Sunday, February 27th, I had the pleasure of shooting with six models, a fashion designer, and a fellow photographer—to a killer shoot soundtrack—at Studio on Market in Wilmington, Delaware.
It was my largest self-organized photoshoot to date—and, like my other shoots, this was a TFCD shoot. Everyone pulled together to make it a success. Thanks to everyone that contributed, as without your work, the shoot wouldn’t have been possible.
This shoot started as a request from a workshop attendee, photographer Brian Bailey, who wanted to know significantly more about how to handle lighting. Brian is largely shooting sporting events but had an interest in more technical studio work. (His Website is GetShotByBrian.com.) His request couldn’t be accommodated in a workshop format—the hands-on component of working with lights to get it “just right” was more than that format allows. So I said: “What do you think about splitting the cost of studio space?” He agreed, and then I started to pull everything together.
First, I secured space. Locking in the location first was critical—without a firm location, sending invitations to models would have been impossible. The team at the clean, new Studio On Market, in Wilmington, Delaware, were very helpful and had Sunday, February 27th available. (I’d recommend them.) I booked with them after inspecting the space, which was perfect for the size and nature of the shoot.
Next, I started securing models. I did this by posting a Casting Call on ModelMayhem and then following up with models local to the Wilmington area to see if they had interest. Follow-ups and questions were answered in a timely manner and models were booked.
Then, one week before the shoot, it became apparent that I’d have between 5 and 8 models attending.
After conversation, Wilmington fashion designer and artist T.Saph stepped up to support the event with her fashion line and designs.
As the shoot had developed momentum, I also reached out to Josh Harnois. He is a classically trained musician, producer and DJ currently residing in Washington, D.C. (I shot Josh for his personal marketing material the year before.) I needed a soundtrack for the shoot and I wanted him to do it because he understood all aspects of what was needed: scoring music for film, modeling, appropriate attitude, photoshooting, and the attendee demographic. Of course, Josh nailed the work.
Going into a shoot this large would have been a disaster without planning and goals. Based on the studio space, training I’d need to do with Brian on the lighting, and individual model needs, I decided to focus on beauty/commercial shooting.
Here were the prep items:
- I needed to settle on a range of looks, based on a “commonly accepted” beauty/fashion look. I consulted with a colleague of mine, graphic designer J.C. I posed the question: “In your opinion, what are the top three beauty/fashion magazines read by the 18 to 24 female demographic?” She identified Cosmopoliton, Glamour, and Elle, in that order.
- I purchased a copy of each magazine. Then, I carefully removed any page from each magazine that was shot in-studio. I explicitly did not censor anything out based on my taste. If it was shot in-studio, I pulled the page. This was important so that a full range of looks could be gathered for analysis.
- A stack of loose pages was useless, so I created a modeling analysis book, where I pasted in every page (and double-page spread) that was relevant, leaving a facing page for notes.
- I analyzed each page, determining lighting setups (shadows, level of fill, modeling light, soft/hard, etc.), framing, apparent focal length, f-stop (for DOF), text placement, and intended purpose of the advertisement or photo. For the modeling work, I got a feel for expression, hand placement, dynamic vs. static body positioning, and overall “feel” from each piece. I also identified where the Photoshop work was—to my disappointment, a significant amount of the Photoshop work in ads was readily apparent due to hasty execution. (If you’re going to do it, follow through, please. I shouldn’t see it.) IMO, Elle had the best straight-photography work.
- I circled back around with J.C. and had her take a look at the modeling analysis book. Based on watching her examine the book and verbally confirming conclusions, I got two takeaways: (A) Order of viewing a page’s content is: Clothing, Makeup/Hair, then Model. If close up, Makeup/Hair, then Model. If clothing/makeup/hair are not strong or not of interest, it’s all about the Model. (B) If the ad is about clothing, the clothing must “wear” the model. Or, if the ad is about makeup, the makeup must “wear” the model. The lighting, framing, pose, and facial expression accentuate acceptance of both A and B.
- Working with some past photography as a basis, I laid out mock magazine spreads, including text placement, to better understand the underlying composition and grid structure that was in use. Understanding more about that would help me frame and get what I needed day of shoot.
- I tested lighting setups and positioning to ensure I could get what I needed on set, prior to shooting. I determined that a two-umbrella setup, with a small softbox, would get me where I would need to go.
- Working through the mental geometry of getting models into the setups—based on planning to exploit the studio’s strengths—was the most difficult part. How would I manage eight people in the studio space and lighting setups during the day of shooting? To guarantee I could “get” it? I worked out three or four different workflows, building in failure points, and geared my goals appropriately.
Based on pre-planning, the shooting goals were aggressive:
- Provide a professional tone and good working environment.
- Each model had to take away at least 5 shots from at least two shooting sets that were technically on par with work in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, or Elle from a technical/lighting/framing perspective.
- Each model had to be given time to work and get comfortable so we could “get” it.
- Each model had to work with at least one other model in a shot—a “pair” shot.
