Editor’s Note: The below post is by Chicago photographers – Wasio Photography – and a charity photoevent they recently held in New York City.
Why did two Chicago photographers venture on a weekend getaway and set up a portable studio on the streets of Manhattan? The holiday spirit comes early for us. As soon as the leaves begin turning color, we start looking for ways to give back to the community. This year we felt like not enough people in the world have cool portraits of themselves. The idea of taking portraits of people and having them donate to a charity just clicked for us. We decided to call this event #WASIOfaces where we would take completely free portraits of people on the street while raising money for a children’s charity at the same time.
Organizing #WASIOfaces took weeks in advance of planning. Firstly, we had to figure out a location that was visible but didn’t have an overwhelming amount of foot traffic. That’s why a location like Time Square was not a good option. We chose the Grand Army Plaza as our set up because it was a convenient location between the Plaza Hotel and 5th Avenue Apple store. There was also enough space in the plaza to set up our portable studio without getting in the way of foot traffic. Before we finalized the location, we got in contact with the city to find out if a permit was required for that location. After long hours of being transferred between departments and studying the New York ordinance, our event did not require a permit, mainly because this was an art oriented event which was also non-for-profit.
For our portable studio, we needed a simple set up that was easy to put together and breakdown. At the same time, we needed a light that was powerful enough since we were photographing in the middle of the day on the street. For the on-camera trigger we used the Phottix Odin II and our main light was the Indra500. We used the Phottix Spartan small beauty dish as our light modifier. Since we flew to New York, we could not bring any sandbags. We thought of renting them from a local photography store but it happened that our event was around a Jewish holiday and all the stores were closed. We ended with the idea of filling up garbage bags with water bottles as weight bags to hold the light stand with the Indra 500. Luckily the Indra 500 is not very heavy so we didn’t need that many bottles to hold it down.
That day when we photographed #WASIOfaces was one of the most beautiful and sunny fall days in NYC. Even though it was such gorgeous sunny day the sun was going in and out every few minutes. It was hiding behind small clouds or buildings around us as it was moving throughout the morning. That’s why we needed a light that was powerful enough to over-power the ambient light and be the main source of light but portable and easy to set up at the same time. The Phottix Indra 500 was a perfect match because its 500ws was enough to control the sun. It was also super easy to use so we could make quick adjustments as the sun was moving around us.
The Phottix Spartan Beauty Dish that we used as our light modifier was also easy to put together and attach to the Indra 500. The small Spartan is a good combination of good quality of light and small size. It comes with a nice pouch that we easily fit into the Indra 500 bag. Once set up, it creates soft but punchy light due to its size and light first bouncing and then being diffused twice. Even though the Spartan beauty dish is not a big light modifier we were able to photograph portraits of up to five people.
When we got back to Chicago and sat down to process the photos from #WASIOfaces, the power consistency of the Indra500 was a big help. Each frame had the same exposure so we practically did not have to make any exposure adjustments in our RAW converter.