Ride with Jimmy - City Council Campaign Portraits

When Jimmy Hallyburton, owner and cycling guru at Boise Bicycle Project, kicked off his Ride with Jimmy city council campaign, we were on board for the long haul. Here at Visionkit, we’re big fans of BBP and the good its brought to the cycling community here in town, so we were thrilled when he and his steering committee reached out to us about supporting his campaign with portraits of the team.

One aspect of Jimmy’s campaign that really resonates with us is how he’s chosen to use the city council campaign platform to elevate the voices of under-represented groups and provide a unique opportunity for young leaders to exercise their imaginations, working through the what, how, and why of Boise’s future.

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The low down

When we chatted about the project, we learned that these portraits would have two intended uses -

1. Jimmy and his team want to promote their work via social media with fun, lively images of the team.

2. Many of the team members are pushing further into leadership roles and need headshots for Linkedin or profile images for speaking opportunities.

How we shot it

There are so many locations you can choose for a project like this. Sometimes narrowing down the options is a daunting task. Using portable battery powered strobes allows us break some rules. Why settle for just one location when you can take the studio setup with you? After some back and forth, we decide to schedule the shoot in Ann Morrison park on a Sunday morning. After Jimmy and the crew wrap up an hour long meeting, there will be about thirty minutes for the photos - some folks need to break away for other commitments.

It’s time to work fast.

These situations are always fun challenges. What to set up first? What to shoot first? After introducing ourselves to the group, we get busy setting up a blue backdrop with a single battery powered strobe, modified by a small, 24” beauty dish. Positioning the backdrop just high enough allows a sliver of morning sun light to pour over the roll through a large diffuser, acting as a makeshift hair light. Another strobe is positioned just a few feet away, using the park as a background.

Portraits on blue are shot with a 5D Mark IV and Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II. Shooting these between 28mm and 35mm at 2.8 creates a punchy, personal image. I like the way the light blooms behind the subject thanks to the fall off of a wider lens.

Portraits set against the park are shot on a 5D Mark IV and Sigma 85mm 1.4. One thing we love about our battery powered strobes is their ability to high speed sync with the camera (we use Flashpoint strobes from Adorama). High speed sync allows us to shoot with a wide aperture while mitigating the ambient light with high shutter speed, pushing the background out and bringing the subject into sharp relief. A small pop of light from a single strobe and large modifier over head give even directional light across the subject.

This little setup results in an efficient, two-stage portrait session, providing Jimmy and his team with multiple looks while ensuring everyone could get on with their day.

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It was a blast shooting with this crew and we think the photos turned out real nice. It’s not often we get to tackle a portraiture project like this - setting up two different looks in a park and shooting through the group in a short amount of time - we loved the challenge and learned a lot about the power of the portable studio.

Try it yourself -

Feeling inspired to try this? It’s really not to hard. With a little experimentation, you’ll get it dialed. Here’s some tips

  • Keep subjects busy with a meeting or group activity while you scout the area and get gear setup. It’s soooo much easier (and less stressful) to set up light stands when you don’t have five people watching you wrestle your gear.

  • Location - one of the photos will be shot against a natural or urban backdrop, base your choice on this spot and then find a discreet place to set up your seamless for the secondary image.

  • Don’t have portable background stands and a seamless? No worries, colored walls have you covered! If it’s in direct sunlight when you shoot, make sure you’re able to diffuse the light so your subjects aren’t left squinting.

  • Use an off camera flash with high speed sync! Oh man! Of all the features out there, I think this might honestly be one of my favorites. It’s such a game changer! This one little feature will give you so many more options when it comes to aperture and shutter speed.

  • For the natural backdrop image, make sure to set your camera exposure for the ambient light once it’s diffused. Things can change pretty drastically if you set exposure prior to having everything in place.

  • If you’re new to lighting, check out this awesome lighting 101 tutorial by The Strobist. It’s got everything you need to kick off your obsession with modified light.

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