Just prior to Thanksgiving I spent two weeks working on an island in The Bahamas - an island approximately a quarter of a mile at its widest and about three miles long, where in early November the weather was consistent sunshine and daytime temperatures in the mid-80’s. After two weeks in a place and you really start to adapt, to both the lifestyle and the climate. So it was a bit of a shock when after two weeks of island life I returned to New York (“The Grinder,” as a good friend of mine calls it), greeted by snowfall, sub-freezing temperatures, and a flurry of bustling holiday activity. I brought back a healthy tan and a catalog of street photos I’d taken on my free time on the island. The continuous food coma of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend provided a prefect opportunity to pick through some of the images I made on the trip. I thought I’d share a few.
I recently had the delight of photographing Brandon Bryant, the man behind the illustrious men's fashion blog Wall Street Paper. Brandon and his blog have been featured on GQ's "Agents of Style" and he is an Instagram influencer, with over 61K followers on his Wall Street Paper page. After a friend of a friend put us in touch and he saw my work, Brandon was excited to shoot with me. Through building his blog and Instagram network, Brandon has focused primarily on street style fashion. Looking to step up his imagery, Brandon was on the lookout for a photographer more experienced in shooting in the studio, so I was a great fit.
I was traveling to the studio by myself from Brooklyn to NoHo via the subway, so I needed to travel light. Well, that was the idea, anyways, but things turned out differently when I started packing. I ended up with my camera backpack and my lighting bag carrying a full camera and lens kit, laptop, 6' octa, umbrella, two studio strobes, one speedlight, three light stands, a 4' roll of seamless, power cords, and a handful of A-clamps, in all totaling probably more than a hundred pounds. (Note to self: Buy a rolling light kit bag) It's a lighter kit than I usually shoot with, but still, not that pleasant to cary for the subway commute.
For the lighting setup I kept things consistent through the entire shoot, and it was a remarkably simple lighting setup. One 6' octa camera left, and one strobe firing into a medium umbrella directly overhead. The studio was rather small, so getting any lights behind would have been difficult if not entirely out of the question. Also due to the limited space, the white walls reflected a huge amount of spilled light back into the set, reducing some of the contrast I wanted from the light. To eliminate this I brought in two black v-flats from the studio and placed them just out of frame to cut any stray light and bring back that contrast and direction to the light. I regret not taking a few more behind-the-scenes photos of the setup, but here's one of JeShaune, a friend of Brandon's who was helping out on the shoot, standing in for some shots.
I recently had a reader of the blog ask me about my lens choices, and this shoot was an excellent example of a trend I've been noticing in my own work recently: shooting with my old 50mm f/1.8D. My go-to lens for years has been the big and expensive ($2,000+) Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. While it's a fantastic portrait and photojournalism lens and absolutely perfect for headshots, I've been pushing myself to shoot wider than I usually do. In tight spaces like the studio we were in, a 50mm lens keeps things with a fairly normal perspective without the distortion of a 35mm lens, but still is wide enough to shoot mid- or even full-length portraits in a relatively small space. One of the things I'm trying to work on in my work is to shoot more wide shots, and this lens choice is representative of that. Ironically, some of my best work lately has been shot on this lens, which you can pick up for $130, while my fancy lenses that cost over fifteen times as much stay packed away in my camera bag.
We shot three or four outfits with a few changes in the seamless to give a diversity of looks without changing up the lighting. Brandon really knows his fashion and put together some really sharp outfits.
Feel free to ask any questions about the shoot in the comments below, and share your thoughts on the photos!
A earlier this year I got a call from a client with a creative idea for a photograph they wanted to make. Michael and Will, the vibrant co-owners of Canopy, had a vision for a creative kind of staff portrait to show off the fun spirit of the staff at their salon in Moscow, Idaho. They had done their research on photographers in the region and found me as the only realistic option to bring their vision to life due to the type of image they wanted and the level of production required to bring the image to life.
