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Our team recently had the opportunity to photograph an editorial fashion spread for So Scottsdale! Magazine. The theme of the shoot was workout apparel so we made a creative “fit” for the photo shoot – pardon the pun.
The work for the full day shoot actually began a few weeks before the project date. After being assigned the campaign I did an initial creative planning session by myself. During this I focused on the big picture of how I wanted the spread to look and feel. I made notes on the type of lighting I wanted as well as the post production look the magazine’s Art Director hoped to see. I went through my collection of swatches (which are samples I tear out from magazines or advertisements) for additional inspirations and ideas. The next step was to do a site visit of the photo shoot location.
The Art Director and I made to review the sponsor location which involved checking out each of the potential shoot areas, taking test shots and checking light readings based upon the time of day. The Art Director and I then sat down over a quick bite to eat to shortlist the ideas to the best ones for the 8-page spread including not one, but two, alternative concepts should something not work out.
I went home to finish the storyboard and sketched out concepts related to specific areas of the location making notes of both poses and lighting for each set up we were going to be doing.
A few e-mails were exchanged with the Art Director and myself to firm up details. Meanwhile the Art Director was busy booking the talent from their agency and the magazine’s stylists were pulling a variety of clothing options from numerous retail sponsors.
The morning of the shoot, myself and my assistant met with the Art Director and stylists early while the talent were in hair and makeup to select the specific outfits to go with each of the areas we were shooting at. We discussed with the hair and makeup team the look and feel we wanted the models to have as well.
Then it came to actually doing the photo shoot, after a significant amount of prep work. Creatively for the shoot I wanted to use as much color and natural light as possible. Unfortunately a big storm came in during the first shot we were doing which killed all of our natural light coming in through the windows. We had to improvise quickly and began using large light modifiers such as large softboxes, octaboxes, a large 5×5 shiny board as well as a strong backlight flaring into the lens to give the shots as much light and vibrancy as possible – oftentimes attempting to mimic natural light by using artificial light.
When it came to posing, the Art Director and I did not want the talents addressing the camera so we kept their posing to feel as if they were in motion or some form of action in a majority of the shots. Before each set we would show the talents examples of poses to try then allowed the talents to work the scene while offering direction when needed.
Because we had successfully planned the shoot before hand, we found ourselves running 2 hours ahead of schedule near the end of the day. This extra time permitted us to review the entire shoot to see any weak points. During this review we decided to shoot one of our alternative concepts in addition to what we had already done. Why excuse everyone when there is still ample time on the clock to work to make a better picture?
Taking the opportunity to work on this contingency shot worked to our benefit as it was one of the shots that appeared in the final spread.
After the photo shoot, the models’ work was done – however the rest of the team was not near finished.
It started with me shortlisting the images. On my initial pass of the thousand or more images I shot yielded a shortlist of around 350 options. I took a day to look at it again with fresh eyes where I was able to whittle it down to between 50-and-70 options that I could share with the Art Director and the rest of the editorial staff. From this shortlist they selected the 10 images they wanted edited for the spread.
My post production efforts for these shots concentrated on bumping up the contrast, color and giving the skin a smooth gloss-like finish which was requested by the publication.
After post production the project was then on the shoulders of the Art Director to piece together the spread which included a double truck opener plus six other full page images for a total of 7 images being used on 8 pages.
Some photos were omitted because the style was too distant from the cohesive theme and style of the set. It was important that the final spread look and feel like a unison piece. Other images were omitted due to lack of space.
In reflection, although we only work on a few fashion spreads a year, it is something we enjoy for its creative challenge and opportunity to test new styles and approaches to our photography work.
It was about two weeks ago that Arizona Cardinals Cornerback Patrick Peterson signed a contract extension which made him the highest paid corner in the NFL today.
It just so happened to be a coincidence that this occurred on the very same week that my photos of Peterson were published on the cover and interior spread of the new issue of Scottsdale Health Magazine.
Over the past few years my team and I have had the privilege of working with multiple professional athletes including players from the NFL, LPGA, NHL, MLB and NBA.
We’re occasionally asked about how these shoots work from a behind the scenes perspective including the pre-production (storyboarding, planning, logistics, etc) to the shoot itself (how it is run, working with the professional athlete) and then post production.
Now each of these photo shoots have been completely unique and working with professional athletes can add a bit complexity as you often don’t have a lot of time but still have a number of different shots to make.
There have been shoots with professional athletes were we had a total of 15 minutes to make enough images for a cover and for an interior spread.
Fortunately with this photo shoot we were given a lot more time – but in either case (and out of respect for the athlete’s time) a lot of planning is done prior to the photo shoot.
The pre-production began with conversations between myself and the magazine’s Creative Director Anthony Cox.
I’ve enjoyed working alongside Mr. Cox for the better part of five years and have worked on probably 50-60 different magazine covers together for three different publications plus a number of other interior spreads.
Having this history is extremely helpful in the conceptual process as we are able to have extremely productive creative brainstorming sessions. Over the course of a few e-mails and phone chats we swapped ideas back and forth and landed on making three separate types of photos in the time we had.
The first was the cover which, to keep with the branding of the magazine, needed to be shot on white seamless.Secondly we wanted him in some action shots for part of the interior spread. Lastly we wanted a casual attire to complete the spread.
We noted a few specific poses and set ups we wanted and I jotted down the lighting styles we needed to do.
It is important to do as much prep work as possible so that no time is wasted on set trying to figure out what to do.
