A Team Effort
Commercial photography is facilitated by utilizing various tools to sell something. For example, if I am hired by a realtor to photograph a home, I am helping to sell the space to a prospective buyer. I use tools, to accomplish that. On site I use a professional camera, architectural lenses, external lighting and a tripod. In post production, software and a color calibrated monitor driven by an good computer contribute to the final outcome: professional images delivered to the client for their use to sell the house. Many elements go into the process. I am only a link in that process chain.
Marketing products or capabilities often involves placing a person in the image. To create a scenario, a realistic representation of the product in use is the goal. An image is made in a specific style, depending on the product. This includes, location, props, lighting and camera angle. The people used in the image mirrors the demographics the company wants to sell to. The company considers gender, race, age and sexual orientation.
I have used hired professional models from an agency, people who simply looked like models, plant managers working with a featured machine and children of employees who modeled for a specific project. I have brought my son and daughter to work, putting them in front of the camera to work as the talent.
In all my photo shoots where a human was necessary to help tell the story, the model’s comfort and sense of being appreciated is most important.
Hired professional models from an agency doing what they do best: Looking great.
If I’m lucky enough to find someone who just looks like a professional model, that can save the client money. ( This young man was actually the son of the client who hired me for this job).
When I am working with hired talent , they are getting paid. I feel less apprehensive about “working” them. In other words, provided they get breaks, I will pose them for longer periods of time, or shoot extra frames with variations to completely cover the scene.
Regardless of who I am using for talent during a photo shoot, ( paid, unpaid, favor, etc), If I want to get the most from them, I must make sure they are comfortable while working. This means placing a pad on the floor if they are kneeling for extended periods of time, attention to an arm rest, if possible, while holding a product, frequent breaks and having water available on site. If talent is tired or sore, it shows in the images.
Business portraits offer a variety of unique challenges to the photographer. I make it a priority to ease potential anxiety and self consciousness. I hear the phrase ” I hate having my picture taken” at every business portrait job. (I wonder if dentists hear the same phrase with regards to drilling). I also carefully pose the person to highlight their most attractive features.
Business portraits are made by combining lighting, shutter speeds and F stops. More importantly, getting the participant to relax as much as possible in front of the camera is paramount. My job is to be personable and non threatening. I must gain their trust first in order to make a good photograph. I do this by asking them a few questions when we meet, or commenting on something they are wearing and, if I like it, ask them where they got it. I make eye contact. Everyone has a story. I probe to get a hint or sense of who they are. This give & take begins to draw the attention off themselves prior to showing them what to do in front of the camera for the portrait.
When an an art director or marketing executive is on set, that second set of trained eyes helps me capture images that the company envisioned. Having another person direct me is a way I like to work. That direction narrows the focus and time spent on set. In the image below, for example, I needed to make sure the model was looking at the camera, the sandwich was identifiable as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and that his hands were spread apart as to let the drip of jelly show up against his black shirt. The art director gave me these instructions based on what he had in mind for the final cover layout. I shot subtle variations with these guidelines in mind.
In my experience, industrial photography projects typically do not use hired models. An employee or plant manager familiar with a machine or process depicted would be the “talent”. Requests from me to “open up to camera” or “keep your chin up ” is not something that is in the conscienceless of a foreman their everyday duties on the job. I keep my direction to necessities with real employees on site.
And finally, there are situations where “talent” can not be controlled. If I am photographing a group of CEO’s touring a plant or industrial complex, I must work around them. I find my angle quickly to get the best shot without giving any direction.
And…chickens cannot be directed. They can be placed in position then let go, but they cannot be directed. After many frames, you might luck out!