Gear Inspiration

Corporate Portraits with the Fujifilm X-T1

· 18.June.2017

I recently landed the opportunity to shoot portraits for a large consulting firm in Atlanta. I had never done a corporate gig before and wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew for my first shoot. The direction of the job was to provide traditional portraits as well as some relaxed poses for the firm’s creative team. There was only a small window of 90 minutes to capture three keepers for each of the 40 people on the team, so I had my work cut out for me. Due to limited set-up time, I opted to go for a simple configuration. I used my X-T1 with the XF60mm f/2.4 lens, a newly-purchased Cactus V6II transceiver and RF60x flash through an octabox, and a Yongnuo YN-560IV as a fill light.

The setup was small enough that I was able to walk into their office with just a couple of bags. I found a nice corner to work from, with natural light coming in from large windows behind me. I chose this location in case I ran into problems with the flashes and would have to use natural light as a backup. Fortunately, all my gear worked perfectly and I was getting good results with the artificial lights.

The Westcott Octabox sets up quickly, and at 26 inches it’s wide enough to provide soft, even light for a medium close-up shot covering the subject’s head and shoulders. I used the Cactus V6II to wirelessly trigger the RF60x flash, which in turn optically triggered a diffused Yongnuo YN-560IV acting as a fill light. The Cactus system is one of the few that supports High Speed Syncing (HSS) for Fujifilm and I took full advantage of it by shooting above the relatively slow 1/180th top sync speed for the X-T1. The flashes were reliable and responsive, I didn’t have a single misfire during the session. Cross-brand wireless TTL is coming soon to Cactus, which will make it one of the best flash options for Fuji shooters, along with the Nissin Air system. There’s word of Godox getting in the game as well, and they’d be a welcome addition for people with modest budgets.

As a lens, the 60mm is perhaps the most underrated glass in the XF lineup. Yeah, it’s slow to focus and doesn’t have as wide of an aperture as the 56mm f/1.2 or the new 50mm f/2, but for the prices they’re going for these days, it’s a steal. I got a mint copy in Tokyo for around $300. I like its focal length for portraits and that’s where this lens has found its purpose with me. It’s sharp wide open at f/2.4 and the bokeh is very pleasing, even on busy backgrounds. In the context of this shoot, autofocus speed wasn’t much of an issue, and generally speaking, it hasn’t failed me while shooting street photography either. Having said that, in low light it does tend to hunt a bit and the focus throw is long, so it’s not a fast manual focuser either. But depending on your needs, you may find a lot of value in it.

I would have liked more time to set up for this job, but I had to work around a tight schedule. The staff was split up in groups of eight people and by the second group, I hit my stride. Ended up taking around 8-10 shots of each person in a few simple poses and got good results. It helped that the staff took direction well and generally had good attitudes. I brought an assistant and she really helped expedite the process and to make sure people were looking their best and staying out of the background while I was shooting. Much to my delight, we got through everyone in just under the scheduled time. Overall, it was a fun shoot and my clients were happy with the results, which is the best one can hope for. It goes to show that simplicity, thrift and a little courage can go a long way.