The morning of the shoot, Antonio Pantoja and I were having a discussion about challenges…
I keep a close eye on many artists from all over the world. I’ve noticed that some photographers, over time… become worse. Shouldn't one become wiser and more educated as time moves forward? In the cases I’ve seen, it boils down to one belief; they simply stop challenging them-self. They may get comfortable with their setups or niche their way into an editing style that is widely accepted. Whatever the reason may be, I see it all the time in any form of art. The staleness starts to reek and the art grows tired. Without failure, that’s an easy path to stumble upon.
Several months ago I was approached by Kathy Campbell to shoot a promotional video for her agency Heyman Talent. I was completely on board and it was simply a matter of scheduling a date at that point. Fast forward a month, I met with Louisville stylist Chris Caswell regarding a few test shoots in 2013. An idea was sparked and he offered me the opportunity to shoot an entirely new ad for Heyman. After a brief conversation with Kathy it was decided I would take the given circumstances and shoot not only photography but also the promotional video we had spoke about weeks earlier.
After the date had been set, I made a quick realization that I would need some serious help to make magic a reality. So I enlisted my right hand man, Antonio Pantoja to help with the cinematography and possibly assist the photography portion of the day.
After a meeting with the stylist Chris Caswell and a short scout of his studio “CCaswell Inc.”, I was confident we could create something out of the small space with spark and glamour. Little did I know, it would create some extreme challenges right out of the gate.
Call time was 9:30am, Sunday December 9th. I arrived right on time to find most of the models early. Things moved quickly and hair/makeup preparations started immediately. I knew I would have a few hours of down time, so I prepared the set and tested a few lighting scenarios. After two hours, I had nothing but bad lighting and a mess of modifiers sprawled across the set. A few of the models were ready to go, so I asked Antonio to go ahead and start some filming runway walks and posing in the other room while I tried my had at a few other setups. I was frustrated. The ceiling was far to low to boom a light and there wasn't enough width to pull of a nice 45 degree key light, I was purely out of options.
Sometime ago, I had read into some photographers using composites for group editorials and individually lighting each person, merging the shots in Photoshop then masking out the light in post. I really didn’t know how it was done in details, but I had been backed into a corner and a composite was the only answer. A challenge I gladly accepted.
To avoid any lens distortion and capture a nice depth, I decided to use my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in lieu of my 14-24mm f/2.8 workhorse. The problem here was that I had to be outside of the building in order to get everyone in frame, so I did just that. I locked the outer doors wide open and setup my camera on a tripod nearly 30 feet away from the subjects who were inside the studio. The models were ready and I was as prepared as I could be.
After a quick explanation to the models of what I would be doing. One by one, I asked Antonio to hold the light at 90 degrees above for a nice even light over each model. As the shots were fired off, I became more and more confident in the final result. I had to remind the models to be perfectly still and remain statuesque, but there was no going back now. Despite all odds, I reviewed the shots and was energetic and happy with the results. 80 shots later, we were done. I made sure to capture a clean background shot and a few basic boom lit shots for backup, just incase the composite didn’t work out.
The day was closing in fast, so we had to move quick. As soon as we wrapped the stills, I grabbed the Canon 5D Mark II and started assisting Antonio for the video. We moved from set to set working with each model and trying new lighting techniques. Two hours later we were upbeat about the footage and I was ready to wrap the day.
Like an other challenge, I took the project head on and immediately started editing the composite. It required many hours of messing around with ideas and working the background. When all was said in done I had completed the image with 60 layers in Photoshop and nearly 8 hours of time. I’ve broken down each image I used for the composite and also included a video where I breakdown the layers in Photoshop.
With the completion of the composite, the fun didn’t end there, I dove right into the video. There were certainly a few “3am nights” that were spent to make this project happen in the time frame it did. I spent an absorbanent amount of time perfecting the color grade and working in all the post effects. Luckily, Antonio is an extremely talented filmmaker and he made my job a whole lot easier. Check out the final result below, titled “Heyman Talent Agency”.
Thanks to the entire team for making this day, absolute magic. In all truth, taxing projects like this, define us as artists.