Fortune/People Magazine Shoot Behind the Scenes

The Assignment

I was contacted on a Friday for this assignment which was to take place the following Tuesday. The shoot had to take place in the morning and be delivered to the contacts at People and Fortune by 12 noon. To meet the delivery time, I suggested we start shooting at 8am and I made plans to edit and deliver the photos on site. I arrived on site with an assistant an hour and a half early to scout the location and setup lighting. Because time was so tight, my goal was to come up with one pose and lighting setup that could be shot with different lenses to achieve at least two different looks in a short amount of time. I knew I wanted to mix strobes and ambient light, but without knowing the exact setup going in, I brought extra strobes, reflectors and light stands just in case.

This shoot features Arnold Harvey, a driver for Waste Management. In 2007, Arnold founded God’s Transition Connection, a non-profit charity that helps over 5000 families a month through food donations. Because of this, Arnold was selected as one of 50 people to be featured in Fortune’s “Heroes of the 500” series. His story was also picked up by People Magazine. Arnold was fantastic to work with. Take a look at his features here and here.

Gear List

The gear list is purely for reference. None of this specific gear would absolutely make or break the shoot. Substitutions of similar quality gear of course, will result is a very similar image.

The Setup

My contact at Waste Management requested we use one of their trucks as a backdrop, which I thought was perfect. The magazine requested a landscape portrait and Waste Management wanted their logo in the shot along with possibly some items from Arnold’s charity. Because we were mixing natural and studio lighting, everything needed to be planned around the position of the sun. I had the truck positioned so the sun was backlighting our subject and slightly to Arnold’s left. This would allow the sun to act as a rim light. I set up a 40 inch octobox as a fill light centered in front of the subject. To further fill and enhance the lighting on the subject, I placed a small reflector right under the octobox. Another Strobe with a 12 inch reflector was used to brighten the backdrop and also acted as a secondary rim light coming from the subject’s left side. With the same lighting, I was able to get two different compositions, one fairly standard medium shot with a telephoto(my preferred shot) and another slightly more dramatic wide angle shot from a low camera position that included the entire truck.

This setup was used for all shots. I had an assistant on set to help setup and test poses and exposures.

Setup and testing poses and exposure.

Exposure and Blending Light Sources

I chose an aperture of 8.0 to separate my subject slightly without blurring the WM logo too much(even shooting at 8.0 with a telephoto lens at close range will allow a good amount of bokeh to separate the subject from the backdrop). I chose my camera exposure based on the ambient light(via setting ISO and shutter speed) with a particular eye to get the rim light at the right levels. When using strobes outside, the sun is the constant variable. The ambient exposure achieved a good rim and kicker effect on the subject, and the two flashes filled in the rest of the scene. Keep in mind when shooting with flash, you are often limited by your flash sync speed — which in my case maxes out at 200. I metered the key light to be the same as my aperture(8.0) and adjusted the backdrop light by sight to a level that looked good on my tethered screen.

Camera Settings

  • F8.0
  • 1/200sec
  • ISO 100
  • 90mm

Exposure with and without flash

I took a shot without triggering the flash just for comparison purposes. Take a look at the rim lighting in the first photo — the exposure is essentially built around that and the shadow areas of the subject and backdrop are filled in with strobes and modifier. Getting the balance exactly right keeps things looking natural.

Controlling Perspective

Different focal lengths allow the photographer to control the perspective and what appears in the backdrop. A telephoto lens has a tighter perspective and will compress what is in the background(showing less of the background) and a wide angle will show more of the background. This remains true even if you change your distance from the subject to make the subject appear the same size via both lenses(ie: walking up close to the subject with a wide angle or shooting from a distance with a telephoto). I used two lenses for this shoot. The canon 70-200 for the medium shots, and Canon 16-35 for the alternate take. In the studio I’m a real fanatic for prime lenses but on location with an environmental backdrop and a tight time schedule, a zoom lens allows you to change perspective very quickly and try a few different options without wasting time changing lenses. I preferred the tighter half-length portraits but I wanted some wide shots to offer as an alternate option for the client. Because of the position of the sun, I got a good bit of flair in the wider angle shots — but I like the effect it gives here.

Tight and wide perspectives shot at 90mm and 29mm respectively.

Other Details

I always shoot portraits with the camera on tripod. Cameras are heavy — and slightly shifting compositions bug me! For the strobes, I used a wireless trigger and controller to adjust the lighting as needed. I had a battery pack on hand in case we didn’t have access to power for the strobes — luckily we did have convenient access to power. As with every location shoot I do, I was tethered to my Mac Air. Tethering save times and allows me to instantly spot errors as I’m shooting.

Editing and Delivery

Immediately after the shoot I sat down with Arnold and another representative from Waste Management. We selected the 10 best shots out of the 200 or so we shot. After color correction I sent compressed versions of these ten images for approval and final selection by the marketing team(based in Houston). They quickly narrowed this down to their top 3 images and I did some light retouching(removed a few distracting elements and enhanced the contrast on the logo slightly) before delivering the final full resolution images.

Editing on site

Final Usage

Fortune ended up using the tighter image as the cover image for the entire ‘Heroes of the 500′ feature online and the wider shot next to Arnold’s Profile. People used an alternate tighter image.

Final image on the front pages of

About the author: Joe LeBlanc is a headshot photographer based in Washington DC. He founded Ars Nova Images Headshot Studio in 2008 and shoots over 300 headshots and portraits per year. You can follow him on both Facebook and Google+. This article originally appeared here.

  • VSM Photo

    love the write up and incite to how you do you setups. I was wondering how you approach a quick setup of your lights when balancing with daylight?

