Live from TED

Shooting the Full Spectrum speaker portraits

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Keeping with the spirit of the Full Spectrum Auditions earlier this week, TED photo editor Mike Femia and myself—photographer Duncan Davidson—decided to add something a bit new and different to our photo coverage of the event. The result is a set of speaker portraits that we made in the break between the afternoon rehearsals and when the doors opened.


The amazing Reggie Watts. Photo credit: James Duncan Davidson

The speakers were brimming with energy and excitement about what was to come. Before making their portrait, Mike and I spent a couple of minutes talking with each of the speakers, and their passion for their subjects was palpable. Every single one of them was ready to give their all onstage and thrilled to have a chance to participate in the auditions.


Performer Joshua Walters. Photo credit: James Duncan Davidson

Space and time were limited for our little experiment. We didn’t have the luxury of bringing in a bunch of lighting gear and backdrops to set up a temporary studio. Instead, we embraced our constraints and found a spot on the balcony of the Hiro Ballroom that provided an interesting background composed of the illuminated paper lanterns hanging over the main ballroom. For my primary light, I used a single remotely triggered Speedlight on a lightweight stand.


Surprisologist Tania Luna. Photo credit: James Duncan Davidson

The lighting may have been simple and battery powered, but the speakers provided everything else needed to make a great portrait with their own high-energy output. You can see it in the photos above of Reggie Watts, Joshua Walters and Tania Luna. All three of these wonderful expressions came out within seconds of the speaker stepping in front of my camera. Full spectrum, indeed.

See the full set of speaker portraits >>

See the rest of the photographs from the Full Spectrum Auditions >>

See some of Duncan’s personal work on his Flickr stream >>