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How To Shoot A Picture Of A President

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This is President D.D. Bouterse of Suriname's official presidential portrait. Karel Donk, the photographer who took the picture, brings us behind the scenes on what it takes to shoot (a picture of) a president. Spoiler: lighting, lighting and lighting.

Donk wanted to use Suriname's national flag as the main source of inspiration for the portrait, the red background of the president's picture matches the red stripe in the flag while the yellow lighting of Bouterse himself represents the flag's yellow star.

Pretty thoughtful stuff, but a couple problems popped up. One, the room the picture was to be taken in only had white walls. Two, he couldn't completely light the president in yellow light (since it would make him look weird). So what did he do? Donk says:

I quickly decided that I would have to rim-light him with yellow light. Not only would it then add some more meaning to the picture (meaning of the yellow color in the flag) but the yellow light would also help to separate the president from the background. But then I thought what if the yellow light would come from above? Obviously that could add some more meaning to the picture in a spiritual sense

I decided to "paint" the white wall red by just placing a red gel on the background light (a Canon Speedlite 580 EX II). The distance between the subject and the wall is also big to make sure the wall would be out of focus and appear to be smooth in the pictures and also to minimize spill light from the softbox.


Both problems solved. In all, it took Donk 30 shots (out of 32) to get the perfect shot and I have to say, it turned out pretty well. If you want to read more in-depth on the specific positioning of the lighting and the exact equipment he used, check out Karel's blog here. For the rest of you guys, does Bouterse's picture beat out Obama's portrait? [Karel Donk]