Reprising an old favorite of mine. The CEO of the Westin Hotels and Resorts photographed at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas.

©2015 Kirk Tuck.

There's a pervasive mythology that's often fueled by social network savvy shooters in our industry which says that all shoots for major magazines (like Private Clubs Magazine) which involve high profile CEO's (The Westin) in swanky locations (The Hyatt Hill Country Resort) require a legion of assistants and assorted functionaries in order to achieve any sort of success. I think it's nonsense. The complexity vastly inflated. And, given how easy it is and was to do the technical parts of photography the big crew just screams: overkill. 

When I got the assignment to do this project (image above) I also got a budget within which to do it. The idea was straightforward, go down the day before the shoot, find a cool location and figure out how to light it. I could spend the entire budget on non-essential staff or I could make a profit.

The lighting for this image consists of one black scrim that takes the ambient light off the subject and one big (4 foot by six foot) soft box to put better light back on him. That's it. The hardest part of the shoot was figuring out the triangle of the focal length I wanted to use (180mm), the image size of the subject in the frame (camera to subject distance) and the size and out-of-focus characteristic of the piano in the background (subject-to-piano distance). Most of that was trial and error.

The other myth that every photographer loves to feed (because they think it makes their efforts sound more heroic) is the idea that all CEO's are so busy and so curated by their entourage that lowly photographers only have access to them for tiny slices of time. Five minutes at the most. Again, mostly B.S. The smart CEO's know the value of public relations and friendly media exposure and are willing to put in the time to optimize the results. If that means giving the photographer time to do a couple variations or change course now and then they are generally compliant. 

I can't remember exactly how much time I had to do this shot but it seemed to be a leisurely experience for me. Twenty minutes or so. The original client liked the shot and used it well. And the CEO's parent company liked the shot too and bought additional usage rights (after the initial magazine embargo). 

In the days before over the top web marketing we didn't realize that we'd need to have our own entourage to propagate the image of being successful. We thought our photographs would be enough. 

To recap: Major CEO on location. One photographer. One CEO. One CEO's assistant. No photographer assistant. No digital tech. No location scout. No hair and make up. No piano wrangler. No craft service (excluding the hotel F&B). No producer. No second assistant. No Polaroid timer. No publicist. No green screen. No retoucher. No studio manager. Lord, how did we manage?


Michael Matthews said...

I've seen that portrait a half-dozen times. And until you mentioned it, never saw the piano. Mission accomplished.

Markus B. said...

J├╝rgen Bartels, one of the great hoteliers of oir times. Thanks for bringing back great memories.

Kevin Blackburn said...

As a rarity for me I could not agree more with this post I usually find some point I don't agree with when I read these things but this time I agree with all the points and I myself have been in this spot many times.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is as talented and physical as you seem to be. Some might need more help. It's not a competition. Or is it?

Murray Davidson said...

The subject has a nice air about him, the picture works well. Because of your mention of the background piano, I looked more closely: the OOF pentagonal lights form an interesting pattern. I guess that's from the diafragm shape in the Pentax lens?

CameraWiz said...

For Anonymous, if you aren't as talented and skilled you shouldn't be calling yourself a photographer.
This is an example of a well done portrait by a photographer who knew how to handle lighting, knew how the focal length of lenses affected the compression of space and knew how depth of field works. In other words he was a professiional.