A photograph of Jaylen for a utility company.
There's something really great about photographing an ad and being in the right mental space. We did a series of "real people" in a campaign for a natural gas company and this kiddo was one of our real people. Kind of silly to even say that since no child under three years old can really be trained to do anything consistenty and predictably. This matched the art director's layout because we made it fun for Jaylen to be there.
This is image is one of four principle images we did for the campaign. Every piece of the campaign called for traditional photo skills. I sat with the art director and we discussed how the shoot should "feel". We determined the boundaries. How different could the laundry room we found be from the one in the comp? Exactly what kind of "feel" did our model need to convey? What kind of props would we need? What kind of outfits should we have available for the day of the shoot? Even, "will the client be there and will they need coffee?"
We scouted seven or eight laundry rooms to find one with the right configuration and enough space in which to shoot. Once we lined up the location we had to juggle days to find a slot when the location and the model would both be available. Pretty routine stuff.
The lighting was straightforward. One Profoto 600b bounced off the ceiling with a standard zoom reflector and a second 600b into a large translucent umbrella to the right of the camera. We used the 600b's not because we needed the power but because they could be turned way down, operate consistently and recycle almost immediately. At least as fast as the camera in short bursts. We also didn't want to run power cords around the room because it's just another thing to trip over.
I used an incident light meter to meter the space where Jaylen would be and metered in one foot increments so I could twiddle the aperture if he moved closer or further from the camera. I did a custom white balance before Jaylen stepped in. We arrived an hour before the model and made sure the set was lit and tested before he came in. That way we could work with him fresh.
In all, I took around 160 shots. In some Jaylen had the teddy bear upside down, or backward but whatever the orientation of the teddy bear we were all happy and encouraging. In the frame above we got exactly what the art director and client anticipated in the concept stage. In retrospect it all seem so simple. Just know exactly where the perfect, fictive laundry room is and how to get permission from a family who doesn't need your location fee. How to find a perfect model and have them come 100 miles to participate. How to be a child psychologist for the talent and a therapist for a nervous client who's "not sure this is gonna work!" Oh, and how to do all the camera and lighting work as well.
But you know, when it all works together there's such a feeling of accomplishment. And in a way we are more privileged than people in most other lines of work. We have a beginning a middle and an end. At the end of our projects we get to see a physical manifestation of our work. A finished piece of art. This morning, over coffee, our little sunday coffee group was talking about repetition in the workplace. We talked about how hard dentists studied only to end up doing pretty much the same thing over and over again through their entire careers. And how managers never see an endpoint or something they can point to and say, "I did that."
When you finish a shoot like this one there's a good feeling. And if you really like the finished piece you might put it in your portfolio or on your website. But it's always so much fun when, months later, you open your statement from the gas company and you see your work as the statement stuffer along with the invoice, and you can say, "I did this!"
Transitional Note: I closed my account at Flickr yesterday. For those of you who aren't aware of Flickr it is a big site where people can join groups like: The Strobist Discussion Forum (where people discuss how to light with small, battery powered flash unit) Or the Olympus Group (where people talk about the latest Olympus digital cameras and lenses). Each group has a pool of photos which they can share with one another and solicit comments and feedback.
I felt like I had become irrelevant to most of the group's participants. I'd posted many, many pages of stuff over the years but the nature of these giant forums is that there will always be newcomers asking the same questions that have been covered over and over again.
And like most forums composed of mostly men the questions and topics are much more geared to "how to" rather than "why". Call me cynical but I think all of the why is in the owner's manuals and the countless tutorials at YouTube, etc. I ran out of "how to" and decided that, rather than swim upstream I would bow out and leave the infinite discussions for those with more disposable energy.
The interesting things is that every resource like this starts out small and intimate. The feeling of support and mutual education is palpable. There reaches a certain point (think Seth Godin's ruminations on one's tribe never being able to exceed 450 people...) at which people see the resource as nothing more than a free web app which should correspond to their specific needs. At that point the things that made it a valuable resource for the early members vanishes. It serves a new need and a new market.
That's when the early dinner guests understand that there is a second seating and that their feast is over and the door beckons. Better to move on that trash the dining room. You never know when you might want to return for a meal.......
Important lesson: Spend less time talking about photography and more time doing it.