Mr. Bob Davis. Former CEO, USAA Insurance Company
I was thrilled when USAA's PR firm in Boston, MA called me and asked me to make a collection of portraits of their client's CEO. I've been a USAA member for years and always had warm and fuzzy feelings about their company. We did our pre production meetings on the web. We decided on formats, locations and styles as well as the overall schedule.
Like many CEO's his schedule was tight. We could get into his office suite around 9am and needed to be ready to shoot at 10 am. We needed to get four different shots around the offices in that amount of time. It was definitely a time to travel light but to come prepared.
I arrived with one assistant and a make up person at 8:30am, met with our contact and proceeded thru security. At exactly 9 am we went into the office suite, selected four areas that would make good backgrounds, and proceeded to light and test. We were told that Mr. Davis would need us to be out of the offices by 10:15 am so he could conduct a meeting. That would give us 15 minutes for make-up and forty five minutes to do four different set ups.
When Mr. Davis arrived I introduced myself and we found that we were the same age. We both went to high school in San Antonio and, in fact, remembered swimming against each other on our respective high school swim teams. (He was the better swimmer....). From that point on the shoot became more relaxed. All of a sudden the 10:15 deadline vanished. We were able to move with more care and try a few more gestures and poses.
I was shooting with a Rollei 6008i medium format film camera and a 150mm lens. If we were to do the same shoot today I wouldn't hesitate to use a Nikon D700 or even an Olympus E-30. Most of the images were subsequently used as quarter pagers in various USAA magazines and brochures.
The lighting was straightforward: Small and medium sized softboxes with monolights. Ocassionally I'd use a light with a grid spot to throw a little light on a back wall. We shipped off film to our client in Boston and they made their selections. We shot both negative and positive film. Once selections were made we got the film back and made the necessary scans and prints.
The key to success with these kinds of portraits is not so much the lighting or the technical skills but the rapport. Going forward that will be our most marketable differentiator in the corporate portrait market. The number one rule with CEO's is comfort and common ground. If you've got it you use it.
I love doing these kinds of portraits. And when I speak at photo expos. conventions and college classes these are the kinds of images I get the most questions about.
It's the portfolio that gets you the first job but it's the rapport that keeps you in the door for more. If I give advice to people starting out it's always to broaden your interests. Your brain is your best "equipment" investment!
The Studio Book is getting great reviews! Check it out on Amazon.com
I know why we kept our Hasselblads for decades, they always worked and no matter what year you` purchased yours it was capable of generating the same quality images as the latest or oldest one. It was the lenses that we stayed around for. But in this day and age the digital bodies are more akin to buying a few bricks of film and they go out of style and are superseded almost yearly. When I first came to photography we had to be "jacks of all trades" which meant keeping an arsenal of glass on hand. If you shot with Nikon you probably had everything from an 18mm wide angle to a 400mm telephoto and everything in between. And then even lenses started to change. Zooms superseded primes (but maybe not....) and then new revs of the zooms overtook the ones we bought just a few years earlier. Now we're slinging around glass and bodies like we're in a flea market. And I find that as my style stabilizes I use fewer and few extra long or short optics.
The logic is to buy the latest digital body and use it up quick. Sell it before the new models are announced so that you get the maximum value in the next trade. This year you'll be able to shoot everything at 3200 ISO but next year it will be 6400 ISO. I can't wait. Or can I?
In the old days the only even marginally available information about lenses was the anecdotal test stuff we'd read in the mainstream photo magazines. And they only came out once a month. Now every website has a precision testing rig based on DXO or IBF and we can see, right there in the four dimensional graphics, just how poorly last year's lens performance in the outer 12th % of the frame is versus this year's glass. If you are a Nikon shooter you are suspect if you aren't sporting a D3x and at least a 14 to 24mm and a 24 to 70mm. How can you possibly produce professional results without it all?
