Blue Potato Portrait Photo Shoot

My first post-pandemic-lockdown portrait photo session was with a good friend who has just launched her ADHD coaching business, Blue Potato.

My friend Lynn Warner just officially launched her business Blue Potato, coaching clients on how to thrive with ADHD. Part of starting such an endeavor is to have a good photo of Lynn herself, since coaching depends so much on making personal connections. So we scheduled a photo session that would start with some shots against a white background, and then move to a nearby park to take advantage of the sunset.

We shot the photos in early March, before COVID-19 vaccinations were rolled out, which meant our “studio” was a small covered space on her back patio. I set up a large folding white background and planted a speedlight on the ground pointed up to wipe out any shadows. At camera right, I set up a softbox with another speedlight, which was fired by a radio trigger on my camera. At camera left, Lynn’s husband Glenn happily served as my VALS (voice-activated light stand) by holding a triangular reflector to fill in shadows on that side of her face.

I’ve known Lynn and her family for decades, so as much as this was an opportunity to do a photo shoot, it was one of the first times we’d seen each other in person in nearly a year. So setting up was as much catching up as it was testing lights and dialing in settings.

Our goal for these photos was to capture Lynn’s friendly, confident personality. Before the shoot, we looked at examples of other ADHD coaches and, well, let’s just say that the quality of photos and expressions is all over the map. We needed images that weren’t just a typical corporate headshot or bio photo, but would draw someone’s attention and spark a favorable impression right away. To my good fortune, Lynn had no trouble expressing that.

I’d put a lot of thought into how to photograph Lynn, but it’s also important to recognize (and be humble enough to accept) happy accidents when they happen. In this case, a couple of fortuitous technical things came up while shooting against the solid backdrop. First, I was shooting in burst mode, so the speedlights were firing pretty quickly. The one in the softbox was set at a pretty reasonable level (maybe 1/16 power? I can’t remember now), so it could recycle power quickly. The one on the ground, however, was set at full or half power to blast the white background, which meant it didn’t fire for every exposure as it cycled. That created a lovely gray background.

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Second, I switched to a manual white balance soon after we began, so I wouldn’t have to deal with variable white balance settings when editing the photos later. That manual value, which I’d set up as a preset in the camera during an earlier photo shoot, was heavy on the cool tones. After firing a few shots, I realized that in the frames where the background flash didn’t fire, the formerly gray background was a lovely shade of blue. Lynn also became more blue, but I knew I could easily warm up her skin tones and end up with a Blue Potato-appropriate background.

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There wasn’t much more time to experiment, however, because sunset was approaching. We minimally packed up the gear and walked a short distance to the park. Unfortunately, the fantastic clouds that had been building earlier decided to skeedaddle down to the edge of the horizon, which wasn’t visible from our location. Instead, we set up one spot in front of some birch trees, and then turned around to take advantage of the last orange and purple tones in the eastern sky.

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Through it all, Lynn kept up the kind of energy she brings to everything, despite the rapidly falling temperature and the occasional gust of wind, and we got the shot she ultimately chose to use on her company’s website.

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I narrowed the shoot to 27 images that I shared with Lynn, and together we picked a dozen keepers that I performed final edits on (the aforementioned white balance adjustments and minimal portrait retouching). My personal favorite photo didn’t actually fit with the goals we were going for, but I love it nonetheless. It’s a shot of Lynn looking deep in thought and serious. She graciously let me use it as an example of portrait retouching in my book The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI.

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After a year of lockdowns and minimal photography, it was wonderful to do this portrait session with Lynn, having a good time and making little photographic discoveries on the fly. Those are some of the best things about photography. Be sure to check out Blue Potato and connect with Lynn or share her site with someone you know who might benefit from ADHD coaching.

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