Life in the booth.

Gloria. Samsung Galaxy NX. 60mm Len. 

I've never been a "booth babe" before. I've been to a lot of trade shows and photographed tons of corporate events as a show photographer but this was a first for me. There something both magical and mercenary about pretending to be plying your trade (portraiture) in front of a mob that ranges from keenly interested and kind to downright sociopathic and demanding. I've rarely felt as exposed. But once you steel yourself up it kind of grows on you.... Like breaking in new shoes.

In the Samsung booth Nick Kelsh and I were shooting with our cameras electronically tethered to a rather large and impressive television and this meant that, with constantly on live view, everything we pointed our cameras at was shown simultaneously to everyone around the booth. Every snap we reviewed was popped up on the "big" screen ---real time. So, when we flubbed exposures or got the most horrible expression from a model imaginable the results were there for our ever changing panel of "judges."

Every once in a while I'd push the wrong series of buttons on my camera in way too quick and chaotic a manner and the camera would give me an error message. The "fix" was generally a quick jab at the power button and we'd be back in business but I'd always get rattled and hand my camera to Andrew, our technical wizard. He'd push the requisite two buttons and hand the camera back with a smile and I'd go on shooting.

I found out that there is, at some point of the day, going to be a show attendee who hates your brand, loves his chosen brand and is dropping by your booth to be as obnoxious as possible. But until everyone starts throwing punches you really can't call security. But you can try to change the conversation to something else....or pawn him off on a booth "expert" in your camp. Goes with the territory. 

So, what did I learn in my close embrace of the general public for three days? Well, it's much easier to demo a camera if you look at the big screen on the back or the even bigger screen over your head when you are shooting test shots and sample shots. That way you stay with the crowd instead of retreating into your viewfinder.  I learned that on an APS-C sensor camera that my absolute favorite portrait focal length is, without a doubt,  60mm! I had the 85mm 1.4 in my bag and while it's a wonderful lens that focuses quickly and images nicely it seemed just a bit long, which put me just a bit further away from my subject than I'd like to be. I went shorter once or twice but it just never seemed to gel for me.

I now know why I like to use a tripod! I can compose and maintain that basic composition even if I need to, or want to, step away from the camera to answer a question or stare at that Leica S camera just a few booths away. When I come back to the camera it's still all set up the way I left it. The tripod also allows me to keep my hands free to push buttons or gesticulate wildly at the models...

I never liked shooting tethered before. In the early days the Kodak professional cameras and the Photo Desk software made tethering straightforward and relatively easy but ensuing products from other makers were always more tenuous and halting. Mid-decade programs crashed and ran slow (for portrait shooters) and I always hated being on the end of the inevitable leash. But tethering wireless and "at speed" is great. The image was on screen almost simultaneous to my shooting it and the giant TV and the LCD on the back of the camera seemed to be a reasonably good match. Yesterday I found myself shooting a portrait "old school" and realized that I've already spoiled myself in just three days. Now I'm shopping around for a "smart" TV that does wi-fi so I can set it up in the studio and change the way I've been doing portraits....

I found that in the "behind the scenes" areas of a trade show booth there might be Crumbs(tm) cupcakes and many of them might conspire to have my name on them. I also found treasure troves of  Halloween candy which I shamelessly bartered with the gatekeeper at the V.I.P. lounge for fresh coffee. I've come to understand from my booth mates that no matter how much product literature you bring you will run out. The only thing worse than running out of literature is to bring a sparse amount and NOT run out.

I've come to realize that no matter how big your shooting area you would always like just a few more feet on every side. But mostly I've come to realize that a collaboration with a talented and beautiful model will always make you look like a better photographer. Really.

 Photos of Kirk provided by VSL reader, Tom Judd. ©2013 Tom Judd, all rights reserved.

Finally, I will always look ten pounds heavier than I think I am in any photo taken of me....

Thanks Tom!

link to tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/visualsciencekirk


Anonymous said...

You look adorable.

Jim said...

"Finally, I will always look ten pounds heavier than I think I am in any photo taken of me...."

It's the cupcakes fault. :-)

Unknown said...

Dank it Mr.T, you look like you're having FAAAARRRR to much fun.

Tom Judd said...

Thanks for 10 pounds??
I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. It was a pleasure watching you work.

Alex said...

Excellent photos perfectly convey the atmosphere of the event: the model is tired and bored, the photographer is happy and excited :)

Alex said...

Samsung 60mm is a great portrait lens. It may be not as sharp in the corners as other macro lenses, but it makes wonderful, almost 3D portraits!