Penny's Pastries. Getting the feeling right.

We were doing an article for Inc. Magazine when I met Penny. She'd opened a baking business and had been pushed into bankruptcy because a big customer pushed her to grow too quickly and then moved on to a different product from a different supplier.  She learned a lot from the experience and set out to start over. That was the story.  It was a cold and gray day outside and we were still working with film.  Medium format transparency film.  Probably 100 speed Fujichrome by the look of this frame.

I knew I wanted  to light Penny with a big soft light and I knew I needed to light the ovens in the background to give the image a sense of dimensionality and place.  But the biggest thing that was needed was to make some sort of connection with Penny that would make the image genuine.  We talked about baking and food.  We talked about the challenges of business.  Once the lighting was set I didn't monkey with it for the rest of the shoot.  I figured that if there wasn't some sort of rapport all the lighting in world wouldn't make a difference.

We all hit it off.  Penny got a nice profile in the magazine.  We got a bag of great cookies.

It's nice when everyone is on the same page.  Makes me happy to think about it even now.  I guess that's why photography is so cool.


Kurt Shoens said...

This picture illustrates what I love about your commercial work. You've got your subject in just the right proportions with the environment. There's enough context to make it work while not having too much context to overwhelm the subject. The set looks natural rather than contrived. The lighting does its work without calling attention to itself.

You're probably tired of writing books for a while, but an advanced book about principles of this sort of portrait would be fantastic. Assume that your readers know how to light it (and when not to) and just take us through the thought process of building the picture. Show us a variety of situations, what's easy/hard about each one, and where it pays off to concentrate your energy in each.

Writing a book like that is a big investment. It would also be fun to have a book that collects some of your favorites from your career with brief captions. That's blog material, of course, but sometimes a book is nice. A book like that might be self-published with less effort than a full-tilt instruction book.

The photographer Wyatt McSpadden that you've praised here previously also does this sort of work beautifully. I've got to go back to study your work and his.

Wess Gray said...

If there are people in the photograph, it's always about the relationship ... lights, f-stops, lenses ... they are just there to give us some time to develop the rapport!

Anonymous said...

Kirk, When it comes to portraits you are a genius. Don't know how you make everyone look interesting and comfortable at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I love photography but many times I'm more interested in the story of the picture. What's great about you is that you give the technical as well as the story of what the picture's situation was. It makes for a great read during lunch. Keep up the great work.



James Frederick Bland photography said...

Very rich skin tones. Well played.