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epic portrait // herman cain

strobist portrait of herman cain

Herman Cain – October 31st 2011

The Gear

Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.2

Camera: Nikon D3s

Technique: Composite

Light Sources: 2 Einstein 640 WS by Paul C. Buff

Light Modifiers: Key light and side lights are 22″ silver beauty dish – camera left. Rim light is a gridded 10″ x 36″ Stripbox – far camera right.

The Goal

Use a composite technique to create a portrait that would normally require 4 light sources.

The Vision

It had been a month since my previous portrait of Ron Paul. I had a lot of time to think about some concepts for future portraits but I found that many of them required more lights then I currently have. No problem! Using three different shots I was able to make one composite shot exactly how I envisioned it. I wanted a very tight spotlight effect because (especially that day) the media was focused like a laser beam on Herman Cain. I also wanted a subtle red vs blue effect to represent republicans vs democrats.

The Story

So, I had the chance to photograph Herman Cain on the exact day that the story broke from Politico about some questionable incidents at the National Restaurant Association. Needless to say, it was a crazy busy day. News and media people everywhere, but I had a few minutes alone with him to create a portrait I had thought out specifically for him.

Given Mr. Cain’s recent surge in the polls at the time I felt a spotlight effect would be appropriate. The media was focusing a lot of attention on him at the time – even before the Politico story broke. So, I decided to use a gridded beauty dish to create a very narrow spotlight looking effect. Worked really well, however after a few test frames I decided I wanted a wide horizontal shot, and not a vertical portrait. So, I took one frame with two of my Einsteins lighting the far left and far right (no strip box) and then another frame with Herman Cain in the center (with the strip box). Composited them together and created my final image.

The subtle colors of blue on the left and red on the right are symbolic of Democrats vs Republicans.

The Lesson

No matter how I feel about the candidate himself I think this is an awesome photo. I  structured the concept well and executed my plan quickly with time to spare!

I honestly don’t know what I’d change about the image so it’s hard to relate a “lesson.” I suppose that’s good and bad. Good, because I’m becoming very comfortable with the entire process, and bad because there’s not much I am able to learn from this particular experience.

I will say that as I’m doing more and more of these portraits I’m finding that I really love the work. I feel more like an artist with his paint and brushes (lights and lenses) and I hope to continue using crazy techniques like composites, freelensing, and the brenizer method to create unique portraits.

It’s not very often that the subjects of my work will usually see the final result, but I had a chance to talk with Mr. Cain exactly a week later at another event I was photographing. He was waiting back stage before going to address the audience and he remembered me when I shook his hand. I mentioned I had his portrait on my iPhone and showed him. He was incredibly excited about it and said he’d be in touch about usage. Don’t think that I’ll be hearing from him since he’s withdrawn from the 2012 Presidential race, but it’s always nice to get some positive feedback.

strobist celebrity portrait

Leave a Comment

  • Great photo Sam, I love the subtle red and blue.

  • Wow, fantastic shot! I just stumbled on your blog, your work is awesome!

    – Josh

  • Awesome! I love your Epic portraits.