Thomas Abban

Or, Hope For A Nice Publicist

Do you like Led Zeppelin? Jack White? Jimi Hendrix? Prince?

I’m sure Thomas Abban is over being compared to those artists, but it’s appropriate. He’s a young dude (21???) with a hell of a flair for guitar and black-and-white clothing. He even directs his band like an artist who’s been playing for twice as long.

Shot some portraits during load-in, caught the AMAZING late-night set.

Those of you familiar with the work of Greg Heisler, Art Streiber, Dan Winters, Annie Leibowitz — the A-list editorial portrait photographers — know that they often undergo extensive testing of lighting and camera setups. Then, when they arrive on set or the subject arrives at the studio, all they have to do is replicate that scenario, drop in a new face, and bam. Then they can concentrate on working the subject rather than sweat the technical stuff.

I tried that. But, you know. The real world happened.




All of these are variations on a speedlite on one side, gold reflector on the other.

The first is a bare light at head level, shooting horizontally into a reflector at the same level. Probably my favorite of the three, though if there were a way to reduce the intensity of the flash by maybe a stop, so it wouldn’t blow out quite so much. Trouble with that is retaining proper exposure on the face.

With the second, I put a shoot-through umbrella on the flash and raised it up about two feet above my head. If I owned a small soft box or octa that could control spill, this could be a really successful and reliable setup in the future. A flag would do the trick in certain situations like group portraits or in a bigger space.

The third was inspired by a happy accident. The bare flash, zoomed to 105mm, is right next to the lens, barely out of view. The reflector is also just out of frame. My 50mm tends to give me a hazy flare any time any sort of light hits it, so with the flash just barely skimming the surface of the glass, it gives me a nice blue-toned, washed out kind of effect. It’s also making a second catchlight.

With alllllll that experimenting, and when I arrived at Icehouse, we were effectively evicted from the floor of the restaurant. Outside, the walls were way less interesting, they was no light for the camera to autofocus, and the wind blew my reflector into Thomas more than once. He was a gracious subject. I try to live by “don’t let them see you sweat,” and even in this situation — a shoot purely at the courtesy of Thomas and his publicist — it wounded my pride to not be totally on my game. But he remained calm, stuck with me through a few awkward silences, gave my weird ideas a shot, told me what mattered to him. What a relief.

Thanks for reading!


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