Not to generalize but the women photographers I know only seem to replace their cameras and lenses after someone drops them several times and an assistant accidentally spills Coca Cola on the main body while changing lenses. Could it be that many new camera purchases are nothing but sublimated male sexual desire? Have we transferred our biological imperative to go out and seek mates endlessly into a less (socially) destructive desire to chase camera systems instead?
I just finished writing a book and shooting a big ad campaign for an agency. I have the strongest desire to change systems today. No, my current system did not screw up on the big shoot. No, there was no lack of optical integrity among the lenses. In fact, I think they gave me their best effort. But there is much truth to the saying that familiarity breeds contempt.
I was talking about this to a friend in New York who just happens to be a psycho therapist. He laughed at my Freudian interpretation. He suggested that the desire is much the same in any area of art wherein the practitioner is finished with one cycle and ready to embark on a new cycle. He refers to this "sweeping the clutter off the desk" as a way of starting with a fresh canvas. A blank page. A new perspective.
The idea being that the hand/mind relationship (haptics and all that) predisposes one to work in the same fashion over and over again and only by making a conscious attempt to change the tools will you change the construct and the paradigm that keeps you slavishly locked into the same subconscious fabrications. The psycho therapist had to get off the phone at that point. You see, we'd been talking about the really cool f2 zoom lenses for the Olympus E system and he wanted to go play with them right away.
I'm between books and projects. I'm pondering cheating on my Nikons and getting some more Olympus gear. I like the color and the size but I know those are just facile justifications. I think I'll start with the 50 Macro. That's supposed to be a good one.
How do I reconcile all this? Well, a good shrink will cost me $250 a visit and it may take years to come to grips with my compulsive need to try new cameras. How many new cameras would that buy? How much painful introspection will I be able to avoid?
(For those who take everything literally please understand that approximately 15 to 20 % of this blog was meant to be "tongue in cheek" I'll still buy the gear but I'll laugh at myself while I'm doing it..........).
Note: I'll be teaching workshops on small flashes for two days at the Creative Photographic Retreats in Dallas, Texas on July 24th and 25th. Come on up (or down) for the happy hour intro on the 23rd.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe you became a photographer for a reason that you never really thought of before?
For as long as I can remember I've been in love with the process of writing. One of my early heros was Vladimir Nabokov. He wrote beautiful sentences. He wrote wonderfully visual descriptions. And he wrote with an incredible ear for narrative. Many years ago I got a degree in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and started a career as a copywriter in the advertising industry. Sometime in the whole mess of becoming a real, dues paying, adult I got seduced by the promise of photography= that one could make art with less fuss and commitment.
Even though I consider myself to be a "middle of the road" photographer I've been able to make a living at it for a variety of reasons. Early on there were enough barriers to entry in the field so that you actually had to know what you were doing and how you were going to do it to make photographs. I picked up enough marketing smarts early on to be able to sell the sizzle instead of the dektol. I made enough friends in the business who needed fairly straightforward work from a reliable source and I rode the reliability horse for years without ever falling off.
But as I put my fourth book for Amherst Media in the Fedex last Thurs and the went out to celebrate over margharitas with Belinda it finally dawned on me what the allure is for me. It's note taking at its most immediate. Looking back over fascinating trips to Russia or Maui it's not the photographs I want to share when I get back home, it's the stories. I spent a week in Monte Carlo several years ago and I don't think any of my friends saw any of my photos. I sent what I needed to over to the client and got well paid but for me the thrill was in sharing the stories. I was the first American to set foot in the Alexander Palace in Pushkin, Russia a while back but I would rather regale my friends with stories about sneaking off to use the Czar's toilet than wave prints of the Catherine Palace Golden Ballroom in my friend's faces.
I suspect many of us were lured into photography for reasons that have never been clear to us. It was interesting to have this epiphany. Now I see the interconnection between the two crafts; writing and photographing. It's clearer to me than every before. It's all about the storytelling.
The image above is from one of the last Metro stations in Paris to still have wooden slat escalators. It was taken back in the mid 1990's with an old M3 and a 50mm. Great gear for preserving the feel of history and the flow of life.
Photographers shoot lots of stuff for other people and I think we get confused about the difference between what we create for an intended audience and what we should create for our more immediate audience: ourselves. If I were a psychology major I'm sure I could explain why the emotional need to satisfy others sometimes dominates, even in contradiction to our own best interests, our need to truly express our personal vision. Even if the result doesn't make people stand up and cheer it should cheer our own sense of discovery and playfulness.
I'm sure I attach far too much value to the criticism of others. It might be nice to work in seclusion for a spell. Anyway, I shot the above portrait of my dear friend, Renae, a few years back and I printed this because it seemed to me to be a part of Renae that spoke to her insouciance. It symbolized the part of our relationship that made her raise an eyebrow occasionally when I spoke about things I really didn't know much about. It took a commitment to shoot for yourself in the days of film. There was a financial cost to every frame. And though I wish I could go back in time and have all the money back that I spent on coffee and alcohol and pastries I don't regret any of the money I spent on film, processing and printing.
I just finished a few big projects and now I think I'll spend a week shooting just for myself.
It's Summer in Austin with a vengence. My car thermometer reads 114(f) on the pavement and it's 103(f) in the shade. My favorite art director is fleeing to Scotland and leaving me to roast. So I headed to the pool and caught up with my son, Ben. I've been finishing up a book about lighting instruments and couldn't find the image I did of him last year at the pool. We needed to redo it today.
He was as cooperative as I have any right to expect from a teenager.
I was using my favorite outdoor flash camera, the Canon G10. It was connected with a good old fashioned sync cord to the Profoto 600b battery powered unit and the head was spitting photons into a 40 inch white umbrella. All good clean fun. While I only needed to sync at 1/500th you can go all the way to 1/2000th of a second if you use a non-dedicated flash. That's pretty cool.
Stay cool wherever you are.
Time is ticking away and I'm spending more and more time in the office trying to read what I've written and write more of what I read that didn't make sense the first time. What a weird sentence. In case you didn't know I started writing books about photography a couple of years ago.
You'd think it's pretty simple because you are ostensibly writing about what you know but it's not that simple. Just because you know it you don't know where a reader who is coming from a totally different background will feel comfortable stepping in and easing into the flow of words and theories.
How do you presume what your audience knows? More importantly, how do you presume to know what they'd like to know? I think it's a sticky thing because if you write at one level to hit someone who is a complete novice you'll alienate everyone else and no one but tyros will ever read your stuff again.
So, here I am, a week away from deadline still adding information to a book that I thought would be a slam dunk. It's an overview of all the cool types of lighting equipment that photographers might want to try their hands at over the course of their explorations. But here's the issue: Some stuff seems really cool to the Magellans of the world but a lot of the world is made up of good, solid Burghers who just want to know how all the other pros do it.
At some point I gave up guessing and just started writing about the stuff that I'm interested in. Last week I was getting worried but this week I'm guardedly optimistic. I've finished my little sections about: Lighting with your laptop screens. Fun with florescence. Why constant light is my constant companion. Casting darker nets. And much more.
One way or another it goes into the Fedex box at the end of the week and then my brain shuts down and deals with only primordial stuff. Like actual photography. And boy I am long past due to walk around with no agenda and a camera in my hand.
Don't know how the big time guys with big time schedules do it (the Joe McNally's and Scott Kelbey's of the photo/writer world) but I presume the word for it in the publishing world is: Ghostwriters. (Don't take that too seriously! I'm sure Joe and Scott write their own stuff. I just have to say they've got more energy than the rest of us!).
On another note, I can't make sense of how people buy books. I am thrilled that they are still rushing to buy my first book, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, but I can't understand why the second book, the one on studio lighting, isn't beating the crap out of the first book. I think the second one is just great.
Since this is the web and we can do tons of good research here I'd like to hear from people who've read both of the first two books to better understand the appeal of the first over the second from something other than a proud parent's point of view.
