want to be a clown, a character you are not and just make the shoot zany. Two, you do want to keep relating to your model. You are no longer asking them about themselves... But with a quick "Ok... Let's try some silly faces" and telling them to pick there best 3 silly faces, it can lighten the mood just for a sec, gets them to open up and you can get some great informal shots from it. 

Close up

Close up

3. Really it all comes down to relations... Interactions... We all have them everyday with strangers and friends alike. This is no different except two things; that you are both trying to ease this new person to you that stranger in their day, and while also trying to be creative, to bring them into your artistic headspace and try to create something without it being a completely cerebral one sided experience. And it is hard, we have to practice, we have to have an idea of what we want and find a way to get there.

That being said, every client is different, every subject is different, whether it is a professional, amature... A team with three days of prep or one man operation with a half hour shoot as in this case. You adapt, you be yourself and you get it done.

What do you think? - Is there anything special you do during a photoshoot?

Shout it out in the comments, hit me up on Instagram, Facebook... Tweet me and lets keep the conversation going.

Until then...

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Portrait of a Brewer Part 1 of 2 - Bonneville Brewery

Magazine issue featuring beer and the people that brew it? I am in... Here is a bts look on how I went about capturing portraits of head brewer Dave Watson at Bonneville Brewery. And Hoppers Grill (& Brewing Co.‘s Donovan Steele. in Part 2 of 2).


Before each shoot, I was told the date and time available to the perspective brewers to capture a portrait. I pack my lighting equipment and upon driving to each location and inspecting the shooting area available.

1st up... Bonneville Brewing

Upon arriving, parking in the rear of the restaurant/brewery and entering the loading door, the first room available being used for supply and storage (pictured). Not exactly what I am looking for but have to look around more. 

First room/entryway to the brewery area. Bonneville Brewing.

After getting past the next wall you are opened to a small staircase and then a room full of vats and a brewing equipment. I knew that this room was obviously the one to shoot in. 

Brewing vats, brewery floor. Bonneville Brewing.

Brewing vats, brewery floor. Bonneville Brewing.


I tell the brewer I am going to set up my light and then place him in a couple spots for a shot.

I set up a small light stand and attach my speedlight, battery pack (for quick recycle) and place them in a 31.5" Octagon Umbrella Softbox.

I want to capture the range of the room, I only need 1 final shot to be used, but a variety is always the best route. I spot a huge vat where the by product is being shoveled out, the tall vats towards the rear window(pictured) and the row of shorter vats on my left.


I take a test shot as the brewer scrapes out the remnants of the vat, but instantly see that the overall composition is... A bit boring. I get to my knees for another shot and then climb a small set of stairs for the next, introducing more context and interest in the shot.


Next shots, I want to include that sweet paddle, shovel tool that he was using. I ask him to strike a casual pose, only suggesting holding the tool or standing it to the side.

The tall vats in the rear are my first backgroud, and again I take a lower pov to accentuate the height and the glare off of the metal.

The next and final shot I move the brewer forward about ten feet and move myself to the right, I get a view of the row now behind my subject moving away, giving depth to the shot.


I have my images that I need to submit for this new Beer Issue, I thank Dave for his time and pack up my things.

Here are the final result below.


Canon 6D

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT Part 2 of 2!! With Brewer Donovan Stele from Hoppers Brewery. Coming soon!

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