  • tonyc0101

    LOVE the finished images…they have such an honestness about them (not pretentious). Good job keeping the subject engaged with the camera too!

  • OtterMatt

    Very good shots. They really come across without looking very posed at all. This man legitimately looks like he would be a joy to interview and talk with.

  • Patrick Downs

    I’m confused … was this an editorial shoot? I thought so because it’s a Fortune feature which ran in People too. re “Immediately after the shoot I sat down with Arnold and another representative from Waste Management. We selected the 10 best shots out of the 200 or so we shot” — I’ve never, ever sat and edited an editorial assignment with a corporate type being featured, and let them have input on image choice as if they’d hired me. At the LA Times, that was a big no-no. I’ve showed polaroids (pre-digital) to subjects and reps, clients, etc, but just to be friendly and not for image approval. Have things changed that much? Was this an advertorial? Did Fortune tell you to let the Waste Management person have input?

  • Peter “Pots”

    A nice shoot, but what are you trying to tell me? I am just glad that I am getting a little too old for all this schlepping around. I really don’t care what the cameras are or the g.d. f/stop. Come on please give me a break…use any lens that you got. The subject is a great person and is happy to be there! Please don’t try to make it any more complicated than it really is….simple p.r. work!

  • Mark Davidson

    Great job! However I never get to shoot 200 images on a job like that. Maybe 50 and with client review it stops fast. Every one seems to think that a ” simple photo shoot” will take 3 minutes after the photographer takes his camera out of the case. ” Lights? you are fancy! How long is this supposed to take? I have a meeting in five minutes!”.

  • OtterMatt

    Did he not say in the article that the equipment really doesn’t matter? The only time he referenced his f stop was for the purpose of saying he wanted to blur the background but still have the logo legible. Not sure you read the article if you couldn’t figure out why he wrote it.

  • Peter “Pots”

    Look, OtterMatt, I understand, I do not think that you understood my post either. This is a simple PR type shoot. I felt that it was made overly complicated or “busy” with stuff that a photographer should know. I have a hard time giving someone an “attaboy” for a really simple shot. Maybe PetaPixel was just trying to fill space. Please understand that I did go past the 3rd grade in reading.

  • Casey Colomb

    Give yourself a break and eat a handful of glass the next time you feel you need to type in a comment box.

  • Werchange

    Why are you trying to minimize this man’s work?
    That “simple” set up produced a mighty fine portrait of Mr. Harvey. Surely you would agree that’s the mark of a professional-less is more?
    His clients (People and Fortune) liked the results of his “simple set up”. His write up of the shoot provides easy enough to understand info about the shoot.

    Keep up the good work Mr. LeBlanc-looking forward to more of your work!

  • KristinaMessilyv

    Jacqueline implied I’m taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
    on the computer . see post F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • KristinaMessilyv

    my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
    computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
    $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

  • walterramsey12

    friend’s step-mother makes $75 every hour on the computer . She has been laid
    off for 6 months but last month her income was $20879 just working on the
    computer for a few hours. straight from the source



  • Joleen McCurdy

    Oliver . I see what
    you mean… Frances `s postlng is unimaginable… on thursday I bought a
    great new Subaru Impreza after earning $4140 this last month and also ten k
    last-munth . no-doubt about it, this really is the nicest-work I have ever
    had . I actually started nine months/ago and almost straight away was bringin
    in at least $79, per-hour . go right here wℴℛks77.ℂℴ­­­ℳ

  • Peter “Pots”

    Please do not pick and choose about my post, I will share my lunch of “glass” with you anytime. I believe I stated it was a great shoot with a willing subject. I felt the article was a little over-blown….mea culpa! That does not demean the photographer’s work. If someone can not take a critical view of an article at times then why even bother to just read what thoughts are agreeable to you…I’ve had my happy pill today, so now it is your turn.

  • Peter “Pots”

    @Werchange-no trivialization of LeBlanc’s work was ever intended. I also believe in the KISS principles in a shoot also.

  • jordeninghamego

    what Jack implied I
    am dazzled that some one able to profit $7471 in one month on the internet .
    you can try here wℴℛks77.ℂℴ­­­ℳ

  • Patrick Downs

    ouch :)

  • Patrick Downs

    Peter, it may seem simple to you, and me. I’ve done shoots like this 1000 times, but some people have never done it once, and need all the info and details they can get. The KISS principle means different things to different people. Some people are challenged using one studio flash on location outside, and for others like Joe McNally, 6 strobes is no big deal and he can do it in his sleep.

  • Richard

    This is brilliant. This is exactly the kind of post I love seeing here. Thanks.

  • Justin Tompkins

    I find most articles pretty interesting, despite being rather new to photography. I don’t understand how some of you guys constantly gripe about these posts.

  • davidburnett

    I have to second Patrick Downs’ question about the very nature of the shoot. (I have been an editorial photographer for many many years) but I, too, have to say that I don’t think I have ever done anything that was quite so much playing to the likes of the subject. Some big companies will try and restrict your after Perhaps I, too,misunderstood the nature of the picture (maybe this was an Advertorial section of Fortune, sponsored by ad pages, and this was just filler.. in which case the fee should have been two or three times what the editorial fee would have been. I know we re living in a changing world, but I did startle at the complicity, as benign as it might have been, with WM. If you are shooting an editorial job, your mission is to get the picture, cajole the subject as needed (move a WM truck in there? great!) … but there ought to be a clear boundary between Church and State, and this is one of those situations which I would love to hear a bit more about who was actually contracting the job, and in whose interest it was being done