- Each model had to have a a range of closeups, two-thirds, and full-body shots.
- Each model would model in at least two outfits.
- Each model would model in at least one outfit provided by T.Saph.
- No model could “sit” idly and un-utilized for any length of time.
- Models would work together—more-experienced models would be encouraged to mentor and work with less-experienced models, providing experience for both of them.
- Lighting would be continually adjusted to capture the framing, then mood, then accentuate the pose and clothing.
- Brian Bailey (photographer) would be briefed on lighting, posing, and other shoot aspects throughout and continuously.
- T.Saph (fashion designer) would be given the opportunity to match her clothing line to the models as she saw fit—to pick up appropriate and useful looks for her needs.
- Keep the shoot to no more than four hours in length—one hour of test shots and two-and-a-half hours of work, once everyone was settled in.
- Not piss anybody off. More important, send everyone home satisfied with the experience and excellent photography.
- Strictly adhere to my 10 Guidelines for Shooting.
Claire Franklin (MM#1403466)
Amanda Whelan (MM#1752316)
Minuette Kalia (MM#1958191)
Lead Photographer – Will Stotler (MM#1338163)
Associate Photographer – Brian Bailey (GetShotByBrian.com)
Clothing Designer – T.Saph (MM#1892259)
Shoot Soundtrack Designer – Joshua Harnois (MM#1500956)
Studio on Market – 219 Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
As always, I’m interested in metrics as they pertain to my photos. I always learn something when I view the data. And it always gives me something to think about, going forward.
At the beginning of 2011, I created a set of the 100 “most interesting” images (according to Flickr, not me) that (a) contain models and (b) were shot in 2010. “Most interesting” is what Flickr determines to be “interesting”—it has nothing to do with personal opinion—based on data Flickr has related to the how and when the photo is viewed.
At any rate, here’s some information about the Most Interesting 100.
56% of the Most Interesting 100 are from 3 sets.
This is the “short tail.” There is a clear preference to these sets over all others shot in 2010.
44% of the Most Interesting 100 are from 12 sets.
This is the “long tail.” Roughly, each of these sets, on average, has two magnitudes of order less “interestingness” as any of the top three sets.
- Renee Laura – 6%
- Amber C. – 5%
- Rachael Maria – 5%
- Kendra Danelle – 4%
- Monica Duarte – 4%
- Jessica – 4%
- Laura Lucidi – 4%
- BekahJoy – 3%
- Arpita Patel – 3%
- Carly Shoemaker – 2%
- L.L. Burrell – 1%
- Zahra Femi – 1%
- Josh Harnois – 1%
Thoughts on Meaning
What is considered by Flickr to be “most interesting” disagrees in many cases with my own personal photographic taste. But, “most interesting” is certainly of interest to me—at the least I should be considering the factors that make something “most interesting.” While being aware that “most interesting” is only one “opinion”—Flickr’s opinion.
It would be most interesting to see how an algorithm developed by fashion magazine editors would sort through my photo sets—or how an art photography professional would rank them. But, I have Flickr, which says perhaps more about the audience viewing the photos than the photos themselves, so you work with what you have.
Commonalities/trends for 2010 shots of models that made the Most Interesting 100:
- Color photos
- Aged 17-22
- Clothing black or dark patterned
- Tight jeans
- Open shirts
- Low-cut or form-fitting dresses
- Legs/arms/stomach (or combination thereof) exposed
- Shots taken out-of doors (or not in discernible studio conditions)
- Shots in bright light (mid-day)
- Shots including many “body points”
Considering everything I shot in 2010 relating to models, it’s interesting to note what didn’t appear—or was very lightly represented—in 2010’s Most Interesting 100:
- Black and white photos
- Aged 23+
- Very bright clothing
- Closed shirts
- Legs/Arms/Stomach generally concealed
- Shots taken indoors
- Shots made in dim light (early evening, night)
- Shots not including as many “body points”
In any case, some new things to think about and test in 2011.
As a parting shot, I’d like to thank each and every model with which I had the privilege of shooting in 2010—the photography I’m doing and brief statistical work like this would not be possible!
People have asked me what books I can recommend as sources of information on photography and related topics. From my library, I can recommend the following:
Light and Lighting Techniques
- Dunn, Jack F. and George L. Wakefield. Exposure Manual. Hertfordshire, UK: 1952.
- Malkiewicz, Kris. Film Lighting. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
- Millerson, Gerald. Lighting for Television and Film. Oxford, UK: Focal Press, 1995.
- Lowell, Ross. Matters of Light & Depth. New York: Lowell-Light Manufacturing, 2007.
- Silverman, Martin S., Jim Zuckerman, and Bob Shell. The Hand Exposure Meter Handbook. Elmsford, NY: Mamiya America Corporation, 1999.
- Vitray, Laura, John Mills Jr., and Roscoe Ellard. Pictorial Journalism. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939.
Rangefinder / Manual Camera Techniques
- Newcombe, H.S. 35 MM Photo Technique. London, UK: Focal Press, 1946.
