How Carl Schultz Shot an Environmental Portrait of a Chief Flight Instructor

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach how they created an image with lighting and minimal use of post-production. The series places a heavy emphasis on teaching how to light. Want to be featured? Here’s how you can submit.

Based out of Scottsdale, AZ, photographer Carl Schultz has been shooting editorial work for magazines in his area since the mid-2000s. His “Chief Flight Instructor” image is an example of one of the many commercial editorials he’s produced. Schultz began his journey in photography through his previous life working in the gaming industry during the ’90s, where he took images in order to create texture maps for 3D models. Remarking about his start in photography, Carl added, “I got the first digital camera ever made and loved the instant gratification of having the image instantly without having to get film developed. I’ve been getting better digital cameras ever since that day.” The rest, as they say, was history.

The Concept

The concept of this image was to capture the CEO of an aviation company and place him in one of his planes that is used for training new pilots. The image was an editorial shot for Modern Luxury Scottsdale magazine to showcase the individual and what he does. The image is of Scott Campbell and it is to showcase his Pilot training company called Sierra Charlie Aviation out of Scottsdale Airport.

Gear Used

  • Sony A7RII
  • Zeiss 35 f2.8 (Sony FE Mount)
  • Godox AD600 Monolight (Flashpoint Xplor 600) modified with a Godox P120L Parabolic Softbox
  • Godox AD200 (Flashpoint Evolv 200) modified with a small octabank
  • Shot at f2.8, ISO 100, 1/125

The Shoot

The shot was taken at 7:28pm and was taken just outside of his office right next to the runway. I wanted to show a shot of Scott in the cockpit getting ready for departure. I composed the shot the way I did because I wanted to show the instrumentation of the cockpit and also I wanted to capture the pilot’s reflection onto the wing of the plane. The lighting was set up to cast some light coming into the front window of the plane and the other light was off to his right to try and get some more light into the cockpit area.

Lighting can be a little tricky with a small airplane like this since there is not a lot of options to allow light in. I chose to use my key light with the Godox AD600 because of the small footprint, the power, the great battery life, and also if one is to get damaged on set it’s not the end of the world because the cost is very reasonable. The other light used was the Godox AD200 which I also use on many of my shoots because of size, cost, and just the overall success I’ve had with it on shoots. I tend to leave my Profoto lights at the studio as they are not as convenient for me and cost too much to replace.

Post Production

The image was edited in Photoshop and a sky was added to show some more drama in the image. Not a lot of editing went in other than some dodging and burning and a little structure added. I tried to get the image close to done mostly in camera.

Before and After