So I've been hired to shoot some portraits of alumni for a business school catalog. They're going to be a cover group shot and some individual interior ones, so they've got to be good. While the pictures are nothing challenging, the setting might be, so I thought I'd write a quick post on my thought process about this kind of thing.
Most of the stuff I've seen that they've used in the past have been daylight shots outside on campus looking locations. However the school is in California so my idea is to shoot outdoors with the facade of the New York Stock Exchange building as our background. Sounds good in theory until I tell you that the 3 people can't get there until 6:30, which in NYC this time of year means that we're shooting in the dark.
My initial answer to this was to use a high enough iso and slow enough shutter speed to expose the hopefully well lit building in the background. Then use a speedlight or two into an umbrella or equivalent to light the subjects in the foreground. This setup might work fine for one person, but I'm worried that I won't be able to stop down the lens enough with the above contraints to keep all 3 people in focus unless they're standing shoulder to shoulder. Plus, the building 50 feet or more back will at best be a nice bokeh blur.
So, my current idea, and this may change by tomorrow night, is to shoot the building from the same position separately and on a tripod before or after I finish with the people, so that I have it in case I want to replace the background with a more in focus and properly exposed shot. In effect, separating the one difficult shot into two easier ones. Though I'm not sold that this will work.
If I had a big strobe, softbox, and battery setup I'd feel more secure in the situation, but alas, I don't. I haven't had the chance to go take some test shots to see if it'll work, both because the weather has sucked, and regardless of what they light is like, I've got to make the best of it, so what's the difference of knowing the situation now or tomorrow.
Then there is the permit thing. Legally doing what I'm going to be doing, I shouldn't need a shooting permit since it's a small group for a short amount of time with only handheld gear (I spent a half hour tonight reading the latest rule PDF). That said, we will be shooting in the financial district which is more restrictive and not all cops know what the rules are. So I'm probably going to get on the train and go in and try to get an optional permit signed in the morning for the corner I 'think' we'll end up on.
I'll let you know how it goes.