From a verbal description of what they wanted I made a rough sketch of the concept. Michael wanted a photo of each employee in a line demonstrating the various services offered at the salon on the next person in the line — sort of a chain of grooming. With the five-member crew, the long horizontal image would need to be photographed in separate chunks and composited into a single image. Simply due to the size of the group spanning a width greater than a typical 8' roll of seamless and the lack of access to a large studio with a cyc wall we couldn't practically fit everyone into the same shot, in addition to the fact that shooting it in pieces made it easier to focus on capturing the perfect posing and expression for each person in the shot. While Michael and Will wanted a simple and elegant grey background for the final image, the bright blue seamless that you see in some of the behind-the-scenes photos made extraction much easier in post, similar to a green screen.
The shoot itself was a blast. The team there at Canopy is a fun and lively team and everyone was a joy to photography. They were all willing to experiment and put themselves out of their comfort zones in order to nail the perfect shot. While it was busy set, I think everyone had a fun time. But the work didn't end after the wrap. Post processing for this image was quite an undertaking. I do all of my own retouching (at least for now) and it was up to me to find a way to piece together all of the best parts of about a dozen different images to create a seamless final composition. Needless to say, post production is a time consuming process.
All said and done, I'm really happy with the way this shot came out, and I enjoyed the creative process of getting to work with a client that was passionate about the shoot and creatively invested in the project. With a simple idea and some trust from my client I was able to spin my own creative interpretation into a unique and eye-catching portrait that will hopefully elevate their brand while portraying them as the fun, energetic, and vibrant group that they are.
Yesterday I had the pleasure to collaborate with an awesome team to create a series of editorial fashion images. Despite not being meticulously planned, all of the elements of the shoot came together and we were able to pull off some portfolio-worthy images that I'm really proud of. Keep reading to find out how it all came together.
First off, this project was a collaboration between myself, hair and makeup artist Dana Means-Wheeler, and model Mika Collins. I've been wanting to do a shoot with Mika for a while now — we even had a test planned out a few weeks ago but scheduling conflicts caused it to fall through. When I first contacted Montana-based modeling agency Rocky Mountain Entertainment Agency (RMEA) and requested a few models to work with for test shoots, they put me in touch with Mika. Although most of her portfolio is quite different from my style of photography, I knew that she'd make a great subject.
Hair and makeup were provided by Dana Means-Wheeler, owner of Shear Art Salon located in Missoula. I first met Dana at a meeting with RMEA during their modeling training workshop in Missoula, and after seeing my work she's been excited about a collaboration ever since. She offered to provide hair and makeup, and even offered to let us shoot in her salon in order to save on the cost of renting a studio. While the space wasn't ideal as as studio space due to fairly low ceilings, it was good to have a challenging space to work in, as I think I need to develop more skill working in tight spaces.
The model, Mika, was in charge of providing her own wardrobe for the shoot, and I simply asked her to bring as much as she could so I'd have options to choose from on the day-of. Luckily she pulled through and showed up with a ton of options from which I was able to choose my favorite looks that I thought matched the mood of my lighting, backdrop, and Dana's hair. When I saw what we were working with in terms of wardrobe, I gave Dana the direction for hair and makeup: up and loose. She followed through with her own interpretation on that, and did an amazing job with Mika.
Having recently painted my latest addition to my canvas backdrop collection, it was too tempting not to put it to the test in a full-blown photoshoot. While Dana and Mika were busy with hair and makeup, I got to work setting up lights and the backdrop.
We shot for a little over three hours with a variety of wardrobe changes, but only minor lighting changes — all on the same backdrop. While I typically love shooting a large variety of different looks in a single shoot, I think an area that I could improve on is creating a set of different images with a cohesive look and feel. This is essential for multi-page editorial pieces where a variety of shots are necessary, but all of the images need to have a continuous look so the story doesn't look like a random collection of images. With this shoot, by sticking with similar lighting and the same backdrop I was able to achieve a cohesive look throughout the whole shoot, and kept a consistent editing style in post-production.
All said and done, this shoot was a blast and I enjoyed working with a fun team to create some images. Mika was gorgeous, super cooperative, and a natural in front of the camera. Dana did a fantastic job with hair and makeup, and we were able to put together a decent wardrobe from what was available. I hope you like the images.
And speaking of post-production, enjoy a quick time-lapse video of the retouching process for one of the images.
And now, some behind the scenes images: