Saturday, September 22, 2007

I love it whan a plan comes together!

I'm not sure if all photographers have a favorite shot, but I do.
This is it.
The food stylist was Alyssa Alia. She is, I think, my favorite food stylist. The client was... Alyssa Alia.

It was sometime in late summer, and Alyssa and I had just finished a full day of shooting beautiful recipes. We had agreed to work on a holiday card for her after that job was done. Alyssa made the mousse, brought the cranberries and the ivy. I provided the glass and the red velvet cloth. That was all we needed.

I always have a clear picture of the day's shot in my mind before I shoot a job. Sometimes it takes a while to make the shot on a set look like the shot in my head. This time it all just fell quickly into place. In less than an hour, the food was prepared, the cranberries were sugared
and everything was arranged. I tilted the camera, composed, lit and carefully focused the shot. The shot you see is the shot we saved. You might notice, that the light and focus are working together in this shot to lead your eyes to the mousse itself. That's the product. Well, sort of. I guess Alyssa's awesome talent was the real product for this shot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Rich & Famous

Yes, It's still all about light & focus, but sometimes, there are many things trying to draw your attention away from that. Shame, shame...

I am guessing the Manning brothers are rich. I know they are famous. If I had attempted to work magic on light & focus on the day of the shoot, I would have been side-lined by overseeing the 30 clients, managers, and crew that were milling around.
Each one has a question or opinion. What's for breakfast, or lunch? Where should I set up for hair and makeup? Where's the bathroom (they somehow always ask the photographer). Where's the product? Where is the studio? Between the phone and the people on site, there is little time to set up lights. On top of all of that, when you are shooting (photographing) people, famous or otherwise, you need to give them your attention and direct them. Ideally, the creative director speaks to you, and you direct the "stars" as you have been told.

Therefore, even though this was a very expensive studio in NYC, my wise client (Fred Weber from Edge-Design) insisted that we go in the night before (additional rental) to get all set up. We used a lighting I teach at a University class. I blew the background out evenly 1 1/2 stops brighter than the huge Elinchrom Octa-light that we used on the Mannings. Some of the shots had both brothers and the dad, so the Octa-light did a great job giving them all a soft Rembrandt light. The perfectly lit background allowed the clients to put in their own backgrounds easily.

All three Mannings were delightful. I can't remember any rich and famous person that we have photographed that hasn't been great. I guess they're just human after all. Just remember that those around them expect you to give them all of your attention, so take care of the important stuff before they show up. And that is the light & focus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pretty Picture

In case I've forgotten to mention it. It's all about controlling light and focus.

This shot was for a catalog client, and is sort of an homage to Jimmy Moore, a fashion photographer who died this year. Some thoughts about this shot:
It's a great idea for young photographers to assist established pros who's work they admire. Most commercial photographers aren't great teachers, but as you clean and carry equipment, you see how the business is done, and how different photographers control light and focus. This shot was set up with a huge shoot-through umbrella, a white table, and lots of fill cards, just like Jimmy did when I assisted him years ago.
Another thought;
I just started shooting catalogs this year. It seems to nicely fill in the spaces between my regular clients. With catalogs, you have to shoot quickly to get through all of the shots, but no one cares how you light as long as the product looks great. I run through all sorts of lighting. Super soft beauty like this, super hard spot lights, all sorts. It helps to keep me on my toes, and it's fun! By the way, this shot was supposed to be inside the catalog, but the clients all loved it so much, that they made it the cover.
So far we've looked at pizza, a rock band, and now a beautiful model. Trust me, the basics are all the same: we control light and focus to make the "product" shine through.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Light & Focus

Remember, in this place, it's all about controlling light and focus.

Last time we showed one of our favorite pizza shots that we did for A&P Pizza packaging.
Look at our web site. We are asked to shoot so many different things, why, even rock bands.
Pizza / rock bands? Remember, we believe with our whole hearts, that commercial photography is all about light, and focus. No matter what you put in front of us to shoot; we simply look at it, peek at the layout, talk to the art director, and control light and focus to make it the center of attention.
Shots like rock band photographs (which are amazingly similar to fashion shots), seem to require more physical work than the pizza shot. For this shot, we had to drag heavy strobes and cameras up to a 3 story roof in Nyack NY. Once we recovered from that, we had to constantly adjust the camera exposure throughout the shoot as the sky grew darker, however, the strobe exposures stayed pretty much the same, and we were able to concentrate on keeping the band jazzed (or calming them down). On the pizza shoot day, we only did 4 different kinds of pizza, and ended up with 4 final pizza images. On the rock band shoot day, we gave the client almost 300 files. There were a ton of great ones, and the client was very happy.
Still, what makes this shot fun and effective, is the hard light on the "boys", and the cool sky behind. Yes, we paid attention to the band, but it's the light and focus that makes the shot.

Good Recipe

Alright, here's a question:
What is the recipe that guarantees a commercial photograph for a business will result in increased visual traffic and thereby, sales?

I think there are three ingredients which, when added together, always result in a photograph that helps to increase sales (that's a good thing).
1.) First you need an experienced photographer who appreciates each client, seeks to understand their needs, and works to oversee a peaceful, creative day of photography.
2.) Second comes the need for a photographer to have an appreciation of lighting. Creative use of light and shadow controls a consumer's eyes to a specific place in a photograph where your product rests.
3.) Lastly is the effective use of focus. A consumer will always look at something in focus rather than something that is blurry. By having your product in a photograph sharper than the balance of the shot we can, once again, direct a consumers eyes to the product being advertised.
When these three ingredients are used together, the result is a great day of photography in which you and your product are the star.