Finally, I'm letting everyone know that I've been selling off all but my essential Nikon Stuff and I've started to buy some Olympus gear. Reason? I love their optics. Two lenses, the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm would suit me for 99% of what I shoot. And wow! have you played with an E-30 body? Really, really nice. It's about time someone made a fun to shoot body with good IS built in.
Keeping the D700 and a range from 18 to 300. Just about everything else goes.
No. I won't be letting go of the 50mm 1.1.2
It's that time of the year again. The Austin director of the Kipp Schools would like me to donate time and energy to help them with their annual report. Their AR is one of their principal fund raising tools. We've done the last four, won some Addy Awards and some local awards and generally helped move their game forward. The Kipp schools are non-profit charter schools that serve an incredibly important function. They provide a top quality, college prep education for children with brains and talent who are underserved in public schools. According to a huge article in the New York Times the people who do the Kipp schools have achieved amazing results. Given the opportunity the kids excel. They match the test scores of kids from affluent neighborhoods. Amazing stuff.
The job will take a couple of days of shooting on location. A couple days of post processing and a few meetings. They would like me to donate my services and I will. I'll do it because it's an educational cause I believe in, the economy has provided me ample free time, and it's a nice showcase for my work. Does this mean that I believe in doing free work as a means of promotion? No.
I've been following a thread on the web wherein the original poster complained about Google asking professional (meaning established, working designers) to submit spec designs for material that would be used on various websites. If accepted there is no other payment than the implication that one's work would be seen by millions of viewers.
This follows on the heels of various posts on the web that contend the only way to break into New York's closed circle of fashion magazines is to offer to work for free. Many people rushed to protest this point of view. And there is a an obvious disconnection.
Supporters of the "work for free" theory suggest that it will bring in massive amounts of commissioned work at highly profitable rates. They further suggest that this the paradigm of the future for artists so we should stop whining and get with the program. They point to photographic luminaries such as Joe McNally and David Hobby as examples of people who are giving away their photo knowledge and prospering. And here's the disconnect: David and Joe have products to sell that are different than photo commissions. They are selling books, DVDs and workshops. Their rationed release of information, and Joe's scintillating stories from the field have as their goal to sell product. Their blogs are not aimed at clients, in fact, if we are to be honest our advertising clients have little interest or time to cruise photographer's blogs. So while David and Joe are prospering by offering free samples they are prospering by selling intellectual property through these vehicles and not art.
For large companies to leverage their reach and their resources to exploit and extract time, intellectual property and art from single person businesses by making vague insinuations about the value of exposure is unethical and immoral. Helping out your family or your favorite cause is part of our common pact with each other and with civilization. Helping a major corporation become wealthier by becoming a "scab", and a free one at that creates inertia that pushes artists further and further away from being able to survive financially in this world.
There are those who argue that they have no obligation to support artists. I agree. The market will decide which artist succeed financially and which will fail. But I would argue that a person supported by his or her profession who muddies the waters of the creative markets by placing the aggrandizement of their ego over the welfare of society in general and, by extension, the fate of the arts, is making choices that will make our culture coarser and less compassionate. I think that's sad. If you are good enough to do the work you should be paid for it in real currency.
Here are my ground rules for donating my services as a photographer: The cause must be good. The entity must be a non-profit. The use of my art must conform to best industry practices. The final piece should have a clear goal and a clear set of metrics with which to measure success.
If you are a full time doctor, lawyer, IT guy, etc. and you are giving work to corporations for free that they would otherwise pay for you are disrupting a system that supports imaginative thinking and creativity. That's all.
I still do. Styles ebb and flow but I think the prevailing style of lighting that was coincident with your initial development as a photographer makes a mark on some inner aesthetic part of your brain. The style of your nascent brush with art locks you on a certain pathway.
