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Shooting Street Portraits with a Go Go Gadget Octobox

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My name is Brendan Burkett, and I believe I have created an original device and street photography method. What I have done is attach a softbox to my back for ultimate portability. This allows me to get street portraits with a very unique light.

I live in Cincinnati and it all started when I went to Fountain Square downtown and was told that I needed a permit to use any kind of light stands or tripods. I noticed that some other photographers would get around this by having assistants carry a softbox on a monopod.

I thought, “What if I somehow attached the softbox to my back?”

After a few iterations in prototype designs, I landed on a design that was stable and adjustable. Basically it’s just a light stand duct taped to a backpack frame.

I knew that in order to get the soft look I was going for I needed to be close to my subjects. I chose 35mm as the perfect focal length. At first I was nervous to wear this in public… so I practiced on my dog.

I then ventured to a park and took pictures of statues. I finally mustered up the courage to ask a stranger for a portrait while wearing the portable softbox. He was polite and thought that I was either a photographer or I was looking for ghosts.

I have since built up the courage to walk freely around the city while wearing it. I get many people turning their heads to get a better look. One man yelled out his car window, “how many stations you pick up with that?!”. Some people find it strange and some people love it.

I have built a bit of a following on my Instagram, @bburk88, and have even been recognized on the street three times. The most common reaction from people is that it looks like a stop sign since it’s shaped like an octagon.

I have entered a series of these portraits in the Lens Culture Portrait awards. I think what makes this interesting is the method behind the portraits and not necessarily the portraits themselves, but together they tell an interesting story.


About the author: Brendan Burkett is a wedding, portrait, and food photographer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Burkett’s work on his website and Instagram.

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