The next step was to find a location to do the photo shoot at. My assistant and I had worked together at this indoor training facility which had a turf field as well as enough space to set up our mobile studio. Being that I had worked there previously – I knew what to expect in regards to setting up lighting.
The day of the shoot we arrived on set early to allow us to set up. I wanted every minute we had with Peterson to be used shooting as opposed to having him wait for us to get ready.
The flow of the shoot was to accommodate what he would be wearing (to prevent him from having to change back and forth between outfits which can take a lot of time). So we structured the shoot in the following order.
1. Studio shots in full jersey and pads
2. Action shots in pants, no pads or jersey.
3. Studio shots in casual outfit.
For the studio images I wanted there to be a strong edge light to separate Peterson from the white background as well as to add some dimension to the image.
For lighting we used 4 strobes on the white seamless to keep the light consistent across the backdrop. We then used 2 rim lights with stripboxes to edge light our subject. The main light I wanted a nice specular light so I used a white-lined beauty dish.
On the first shots it was a bit too specular so I added the diffusion sock to give me the effect I wanted. As a fill light, I added a light with a large softbox on the ground under the subject to fill in some of the shadows I did not want. I kept about 1.5 stops between the main light and fill light as I still wanted some shadow and drama coming from the beauty dish.
We ran through a variety of shots including holding the ball, holding the helmet, running towards the camera, in a defensive position and even catching the ball in front of the backdrop.
From there we moved to the action shots using the indoor turf. Myself and my assistant quickly shifted the lighting gear. For this we used three lights only.
I wanted the background to fall completely to black and all the light to be focused only on the subject.
I edge lit him with two strobes using the stripboxes and kept the main light as the beauty dish.
We marked the spot he needed to hit for each photo and ran through another few variations of poses and action moves.
After every cluster of images we did I allowed the creative director to see how the shots were coming out – if the lighting was working for him, if there was anything else he wanted added into the shot and so on.
We then finished the shoot off by having Peterson wear a casual outfit. To make this last portion of the shoot look different, we placed him right against the backdrop and used only a single light (the beauty dish – only this time without the diffusion sock).
The look I wanted was a hard light that would cast a shadow of him against the backdrop. Placing him close to the paper roll and using the single light source achieved this.
We had a few other pose ideas for this final portion of the shoot which included some casual stances with hands in the pockets as well as a few gripping one football and finally a last shot of him holding two footballs – which is the one that ended up going into the magazine. And just like that – the shoot was over in what seemed like a flash.
After the photo shoot came the shortlist. I typically like to give about a day between the shoot and when I shortlist the images to allow myself to approach the shoot with fresh eyes and mind. Every photography approaches this a bit different but I have a two step process.
I first go through all the images and flag whichever images jump out at me as being interesting and worth noticing. After I do that I then take a second pass through only the images I flagged and remove the ones that don’t need to be considered.
I send the final shortlist over to the creative director for him and the rest of the magazine’s staff to make their final selections.
The publication ended up selecting five total shots (a cover, an image for the table of contents page, and three images for the interior spread).
What I feel made this shoot a success was the planning myself and the creative director were able to do leading up to the project, having a reliable assistant who worked quickly on set to minimize downtime between the shots and finally that we had a fantastic subject who was extremely easy to work with and made the shoot a lot of fun.
Hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes feature of the photo shoot as much as I enjoyed piecing it together!
It is about 8 in the morning on a Friday in Arizona and I’ve already been at it for a few hours cranking away e-mails, photo edits and taking a moment to send off a blog article. Last night I fell asleep on my living room floor surrounded by several notepads of notes and ideas.
I had just gotten back from a week working in Los Angeles. Three 11-hour-days in a row shooting on the beach at sunset as well as in a gritty and intense gym. You can see the behind the scenes video from one of the days here.
We came back to Arizona for another photo shoot in Scottsdale. I took a quick trip home to wash clothes, see the dog and then it was back on the road to work with actress and now author Gena Lee Nolin for an upcoming publication cover and spread.
After the shoot it was back home to shortlist the images and send them off to the magazine’s art director for review.
I had a moment to grab dinner before I fell asleep (amongst all my notes). Today I wake up to a new magazine cover in my e-mail that just came out. I quickly post it on Facebook as I am getting ready to leave town again for a few days to shoot another magazine cover and spread as well as photographing a team of fitness competitors before their upcoming show.
I will get to be home a total of three days before I am then jet setting off to Las Vegas to work for five days there. Hopefully will have time to grab a Yayo Taco and then it is back to Arizona to crank out some work here.
Before I know it I have to be back in Las Vegas for Olympia and then immediately head out to Los Angeles for another publication feature my team and I are doing.
This is all being done while still running The Pro Exposure podcast, launching a new e-book, printing a new hard copy book of my photography work and constantly pushing to grow my business and career from Good to Great.
I’m now on my second cup of coffee for the mor
ning. I just did a gear check for my weekend of shoots and popped a few ibuprofen to kill the headache I woke up with.
I’m exhausted, tired and spent. My eyes are puffy and blood shot. My body aches from constant movement and little rest.
But… I am extremely happy. If I wanted to, I could simply take a day off to sleep… however I’m energized and motivated by what I’m doing.
Who would have thought that living this lifestyle was possible? I don’t sit in an office all day nor do I attend endless meetings.
I travel, I make pictures, and I love every day that I can continue to do so.
I am at the helm of my own pirate ship. Destination for only me to decide.
Second coffee is down and I need to throw my clothes in a bag and get on the road.
Where are you taking your own pirate ship today?