- Osterloh, Günter. Leica M: Advanced Photo School. New York: Lark Books, 2005.
Legal / Biz
- Krages, Bert. Legal Handbook for Photographers. Buffalo, NY: Amherst Media, 2007.
- Litwak, Mark. Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2002.
Other Worthwhile Reading
- Adams, Ansel. The Negative. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2004.
- Traub, Charles H., Stephen Heller, and Adam B. Bell, eds. The Education of a Photographer. New York: Allworth Press, 2006.
Several of these books are out-of-print now, but can be obtained by hunting around the Web.
Next weekend, I’m teaching a photography workshop, so I’m thinking quite a bit about training and communication concerns. (Obsessing, actually.) From the logistics through to the message. My goal is to really communicate about photography’s “technical” side while providing a guided environment and structure in which people can successfully use what they’ve learned.
Terence McKenna (writer, ethnobotanist, and psychonaut) said:
“If the truth can be told so as to be understood it will be believed.”
I’m thinking about McKenna’s statement quite a bit because it clearly puts the responsibility and burden of communication on the trainer/storyteller. What I take away from his statement is: “If they didn’t ‘get’ it, you didn’t teach well.” With a caveat or two: The audience must be able to cognitively grasp the concepts—this is assuming the concepts have been reduced to simple, straightforward pieces of information. Additionally, the audience must want to ‘get’ the concepts—so, part of the work is to persuade people about the material’s worth.
Using the word “Truth” to describe training? A bit strong for this context. “Truth” is in practice a localized phenomena and “Truth” (unfortunately) comes burdened with moral connotations. It just doesn’t make sense here.
A little surgery nips and tucks the phrase so it works and reflects my point of view:
“If the facts can be told so as to be understood, they will be believed.”
In the end, one-on-one training is about persuasion. I think that a good trainer is able to persuade about a given topic, while being responsible for understanding and using the facts. I also believe that good training results in people being able to immediately do something with what they’ve just learned—while the new learning becomes self-perpetuating though future use. If it can’t be used right now and also going forward, what’s the point?
Keeping all that in mind, I’m refining my training plan to ensure I’m on target:
- Facts should be communicated clearly and illustrated when possible.
- Facts should be separated from matters of taste and style.
- Facts should be recognized by a learner as useful and useable.
To improve retention, I’m approaching the session with these deliverables:
- Presentation – visual and aural
- Handouts – visual and tactile
- DIY – tactile, visual, and aural
To keep personal accountability, I’m hitting each of these areas:
- Full manual camera operation
- Ability to light a scene
- Ability to recognize light and leverage manual camera operation to shoot it
- Fast and accurate operation of RAW developing software
To ensure some level of immediate success:
- Work with attendees to shoot well-lit, “commercial look” sets
- Process photos on-the-spot to check work and demonstrate results
What I want attendees to take away:
- Real value from the workshop
- Improved future shooting results through application of process/skills
Well, we’ll see how it goes. I have high expectations for what I can communicate effectively. But I’m up for it.
To shift gears, I’d like to take a moment and give credit where credit is due. Photographer and organizer Albert Heefner made this training session possible by listening to what I had to say about training, recognizing that my interests aligned with his interests for adding value to his Meetup group, and then facilitating the session. For this event he offered the studio space, published details I provided, engaged in the fun-fest that is “herding the cats” (getting attendees, models, and the MUA to come), and will be “production-managing” the actual event. This has let me focus on content and approach instead of having to focus on organizing and physical logistics. So, thanks for the work, Albert.
Back from a week in Tokyo and working through images now. Each of the Tokyo photos has a narrative to accompany the image—and in many cases links for more information about each location or item—so it’s photo-blogging, proper. And time-consuming. I won’t be adding anything else to this blog until they’re finished.
Update October 3: Added shots from Roppongi Hills—installation at the Mori Art Museum, skylines shot at the Tokyo City View, and some others.
Update October 11: Added shots from Senso-Ji temple and Asakusa.
I’ve been shooting photography for ten years on-and-off. I’ve been shooting hard since August of 2009, after I had two years of work (2007/2008) critiqued by Project Basho in Philadelphia. Lots of successes, many more failures, but keeping at it steadily to improve skill.
This blog is mainly intended to deal with photographic activity going forward.
However, I’m a filmmaker: I’ve conceived, produced, shot, and realized a feature film with my business/creative partner on the venture.
I’m a published author: it was a long time ago, now, but I did it.
As a professional, I’m a technical consultant who helps clients with content and hands-on execution of the work: ideas and analysis, text and image, print and web design, photography and video, audio and music, social media and community building, etc. Yes, all of that, and a bit more, executed together campaign-style and executed well.
So, why not publish about the photography first and anything else that I think could have value and help others? It might be helpful to somebody. Somewhere. Somehow.
But it’s mainly about “Further.” Pushing forward into new spaces and improving skill as I go. See you around. -Will