AC/DC as a lesson in photography

I was having lunch with my buddy Peter … everyone say “Hi


He is the guitarist and singer in two cool bands
Shimmersound and Quitters Anonymous. We got talking about the creative process,
as we often do, and he said something that really made me think. He said “Look
at AC/DC, they have great songs and all that but when you really listen to them
there is a total lack of ego there. At no time is anyone getting in the other
players way. Nobody is trying to show off and that is so rare.”

Photographers, like any working artist, wants to be allowed
to do their thing. We want to be the author of our work and don’t want to
sacrifice our grand and noble “artistic integrity” whatever that is. Lots of us
tend to do work that is in some way self serving. We are married to a technique we are fond
of, a process/look that we think is special, subject matter that we think has
more merit than others, whatever. You know the type. Maybe he can't possibly shoot without his ring light or has to do lots and lots of post processing. Nothing else will do.

Now I have said before that our work should
make ourselves artistically happy in the long run and I will always stand by
that. However it’s amazing how many photographers are tough to work with. We
can be demanding divas and petulant children and I don’t understand why these
folks get work.

I was just talking to an editor yesterday who let me know
that the image that I shot for the cover was being replaced by another image of
mine from the shoot. Seems that some editors didn’t “get it”. My reaction: why
should I care; I’m still on the cover so why freak out? I know that some
photographers would. Yeah the initial image was way cooler and the one they are
going to use is much more straight forward and to me rather boring in
comparison but I’m not offended by the switch and why should I be?

As I see it, when I’m hired I’m part of a team and my job is
to bring back to the client what they need with as little trouble as possible. Keep
it simple stupid, right? But I hear about other photogs who simply have to
bring a big entourage to the set or have specific demands on trifles such as
the snacks to be delivered during the lunch break and I just shake my head. How
does that kind of attitude effect the subject? Do they enjoy that kind of
energy coming from their photographer and does that help them relax and make
better photos? Eh!

Personally I try to make the process of making photos as
simple and fun as possible. I see myself as a problem solver and never want to
be adding to the stress. Hotel booked up? I’ll sleep in a tent. It’s raining? I’ll
do the shoot indoors. Subject having a rough day? I’ll work fast and make it
fun somehow. That’s my job.

It’s not about me. Ever. Yeah I have concepts and a style
and all that but it all has to work for the end result: a photo that makes the
client want to hire me again and to make an image that is fair to the subject.
I want the process to be invisible and for me to be just a dude that the
subject is hanging out with and not some pompous and demanding jerk. As such I
love to work with stylists and editors who are all about the artistry and not
the artist.

I did a quick and easy shoot this morning with a guy who has
been photographed quite a bit. I was walking the subject out of the studio he
said something to the effect that of all the photographers that he’s worked
with I was the easiest and most fun. That’s exactly what I want them to
experience: a fun time making some photos with nothing, especially me, getting in the way.

Behind a scene

Did a little spring fashion-y shoot the other day and thought that ya might want to take a gander. I did it a little backwards as is my usual method. First I didn't want, if possible, to to use typical 19 year old gal who is a size 2 or 4 as the piece was aimed at women in their 30's. We got lucky and found two ladies who are gorgeous but exotic looking in their own right so I wanted to use both of them for the contrasting looks.  The studio that we used is rather small so I made the best of it.

First off I wanted to use softboxes as edge/separation lights but because of the size of the studio I ended up using two small Chimera softboxes instead of the mediums that I initially wanted to use. Frankly I couldn't fit two mediums in and not be crowing the area that I had to work with. The softboxes give a bigger and glow-ier light on women than a hard light like a grid spot and I wanted the ladies to not look etched by the light. I also wanted a big soft light on them but wanted the light mainly high for the jawline shaping that a high light produces. Since I was going to have them move about I used my 60 inch shoot though umbrella because it throws light in a curve rather than a flat plane as softbox does. It also gives a round catchlight which is more natural looking than that of a rectangular softbox. I used another head with a 20 degree grid to be placed just above my head to act as an on axis fill to keep the eyes and shadows open. The camera, a Nikon D700 and AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 was tethered to my laptop.

The diagram looks like this:
Fashion lighting

For your amusement I put my old Nikon D200 with my AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 on a tripod set as an interval timer, cranking a shot every 15 seconds so that we could see how things transpired. And it looks like this: