Lighting, Portrait, Tokyo
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Spruce up your office (portraits)


A lot of my work somehow ends up being done in offices in Tokyo. I’ve shot all sorts of people in boardrooms, office lobbies, corridors, etc, because let’s face it, most of Tokyo where the business goes down is just one gigantic office, split up into millions of tinier sections.  And let’s also face it; a lot of those offices are pretty careworn, drab places.

Now, I’m a little bit ADHD in the fact that I get bored if I always shoot the same type of portrait in essentially the same type of environment. It’s safe, sure, but I need some more cowbell in order to feel like I’m really earning my pay .

Consider the shot below of Dr. Thomas Kaberger, executive board chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation for Recharge Magazine.  I had to settle for a boardroom photo (taking him outside to do the portraits would have added very little thematic value to the shot), but I also wanted to make it contextual somehow – suitable for an editorial portrait rather than just a straight corporate headshot. So, the biggest question – the one that needed to be solved immediately – is how do I make this shot contextual with an essentially bare meeting room as my setting?

Tokyo Editorial Portrait Photographer Irwin Wong (4)


In the photo below you can pretty much see the entire three light setup for projecting the miniature turbine on the wall behind Dr. Kaberger. Getting the shadow projection right required quite a bit of trial and error, but I figured out that the best way to get it done was to zoom in the flash head, snoot it and place it as far away from the turbine as possible. Think about how sharp your shadow is on a sunny day; that’s because the sun is super far away and looks tiny to you – which are the principles I used in trying to place my flash relative to the turbine.

The other two lights are a gridded SB unit for the main light and another SB with a short snoot to provide a little separation. These lights needed to be restricted so my nice little shadow wasn’t obliterated by light spillage. You can just out the rest of the behind the scenes shots below.

Tokyo Editorial Portrait Photographer Irwin Wong (6)

Tokyo Editorial Portrait Photographer Irwin Wong (5)

Tokyo Editorial Portrait Photographer Irwin Wong (7)

Here’s a bonus shot for you featuring Japanese actor Toru Baba, once again in another featureless meeting room. For this story he was being interviewed about his role as a detective investigating the Atami murder incident – a fairly gruesome (true?) story involving the slaying of a couple down at a beach resort. Anyway – this time I used a fern as a ‘cookie’ (or cucoloris) to project some hopefully ominous shadows on the wall behind him. That’s it for today! More stuff to come soon – well, hopefully at least.

Tokyo Editorial Portrait Photographer Irwin Wong (8)




  1. I really admire the creativity invested here!!! I found it much more creative and challenging to create such a photographic effects in real time than in photoshop.

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