I was recently awarded a project to photograph professional models for a medical device maker in Michigan. Stryker is a Fortune 500 company whom I’ve worked with numerous times. This particular shoot was done in studio with an emphasis on building a library of images the client could use for future marketing needs. It was an enjoyable photography session, as our talent pool was exceptionally good. Likewise, I had great art direction and a knowledgeable staff that knew the medical nuances of surgical wear. All in all, it was a great team effort.
I photograph executive portraits frequently, in studio at Blue Sky Photography in Troy, along with shooting on location at client’s facilities. Although I enjoy both studio and location portraits, shooting against environmental backgrounds can often be a bigger challenge. There is more involved than just a simple portrait lighting set-up against a seamless backdrop.
In the photograph above, the client desired a very shallow depth of field which required shooting through nearly three stops of neutral density, even with the strobe lights set to their lowest settings. And to complicate matters even further, I had to deal with reflections from the conference room glass walls. But that’s why I like shooting environmentally; bigger challenge, bigger reward.
I was awarded an assignment recently to photograph semi trailer trucks. Shooting big rigs isn’t that much different than photographing cars on location, except that they’re BIG! Whether its cleaning and detailing them, or scouting for a location, one has to keep in mind their enormous size. They are far less maneuverable than your typical car and require space; lots of space.
This project was for Point Dedicated, with an emphasis on their dedicated team of drivers. I did several different photos with their team members, including interior cab portraits, using a mix of ambient light and auxiliary strobe lighting.
One of the great benefits of being a photographer, especially a “location” photographer, is the opportunity to make a living and be outdoors at the same time. Granted, many location shoots can be in corporate offices or noisy factories, but sometimes the weather gods are with you. That would be the case for a recent photo shoot I did on the west side of Michigan for a synthetic lumber distributor (marina decking). It was a perfect temperature day with sunshine and beautiful cumulus clouds for our marina backdrop.
This photograph was accomplished using the sun as our key source of light, obviously, but with a simple strobe chimera for fill, just out of camera view, we were able to avoid too much shadow on our talent’s face. Not all location shoots have as ideal weather conditions as this one, but that great unknown makes on-site photography all that more interesting!
A mysterious or fascinating quality. That’s how the dictionary defines the word “intrigue”. I can still readily remember how I felt working in my college photography darkroom, waiting for an image to appear on my photo paper as I gingerly sloshed developer back and forth. It was magical and suspenseful at the same time. That same feeling of intrigue kept with me over the years as I waited for my film to come back from the lab, never truly knowing the results of my photographic efforts until I held them in my hands. It added mystery to the process of photography.
Now with everything photographic being digital, we’ve lost some of that mystery and suspense within our chosen profession, and exchanged it for the immediacy of pixels on our computer monitors. To be fair, we did have Polaroids that removed a portion of the intrigue from our shoots. These days there is still an element of suspense in our work that keeps me engaged. In the photograph shown above, all the elements to create a quality image for my client came together, proving to me once more that photography can still carry with it a little bit of intrigue.
I had a multi-day shoot on location recently, photographing employees both as traditional portraits as well as in team photos. Inergy, an automotive supplier located in Troy, Michigan, hired me for this project after seeing samples of my photography on our Blue Sky website.Relying on professional talent when shooting commercial photography can get you spoiled, but these two Inergy employees were terrific to work with. They took direction well and were very pleasant to work with. Lots of laughs during the shoot, and we came away with great results.
Corporate portraits can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Most often it seems executives need head-shots photographed against a simple seamless or traditional portraiture backdrop. I photograph many executives each year this way, both in my Troy, Michigan studio and also at the subject’s business headquarters. But environmental portraits, or more specifically as in the photo below, an industrial portrait, brings with it more challenges and often times a more enticing photograph.
This particular portrait was photographed inside a forging plant, which was hot, dirty and noisy. It was nearly impossible to communicate with either my photo assistant or my corporate clients by speaking, so hand signals became my primary source to convey directions. As with any corporate portrait, the subject is the star, but an environmental portrait can also help tell the client’s story.
I used to think of corporate photography as annual report photography or any “corporate communication”, from PR to capability brochures. There was a time when annual reports were thick, glossy, well designed, and had lots of photography. Now, many annual reports are mostly on newsprint; an expression of our current economic times. Corporate Photography now seems to mean a business portrait or headshot.
There is no question of the value of an excellent executive portrait. It may be the first impression that one gets before actually meeting someone in person. It also represents the company’s image as well as yours. It can illustrate your corporate culture: casual, aggressive, or buttoned up.
Is it cheap? No. Professional photography is a business. We have years of experience making people, products and places look good. It’s how we make our living, and like all businesses there is overhead that we contend with too. It’s true we don’t use film anymore, and that was an expensive part of photography; but now we have computers, printers, networks, and digital cameras. In addition, there is all of the basic overhead, like rent, insurance, advertising, utilities, transportation.
Is it worth it? Well of course I think it is, but objectively, it depends on your individual situation and how important your image is to you.
I recently did a shoot for Con Leche Watch. It was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a clever and attractive product. It’s a watch for breast-feeding mothers to help keep track of when they last fed their baby, and from which side. This may sound trivial, but if you are a sleep deprived nursing momma, I’m sure it’s a godsend. (I’ve only been a sleep deprived papa, so it’s only an educated guess…)
The watch comes in three models and with a choice of several strap colors. My client wanted a web customer to be able to select the watch model and then the strap with out the images jumping around on the screen. This turned out to be best solved in post production. After shooting all the watches and bands, I put all the images into a single layered photoshop file, then aligned and retouched them. By turning layers off and on, all of the various combinations are possible. I’ve created an animated GIF to illustrate the concept.
The real appeal of the watch is that it removes a distraction and allows moms to better care for their babies. The challenge for me was to capture the enormous emotional and physical bond between mother and child.
In all the years Tom Kirby and I have been business partners, well over two decades worth for those counting, it’s been a rare opportunity for us to actually work on a project together. We have collaborated numerous times with Tom shooting the studio portion of an assignment and myself handling the out-of-town location photography, but recently we had the occasion for real teamwork.
In case you haven’t heard, Joe Muer, the famed Detroit chef is making a comeback with a new downtown restaurant in alliance with the Andiamo chain. And fortunately for Blue Sky, we were chosen to create the photography for this upcoming event.
Shooting at Andiamo’s flagship restaurant, Tom and I worked in close quarters, with Kirby photographing the plated foods and myself taking on the lifestyle shots of Chef Muer and his associates. We shared an assistant and equipment, but more than that we shared an experience of real teamwork, both of us working together to create photographs the client would be proud of showcasing for their new endeavor.
In business, choosing a team that you can trust is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur can ever make. I knew early on that to have a business capable of riding out both the good and bad cycles of our industry, I would need a partner that I could trust, and in turn, for that partner to be able to rely on me.
Don’t get me wrong. Tom and I can be like The Odd Couple at times, from the differences in our lifestyles, to our politics, to our choices of restaurants; but, we do have that one paramount notion in common…..to run and sustain a business using teamwork.