Much as I love painstaking preparation and setup for shots, most of the time, there just isn't that luxury. You have to previsualise and construct your shot quickly.
Yesterday I went out to do a quick portrait of Justin Macready for Placemakers' Under Construction Magazine. Justin's a busy owner-operator so we didn't have long. He'd already spent some time trying to set up our shot on a building site with some timber framing for the background. Unfortunately that fell through, so it was out to the timber yard for the job.
It was a blazing hot day and 1.00. There wasn't much open shade with a nice background, so I quickly settled on this pile of timber and planned to have Justin with his back to the sun. First shot to gauge the exposure:
Shooting towards the sun, I'd get some good highlights on Justin's head and shoulders, but I'd need to fill the shadows in his face. I dialed down the exposure a bit and popped my tripod bag into position with a bare flash on a lightstand just on my left, the flash set to half power. Bang. In the zone straight away. Time to get Justin out of his office and do this thing.
I was more happy enough with bare bulb rather than softening the shadows with an umbrella, it's just a more blokey look and just as importantly, it was fast. One shot, and I was done - but I did get a looser one, just for safety. It's a cover shot, so there's going to be text down the left hand side. Never hurts to give your photo editor or graphic artist some options, even when the brief is tight.