For many of us old enough to remember the general interest magazines like Life Magazine and Look Magazine; and certainly National Geographic Magazine, the look that "locked" us was the gorgeous and incredibly well executed "available light" imagery. Little wonder that most of us still lust for cameras like Leica rangefinders with their fast sharp prime optics. To work back in that milieu required physical talent as opposed to technical talent. One had to be able to recognize and respond to good light and bad light with flawless technique. If you worked with the ISO 200 speed film of the day you learned to stand still and calm the tremors of human existence in a way that image stabilization and ultra high ISO sensitivities in digital cameras don't really demand. (Not to worry, this is not a rant about digital versus film.....)
I think the look hooked us for several reasons: 1. The shots weren't set up. No one needed to show up with an army of assistants and cases full of lights and stands in order to do their work. That meant the photographer blended in and was not part of the production. Kind of reversing the Heisenberg theory of affective subliminal interaction. No "Heisenberg Compensator" was necessary. Subject reactions, unfettered by the persistent visual patter of flashes, was more real, less self conscious. 2. The need for "speed" in order to hand hold cameras led to the design, production and wide spread use of really fast lenses. Some of which are still competitive with the best on offer from Canon and Nikon. Leica had the f1 Noctilux. Canon had a 50mm f (point) .9 lens. Even my old Olympus Pen FT sported a 60mm 1.5 lens. Now we get excited about a constant aperture f2.8 zoom? Really? The upshot of the fast lenses is a wonderfully thin zone of focus that makes the in focus subject the nexus of all attention and intention. 3. The images weren't subjected to endless iterations of post production. Nothing existed to save a mediocre shot or a shot that just lacked intrinsic interest.
I loved opening up a fresh copy of Life Magazine. Not all the images were wonderful, compelling or even midly interesting but the ones that were had the power to rivet young eyes for ages.
The world has changed. People entering photography now feel the overarching desire or need to imprint a personal style on every image they shoot so many settle on a style that is often a hodge podge of imitative steals and compulsively imprint that style on every frame they shoot. The tools have become more of a message than the message itself.
In the last month I've pushed myself to up my game. To handhold better, to see better and to improve the craft. You'll think I'm nuts (and maybe many of your already do) but I've given up a 25 year coffee habit in the quest to handhold better and to have the patience to see stuff worth handholding a camera for. I'm meditating in hopes of getting clearer and clearer about what I want to photograph and why. And I'm getting down right reductivist about the gear I want to shoot with.
I figure that with a D700 and a 50mm 1.1.2 and a fast 85mm I should be able to do good, compelling people work at a higher level than I would if everything were lit. And I do find that I'm having to watch the light with a patience I never did before.
Even though part of my livelihood depends on selling books about using lights I'll be the first to admit that some subjects don't need to be lit. They repulse the attempt. Nothing beats perfect light and nature makes a lot of it.
The above shot was done for a hospital group and is nothing much. But it catches my eye because of its candid nature and the perfect balance of light and contrast. It reminds me that sometimes getting even more MINIMAL garners maximum results.
As I was thinking about our society's collective compulsion to embellish reality and photographers' compulsion to use light as style I came across a verse in the good ole Tao Ching (Stephen Mitchell Translation) that reads:
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about other people's approval and you will be their prisoner.Do your work, then step back.The only path to serenity.
This Summer in Austin is off to a brutal start. We're on our third or fourth day of temperatures over 100 degrees (f). But we're not lucky like people who live is dry climates, our heat is usually accompanied by tons of humidity. Makes it seem all the more unbearable.
So my thoughts turn to swimming pools. Sure, you can spend your life in air conditioning but a good pool is a fabulous place to wile away a heat wave.
I photographed this pool a while ago. It was next to a really cool house, up on a hill in the western part of Austin, with a view that mainly consisted of cedar, oak and pecan trees. When I look at this image I'm reminded that sometimes good photography is more of a waiting game then a lighting challenge. I turned on the pool lights, got a glass of red wine and settled down in a chair to wait. Every once in a while I'd snap a photo to see what the balance between the pool lights and the landscape looked like. When we started getting close I put the wine down and started to pay attention. There's a few minutes when the balance is just perfect and it's good to be ready because it'll take at least another 24 hours until the scene looks just right again.....In the movie business they call it "magic hour" even though it only lasts for moments.
