My colleague Ning Tian asked me to make his portrait for a newspaper in his hometown in China. We talked about a couple of options, then decided on an informal portrait and an “action” shot in the lab. Lighting was available light only, but we were fortunate to have large windows behind me that delivered uniform, soft light. The background was a simple, neutral dark grey wall with a reflector illuminating a spot against the wall behind Ning.
The current fashion in laboratory photography is to sex up the background with colored gels to make things look dramatic, then have the investigator looking off into space in a thoughtful pose… I’ve been in those images myself, some by very good photographers. They can look great, but for this shoot, we were after natural and realistic. For the lab shot, we also shot it with available light by opening up a large window behind me and shutting off all the fluorescent overhead and under bench lighting to simplify white balance issues and to make it more natural. Metering on the brightest point on Ning’s face allowed me to establish the desired exposure.
Update: here is the shot from the newspaper that carried the photos.