Film maker, Ben Tuck, shoots behind the scenes video on our Clutch Creative adventure.
Some shoots are just drop dead fun. Yesterday's creative shoot for a small ad agency (filled with big brains and even bigger ideas) was one of those really fun and satisfying jobs. I was hired to shoot photographs to be used on their website revision and Ben got hired to shoot the behind the scenes video of the sessions. As always he packed his trusty Sony a57 camera with kit lens, his Rode Videomic and his Gitzo tripod with a small, Manfrotto video head. That and a small bag containing a few batteries, memory cards and miscellaneous stuff.
I went all crazy and took a break from the Sony DSLT cameras in favor of using a bag full of Nex cameras. I packed two Nex 7's and one Nex 6, along with the 19mm and 30mm Sigma lenses, the 50mm 1.8, the image stabilized 18-55mm lens, and an assortment of Olympus Pen F prime lenses, with adapters, as support tools. My favorite non-Sony lens is still the Pen 60mm 1.5 lens which, when stopped down to f2 and beyond is just unreasonably sharp and snappy.
I'm not sure the Nex cameras make absolute sense in this kind of situation if you use them solely as available light systems but I decided to shoot with electronic flash and a big umbrella so the usual caveats about handholding and slower apertures really didn't apply. And given the right glass (like the 50mm or the 60mm Pen) these cameras are as state of the art (image-wise) as just about anything else.
My lighting consisted of my Elinchrom Ranger RX AS pack with one head firing into a Photek 60 inch Softlighter 2 umbrella. Worked very, very well.
Ben and I ate lunch at home and then we filled up the CR-V with our toys and headed over to the agency offices. Ben is learning to drive this Summer so he was piloting the craft. I was trying to both pay hyper-vigilant attention to all danger and also seem casually uninterested and unperturbed so I wouldn't undermine his confidence. We made it with no close calls and no father hand prints permanently embedded in the arm rests.
Ben rolled about an hour's worth of good, clean video and I shot a bunch of expressions and different set ups. It added up to about 700 images. I'm editing them down today. I decided to use the Nex cameras because I made the mistake of venturing over to one of the online discussion forums at the world's biggest website about photography and was overwhelmed with all the useless misinformation about what constitutes "professional photography." Their focus was all about "pro gear."
Where do the rubes get all this stuff? It's like a Spanish Inquisition about cameras. There's a whole deviant theology about how things can and can't be done (professionally) and most of the correspondents in the groups seem to be in lock step agreement about the liturgy of equipment. To wit: All professional cameras must: 1. Be large, bulky and bulletproof. 2. Be able to withstand a monsoon or breaking waves at Wakiki. 3. Be able to shoot frames almost as fast as a movie camera. 4. Must be able to focus almost entirely automatically and at the speed of light. 5. Must be frightfully expensive. 6. Must have an optical viewfinder. 7. Must come with lenses that range from 8mm fisheyes to 1200mm, f4 telephotos. 8. Must be able to transmit images wirelessly at the drop of a hat. 9. Must help you build muscle mass by providing impromptu weight lifting substitutes. 10. Must be either Nikon or Canon branded.
As I've said many times before, this kind of rigid adherence to the idea of how the business must have been run in the olden days is laughable. I'd go so far as to say that if you can't make a good image with the cameras you want to work with it's not worth pursuing the career in the first place. The inventory of gear is becoming more and more meaningless by the day. We don't need Arriflex movie cameras in order to make good videos for Vimeo and YouTube. We don't need Maseratis for an afternoon, rush hour commute and we sure don't need any stinking DSLRs to make great images for websites. Or anything else for that matter.
Ben's generation gets it. I offer him more esoteric cameras to shoot with but he routinely produces better programming than I can in video because he understands how important story telling, editing and catching the right action at the right angle is. While camera "A" may be marginally better than camera "B" it's all the intangible human talents that make something watchable or horrifyingly boring. And it's the same in still photography. If I were still working at an ad agency I think I would have come, by now, to fear the photographer in a khaki fishing vest who has the requisite three cameras and the requisite three lenses. Three Nikon D800s or Three Canon 5Dmk3s. The optically mundane 16 or 17mm to 35mm f2.8 lens. The beastly, large, ponderous and wallowing 24-70mm f2.8 and the OMG, everyone has the identical 70mm to 200mm f2.8 zoom lens. All of them in lock step. Everyone producing safe and boring images that all look alike.
Oh, I almost forgot; the nod to shallow depth of field....the 85mm 1.4 or 1.2 behemoth. Can't leave the studio without the fast glass bling. It's all so mundane and predictable. The supporting script is that somehow all the advertising professionals and magazine (which ones are still left?) photo editors are consumed with only using people who use an approved inventory of gear. My art director friends and my favorite graphic designer of 28 years are amazed that photographers buy this line of insanity for even a minute. They (the ad people) hire because they see images that they like in your portfolio and on your website. The cameras are meaningless to them. Totally irrelevant. If you show great work they believe you can deliver the same for them, and that all technical considerations are the responsibility of the artist. Almost always. There are exceptions but they are damn few.
Personally, I'd say that your presentation of post production skills trump magic glass every single time. But so do all the intangibles, like imagination and gesture and timing.
I like the images I produced for the ad agency. And they must like my work because they keep asking me back. We've shot for them with Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus and Kodak cameras. We even did a project on the old Sony R1 for them (which was gorgeous...). Same with lights. At the end of the day the most powerful tools are the ability to get along with people, the ability to see composition and lighting solutions clearly and emphatically, and the ability to make it fun. Yeah, fun. We purposely avoided getting jobs in cubicles or behind cash registers. The reason we did was to be able to make a living creating stuff. Walking around. Meeting people. Sharing ideas. Sharing visions. Telling a marketing story. We don't make our living as an all purpose rental house. And I don't think real clients want that either...