It was hot that day so I was trying to remember stuff like staying hydrated and keeping a handle on the location of my sunscreen. But if memory serves I used a Nikon D2x and a 12-24mm lens. We had a lighting plan if the existing stuff didn't work out but we never had to use it. Ran in a feature about pools in Tribeza Magazine.
It's almost seven p.m. and I've been backing up files to DVD's for hours. I'm shutting it all down and heading for my neighborhood pool. If everything works out well we'll run into friends there and have a beer or two as the night drops in and quiets everything down.
Hope you are staying cool.
For most of my career my friends and I lusted after the coolest lighting gear in the catalogs. But then digital came along and the high ISO's (of late) coupled with the ability to white balance just about anything gave us license to make our own stuff. And we have. With a vengeance.
There are two kinds of lights I'm interested in right now and both of them are continuous. I'm very interested to see what will be done with LED lights but wow! the prices are incredibly high right now. I hope Murphy's Law smacks LED lighting with a big stick so I can actually afford a few square feet of cool light panels instead of weighing whether it would be wiser to drop the same kind of money into a new car.....(But what photographer could ever give up a Honda Element??).
The lights I can afford to play with right now are florescents and boy, are they fun. The advantages?:
- If you buy individual units at a discount hardware store you can get them dirt cheap.
- If you want to make bigger banks you just buy a few more and lash em together. They're easily scalable.
- You can cover your banks with any kind of diffusion material you'd like.
- When you're finished playing around with them you can use the individual lights as work lights around the house and (with and inverter) in your car.
- People don't blink like they do when they are anticipating the flash from strobes.
- The soft glow makes for a quieter and more intimate portrait session.
- They don't heat up your studio or location.
- They don't draw a lot of current.
- If you want to upgrade to Kino Flo color quality you can sub the tubes for tubes from Kino. About $30 a whack.
- The quality of light looks different than the stuff lots of other people are shooting.
I've got two different commercial fixtures that were designed to work with compact florescent bulbs. The first is the Westcott TD-5. It "only" holds five compacts but it works well and it's heavy duty enough to work with 150 watt halogen bulbs instead.
I also just picked up the Interfit Cool Lite 9 for a whopping $279. It packs nine compact florescents into one spot, comes with a big, hard metal reflector and it's own small (40 inches?) octabank (which I'll never remove since it was so hard to attach.....) but it really puts out a bunch of light! After decades of working with flash working with continuous lights is kind of refreshing. You get a nice feel for how to light your photos when you see the images evolve in real time. It also makes a nice accent light at parties.
I'm having fun with mine.
Caption: Ben Tuck is holding up our latest creation. We called it Kitchen Lux. It's composed of four flo fixtures that were meant to be installed under kitchen counters until we liberated them for a higher calling. They are meticulously gaffer taped together and the bungee's are there to meet stringent OSHA standards for homemade lumen expellers. Is that tracing paper on the front? It's okay to try this at home.
The photos are put up in a disjointed manner but that seems fairly apt after a week of random chance and relative chaos. Since I last wrote I went back to Zachary Scott Theater for another round of shooting actors and patrons. In the spirit of randomness, here are some of my observations looking at a shoot like this in the rear view mirror of post shoot dysphoria.
No matter how many times you show a client an image on a tethered laptop or the high res LCD of a modern camera like a Nikon D700, when live models are involved they will keep asking for you to "shoot a few more frames of this", "Let's try that", "What if he holds the juggling pins one inch higher or lower?", Etc. It's all immaterial to the client. They're looking for chance to provide them with the ultimate combination of expression, pose and animation and they subliminally or liminally understand the basic theories of quantity and random chance. The client figures that if we "flip the coin" often enough eventually it will land perfectly on the edge and stay there, defying gravity and momentum.
