I acquired an old yellow pickup truck from my parents last year and since I’ve had quite a bit of time to work on it, I decided to put a fresh coat (nine if we’re actually counting) of paint on it. Before I even put the first coat on, I knew I wanted to capture some bright sunny portrait shots that worked with the bright yellow that I painted the truck. That was really the initial concept but there was still some work to be done to prep for the shoot.
Since we’re still pretty early into springtime, I wanted to capture a shot that really said “Summer is coming.” I also wanted to give the shot a vintage feel since the truck is from 1975. My plan going into this shoot was to capture an image that makes the viewer want to be a part of the image. I wanted it to look like my model was having fun with friends while sitting on the truck, possibly tailgating or just picnicking at a park. This part was a bit of a challenge since I was only working with one model.
As I mentioned above, I really wanted this image to capture friendship and summer fun, but how can I do that with just one model? If it were any other time, I would have brought in multiple models to make this easier. Finally, I want to bring up my final challenge for this shoot which was that it was out on location. I am predominantly a studio shooter, so anytime I shoot out on location I’m bound to run into a challenge or two. One major challenge is finding power for my devices, batteries, etc. Luckily, I recently picked up some mobile power solutions that allow me to get power to my devices and shoot literally anywhere without worrying about whether or not I packed enough batteries or if I charged my laptop.
Once I came up with the initial plan for this shoot, I reached out to my good friend Allee-Sutton and let her choose the outfit and style for her portion of the shoot. She then brought a few different options and we chose an outfit and look on location. Speaking of the location, here is how I went about choosing that. I knew I wanted a location that was easy to access but also seemed secluded so there weren’t too many distractions in the background. A few days before the shoot I took the truck to a local park with my grill in tow and had a little cookout. I had shot at that park once before and decided it would be the perfect location for this shoot. There are only a few buildings and a ton of different looks depending on the direction you shoot. Now that I had the model, the location and Allee was taking care of the wardrobe, all we had to do was show up and shoot.
As I mentioned before I wanted an image that was fun with a summer vibe that was just overall a happy image. Well, of course the day we can all get together to shoot the weather doesn’t cooperate. Thankfully the rain held off, but the sky was a bit dark and gray which didn’t really give off happy summer vibes. Although I don’t love doing a lot of post processing with my images, I pretty much knew right away that I was going to have to replace the sky to get my image to have the desired outcome. After I did my basic retouching, I brought the image into a program called Luminar 4 which has a pretty darn powerful and easy to use sky replacement feature to swap out the sky. After I did that, I brought the image back into Capture One Pro and did some final color adjustments and threw on a bit more grain than usual to really sell the vintage look.
When shooting on location, I try not to overpack my gear, but I did need a camera, flash and my computer. Additionally, I needed to make sure I had power for all those devices since there isn’t too many power outlets at city parks. I brought all my location power solutions which put my mind at ease knowing that I could work a bit more methodically and not have to rush the shoot.
Since the sky was overcast while we were shooting, that provided a nice balanced ambient exposure, but I wanted to have just a bit more fill to allow my subject to pop. I brought just one Paul C. Buff Einstein with a beauty dish which is probably my favorite modifier for location portraits with a single subject. I also made sure to use a sturdy stand and a heavy sandbag so my light didn’t get blown over by the occasional wind gust.
As a studio photographer, I tether for every single shoot. I honestly don’t know what it would be like to not shoot tethered. One challenge when tethering on location is running out of cable and knocking your laptop to the pavement. That’s one major benefit of wireless tethering with the Air Direct. I was able to move my laptop around to make sure it wasn’t in the shot and not have to worry about being tied down with a cable. As for tethering in general, I love that I can see the images right when they come in to check focus and other details on a larger screen. Another thing that a lot of photographers may not think about is allowing your subject to view the images to check for posing, clothing mishap, and also to select their favorite images right there on set.
I tend to run with a skeleton crew when shooting and this was no exception. It was just me, the model and my wife shooting some behind-the-scenes and providing moral support. When shooting with no crew like this, it does mean that I have to assume the role of DigiTech, assistant, art director and so on, while the model tends to take on the role of makeup and wardrobe.
About Jeff Carpenter
Jeff Carpenter is a commercial portrait and headshot photographer, educator, and owner of Readylight Media, a visual media and marketing agency based outside of Nashville, TN. He started his photography career in 2010, shortly after college where he was required to take a photography class in order to graduate. Being a predominantly self-taught photographer, he developed a passion for educating in a way that was simple and easy to understand. His main goal as an educator is to teach the fundamentals of photography and lighting, allowing photographers to absorb information and apply it to their style of shooting.
This is part of a series called the Insight + Inspiration: On-Location Guide. To download this guide, please visit here.