6.07.2009

More Stuff and Observations from the Hot Light Shoots
























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.

Best, Kirk