What we understand as photographers is that the more high bit digital raw files we shoot the more cards we're going to fill up and the more files we'll have to color correct and convert for the client in anticipation of their final selection. No doubt someone will suggest that I should be shooting in Raw+Jpeg and just send the uncorrected jpegs to the client but I resist this for the same reason I resisted sending uncorrected proofs to clients.
Not all of them are savvy enough to understand how much can or will be done in post production. Some forget everything I've said to them about the workflow of making a selection and then telling me which selection so that I can do all the Photoshop magic. They sometimes just plug in a small jpeg, do their own destructive and rudimentary color correction (or destruction) and then send the whole piece out to the printer or onto the web and then blame the photographer for the ensuing chaos.
No, we do a global correction where possible and group corrections where necessary for the first pass. And we give them big enough jpegs so they can scroll around and look for details that might be important to them and invisible to me. Then, if they do stumble and throw the files at the printer, well, at least we'll be in the ballpark.
So, once all the files are delivered then the next shoe drops. The client calls to complain about how many files there are and how long it will take to wade through them. They ask, "Couldn't you just narrow all this down for us?" When we narrow things down for them and present ten of the best shots from each set they invariably come back to us and want to know, "How much did you leave out? We'd really like to see other options!" And the whole mad circle starts again.
The seeming lack of cost (the elimination of film and processing) is largely to blame for the ever escalating number of wedding images shot, variations of pose and expression shots, and just the sheer inability of clients to commit to a preconceived concept. A target to shoot toward. If all the candy in a shop is free then they become like children and want to taste each candy to see how they like it. And then they complain about the stomach ache.
This is not necessarily aimed at the Zachary Scott marketing staff because they do a pretty fine job of defining goals and they do their own exhaustive editing after the fact. It's a rant aimed at clients in general since the days of digital dug in and made life less profitable and more like working in a cubicle for most photographers.
I will say though that shooting sixty or seventy people over the course of a week really helps you nail down what you like and what you dislike about your lighting and your camera. In this case I have the vague wish that I'd shot everything with a Fuji S5 pro so I could use the "portrait film look" in jpeg instead of messing around with the D700 raw files. My client and I certainly didn't need the higher resolution and we're both grown up enough to be able to use jpegs with confidence. (Calm down, religiously raw shooters, the color temperature never changed and neither did the exposure....).
I wish I'd just added an additional, very low powered light just to add a little bit of sparkle to the subjects' eyes. That's about it.
Probably the most frustrating thing about a shoot like this is the communication concerning technical considerations. We had a meeting and we shared photo examples with each other. They loved a very, very shallow depth of field technique that I'd used before with a modicum of success. I was careful to explain how that shallow look worked and to let them know that perhaps just the nose, the eyes and the hairline would be in sharp focus. They nodded knowingly and then came to the shoot with props for each actor to hold out in front of them. "Can you get both the prop and the actor in focus?" Yes. And lots of other stuff too. Compromise, compromise. Well, I did shoot samples without the props at an fstop or two wider........
Kudo's to the incredibly smart people at Precision Camera and Video in Austin, Texas.
They put on the Austin Photo Expo and we got to hear great speakers like John Isaac, who is the advertising face of Olympus (and a great guy) as well as technical pros like Will Crockett from Smartshooter.com. I gave an hour long demo on my favorite lighting style and (admits modestly) the entire room was filled with overflow out into the hallway. And nobody bolted in the middle of the presentation.
In addition to the seminars and demos all the heavy hitters of the camera world, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Oly, and all the lighting guys were there in force showing off their latest and greatest while the guys at Precision sold pieces right off the floor at great discounts.
Ending up by asking a favor: If you've read my second book, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography, and you liked it, would you please consider posting a review of the book at Amazon.com? It helps get the book into the hands of more people and my publisher really likes that idea.
If you read the book and you didn't like it you are probably really busy and don't have time to mess with writing a review.........
Till next time, keep your CF cards well oiled and your clients well fed.