Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shooting for Big Business

"Big," when referencing businesses is, of course, a relative term, but for me, I recently had the opportunity to shoot for one of Alamogordo's largest (if not THE largest) home builders.  It was definitely 'big' for me, as I was hired by French Brothers to shoot team photos and portraits, when they were looking to update their site.  Not bad for a guy that has a portfolio of kids and families, eh!?  This is exactly where I want to move my focus the professional/commercial realm.

When I was first contacted, the request was to add a bit of "fun" to their team/group photo and I began thinking about how I might be able to do something different from the norm - my first thought went to one of my grandfather's old Kodachromes, where a group of friends were getting together at a going away party.  It's a candid, snapshot type of photograph, which brings a sense of "real-ness" to it, the lighting is pretty good for old-school on-camera flash, and the composition of faces moves the eye around the frame.

With this as a template, I knew I would need an interior of a home.  As would be expected, French Brothers have an excellently decorated model home just up the road from my house.  Perfect; a group portrait, shot in a casual style, in a home built by their company, and decorated by the same VP that contacted me to do the shoot:

The above is from one of my "test" shots...shot with ambient light, and was just a rough draft that I could then take back home and figure out lighting positions and any possible compositions of the subjects.  I also realized that the glass in the photo frames might pose a bit of a challenge if I start throwing some off-camera light towards any subjects there...but more on that later.

This is from my first session with some of the French Brothers employees.  I have two speedlites camera left shooting into a reflective umbrella, and one speedlite in a shoot-through umbrella camera left.  I had the lights about 10-12 feet back from the subjects - this allows for a more even coverage of light (at the expense of a stop or two of strength), although the guy on the left is a little "hot" relative to the others since he was closest to the key (something easily fixed in post, but just wanted to highlight here).  I added the camera right light to provide some fill, and to reduce any shadows against the back wall.  

In this photo, along with the others I got that day, I felt I had captured a nice candid moment (natural smiles and laughs), along with a decent composition that would work well for use on a web page.  As it turned out, though, not all of the team members were able to make it for the shoot this day, so we'd have to re-shoot a few weeks later.  Also, the VP that hired me wanted to move away from this casual approach to the more 'posed' look - no problemo!  (...side note: I had them say "housing recovery" instead of "cheese" - know your audience!)

So, a few weeks went by, and the re-shoot was scheduled.  It was the same location, and this time with everyone able to attend.  The "first draft" shoot really helped me nail down my lighting, and now that I knew that we were going for a more 'straight' approach, the pressure of trying to capture folks in a candid moment was relaxed a bit - but, I still wanted a good, welcoming 'feel'.  I used the same lighting set-up as before.  Here's two that ended up being used on their site:

Here it is on their website

Here this one is on their website

I know I mentioned earlier about the glass on the back wall potentially posing a problem of reflecting light back towards the camera, and I was right - I just couldn't get the umbrellas far enough to the sides to eliminate them.  So, knowing this, I made sure that I took a few frames without the speedlites firing and used those to paste back into the photo.  Here's what the original looks like (notice some of the other cleaned-up items, like the fan and the green leaf on the right):

Lesson learned here, is to recognize where potential issues may crop up and take steps to be able to fix them later in post.  I'm not a huge "photoshopper" - in the sense of massive retouching - but I am a huge advocate of using Photoshop to clean up distracting elements in an otherwise solid composition.

All in all, it was an awesome experience where I took away a few good lessons-learned - some in photography, but even more in business, but I'll save that for another day.  Thank you to the French Brothers team for making it a fun experience, and for giving me a shot at commercial work that supports local business*!

*I ended last year with a Masters of Fine Art class final project that focused on locally-owned small-business owners, which I have displayed in the 'people' section of my fine art web gallery...enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment