Welder Portrait in Pennsylvania

Originally Published March 26, 2013

While in Pennsylvania, I made a spontaneous decision to shoot this portrait of a welder named Kenny. I’ve wanted to add something like this to my work for some time, and I jumped on the opportunity to make it finally happen. Mixing the flame with studio strobes was challenging, but everything looked great once I got all the settings dialed in. Keep on reading for all the juicy shoot details and a funny test shot I snagged in the process.

The first step in setting up this shot was exposing for the flame coming from the blowtorch without allowing too much ambient light to fill the shooting space. I brought my shutter speed down to 1/60th of a second and my aperture was f/9 while at ISO 320. This is where my Induro tripod was very handy.

So once the exposure was set for the flame, it was time to start lighting the shot. I used both of my Einsteins for this shot. The first was on a C-stand directly in front and above Kenny. I used my silver beauty dish without the diffuser sock. Without the sock, the silver dish gives off a slightly harsher light, which I think is perfect for this particular portrait. I put the second light on the other side of the truck trailer. With a 40 degree grid, it was pointed at the ground underneath the trailer. This was done to bring the shadow area to life and help separate the ladder from the blackness. The light also hit Kenny’s right leg adding a slight amount of rim light. I wasn’t concerned with the shadow area on the right side of the photo because the darkness allows the flame to really pop.

When working with variables like in this shoot (the flame), it’s always a plus to have a stand-in while getting everything set up and dialed in. That way, you’re not wasting your subject’s time while they’re standing there wondering if you really know what you’re doing. If you don’t have a stand-in, take your time, stay calm, and talk with your subject to keep them comfortable. Kenny actually works for my dad, so I thought it would be fun to use Willis Sr. as my stand-in. What can I say? He did a terrific job.

And here’s a diagram showing the complete setup for the shoot. I shot with my Canon 5D Mark III paired with my Canon 50mm f/1.4. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or shoot me an email.

Using Format