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Red Bull & Snickers - The Anatomy of a Photoshoot

December 15, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Red Bull & Snickers - The Anatomy of a Photoshoot

We are often asked how we go about a Photoshoot.

Some people think we turn up somewhere nice with a model and snap away.  Then we spend hours with our heads welded into Photoshop at the expense of all social life.  Some people may do this - actually I know for a fact that some people do this!  Not us.

For the most part I suspect people know that it is not all about editing for hours on end.  A shoot for a hour will produce about 15 - 20 images, and probably about 10 - 15 minutes worth of editing.  I have a life, and would rather prepare a nice three-course meal, have a cold cider, eat some home-made chocolates and watch a great film.

Female photographic model at Pirate Castle in Camden LondonOur client on location in LondonOur client on location in London

The majority of time is spent beforehand in planning and executing the shoot.  For us, it's all in the preparation and planning.  Finding a great location is one thing.  But also we have to consider the time of day we will shoot, and the direction of the sun, and any changes in weather.  It's also good to consider when the location may be busy and overrun with people.  However, in the case I am going to go through here, we chose Sunday afternoon, in daylight, in a very busy area just outside Camden Market where the canal goes past.  We don't like to have things too easy!  This was the only time we could be there, the only time our client (the model) was available, so we needed to be aware of all the joggers and cyclists going past, and also the fact it was daylight - which wasn't at all what we wanted.  But, onwards and upwards.

Location Photoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, LondonLocation Photoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, LondonLocation Photoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London

Our client was the model.  We were shooting for her and her portfolio, so it wasn't a case of hiring a different model that was available at other times - the client comes first - and she wanted Camden Market at that time on a Sunday afternoon.  It is the job of a photographer, filmmaker, or any small business to build everything around the client and their wishes.  A satisfied client is one who will love you forever, recommend you to others, and return again and again.  It's something that some small businesses overlook.  But I am not here to give you business advice, but to talk you through what actually happens on a pro photoshoot.

We have the location, with this very thought-provoking graffiti.  Our mood board with all it's sketches and plans have the theme of "Das Mädchen unter der Lantern".  It's the original German version of "Lili Marleen" the song made famous by Marlene Dietrich, who also gave her name to a type of lighting pattern used in portraiture.  Basically the "The Lady Under The Lamplight" - there are several versions of the song, the original German and well as English and alternative translations to suit different propaganda viewpoints.  Lily may be a street walker, or she may be waiting at home for her love who is away at war, and this is the version I prefer.  It also fits in with the artwork on the wall.

Location Photoshoot in Camden, LondonLocation Photoshoot in Camden, LondonLocation Photoshoot in Camden, London

We already are working in a space that is quite tight, with the canal right behind us, and the choice of lens is the next consideration.  Wide angle for this, but also watch for distortion and leaning verticals.  Light - this is always important.  We don't want the daylight - so to get rid of it we have to overpower it.  Powerful heavy-duty flash heads like our Elinchroms with High-Sync capabilities are wonderfully useful and versatile - but they can be somewhat heavy, and ideally the heads set up on lighting stands, and there are too many people jostling around each other to risk this.  Quick question - how many of you photographers have Public Liability insurance?  If someone falls over your equipment there is always a solicitor who will advise them to make a claim.  It's shocking how many photographers aren't insured against this.  And I swear I once had a man who was doing his utmost to come around barriers, ignore warning signs and all attempts by me to tell him to go away just so that he could try his luck at falling over something in order to rinse me for cash.  Luckily nothing happened and he got fed up and went away - probably to try making a nuisance of himself somewhere else. Photoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, LondonPhotoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, LondonPhotoshoot at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London Anyway, can't risk that here - so a hand-held flash head on a very long pole held by my assistant was the order of the day.  I love the old Metz 45 "Hammerhead" flash gun.  Very powerful, not too heavy, and built to last.  Full power, fairly close to the model client and held at an angle from the sloped walkway overhead as if it were streetlight.  We used a simple CTO filter (Colour Temperature Orange) over the flash for a slightly warm feel, like the old Sodium orange street lights.  We set the colour temperature of the camera slightly above this so that it still registered orange.  We couldn't set the temperature to 3200°K (Tungsten) because then it would have removed the lovely warm glow.  Never set the camera to Auto Colour Balance as it will do it's best to try and cancel out the effect of any colours you are trying to create for mood.

Female PortraitFemale PortraitFemale Portrait Expose for the light coming from the flash head.  Use a meter!  You need to know the volume of the light coming onto your subject.  Never the amount bouncing off and coming into the camera.  If you have the model wearing white or black then you will get two different readings even if the amount of light remains the same.  And what you need to know is always the amount of light!

Expose for the light falling onto your subject, and if it is greater than the amount of ambient light just bouncing around during the day and minding it's own business, then it will have little effect on the image.  Hey presto - you will have overpowered the daylight!  Obviously bright sunlight in the middle of the day is best avoided if possible, and it may be necessary to have super-powerful heavy-duty flash heads and a very high shutter speed. You will also need special Female Photo Model in Camden, LondonFemale Photo Model in Camden, LondonFemale Photo Model in Camden, London flash heads as well as specialist flash triggers to fire the lights.  These can be very expensive and probably not necessary unless you are shooting full-time for high-quality advertising and commercial work.  They are lovely to work with, and make our life easier - but in this case, at this location, we can get just as good results with a workaround solution.

This is all very intense, and we have to be pro-active rather than reactive.  We have to see the shots, change the lighting subtly, check that there are no shadows or other distractions which we may discover later when we can't alter anything.  Our heads are running like the rev counter in your car when it begins to enter the red zone.  How we do manage to keep going at such intensity?  Simple - caffeine and sugar.  That's where the Red Bull and Snickers come in.  I know, health warnings!  It's only for a short while, and we don't shoot day-after-day.  We have client meetings, pitches to make, brand strategies to develop, mood boards to create for advertising photography campaigns, and story-boards to draw for commercial films.  Not least the campaign schedules, the video production, even recording the music and sound effects where necessary - and a lot of this audio production is also done in-house.

The Finished Image!

Photoshoot with female photographic model at Chalk Farm Road, Camden, LondonPhotoshoot at Camden, LondonPhotoshoot at Camden, London

But, for a shoot, our regular clients know us for bringing along bottles of energy drinks which we swig from with wild abandon, and also packets of chocolate snacks which we also devour with gusto.  We've become known for this way of working!  There, I've given you photography tips as well as an insight into how Bergit and I really work on a photoshoot!

PS - it doesn't have to be Red Bull & Snickers - other brands are available!

 


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