How to Tuesday #24 Anatomy of a Commercial Shoot : Behind the Scenes with St. Charles Vision / by Zack Smith

I really do love a good creative collaboration. In the last few years I have had the opportunity to work with so many talented local creative industries, businesses, and individuals that I look at every working opportunity now as a collaboration and not just a job. When I am hired for a photoshoot I want to know what my client is thinking short term and long term. I want to know the deliverables will "feel" to them when the images are done and placed in an ad, on a website, or a brochure. Knowing how to use a camera and showing up with a bunch of lights is such a small part of the equation of a commercial portrait shoot.

Yes we do bring out all the gear for just a head shot! Curving & Carving Light! ©Zack Smith

Yes we do bring out all the gear for just a head shot! Curving & Carving Light! ©Zack Smith

I recently had the privilege of working again with New Orleans based St. Charles Vision and their Director of Marketing and Operations, Matt Rosenthal on a very exciting project. Matt and I met multiple times in person to discuss the finer details of what they were looking for. We discussed the overall goals of the campaign, backgrounds, lighting aesthetics and looked at examples of portraits that myself and other photographers had done for inspiration. I spent a day photographing some friends in my studio to get some lighting ratios and schemes for Matt to look at...even collaborated with my pals at Flavor Paper and Sarah and Alex for some mood board background ideas...

I really loved the fact that Matt and I talked about once a week, checking in on his model selections, lighting ideas and day of shoot schedule. I assembled an amazing crew consisting of two lighting assistants and a digital tech which we used to import the images directly into Lightroom so the client could view in real time. There really is nothing like tethering to Lightroom so the client doesn't have to look over your shoulder every shot. You really do feel like everyone is in on the creative process! We even created a custom Preset Edit for the images so the client could view the edits I would be doing later!

A Little Bit about Tethering Your Camera to your Computer

Tethering is very easy. Getting a long enough cord will help you spread out your work station and give you room between the camera and the computer. You want to have the freedom of space around your camera to help you compose and work with the model, and you want the computer in it's own world so that the client and the digital tech can talk and edit without disrupting the flow of the shoot. I use Lightroom, and there is an easy drop down menu that says "Start Tethered Capture", and you can get going. You can also tether capture in Bridge, Capture One, and other programs...Stay tuned for a future How To Tuesday on Tethering!

Behind the Scenes at NOLA Spaces

I chose to work with the wonderful NOLA Spaces again for many reasons. NOLA Spaces has great hourly room rates, window light, large open rooms, wifi, surround sound, and are always great to work with! I hired Susan Spaid for Hair and Makeup and she was wonderful working with our super talented New Orleans movers and shakers...T. Cole Newton (12 Mile Limit), Tarronia Ball (Tank of Tank and the Bangas), Lu Brow (Swizzle Stick Bar and Brennan's), and Brent Houzenga (Artist).

Tech Specs of our Lighting Setup - Trusty and Lightweight Paul C. Buff

The great thing about doing light tests prior to a big shoot day is that you can arrive on site and already have a solid game plan of how you are going to light your portrait. Sometimes you can't do early testing, but If you can I highly recommend it.

Our KEY light was a 1600 Paul C. Buff White Lightning with a 60" Octabox softbox. Our background was a "Fashion Grey" seamless lit by a 800 Alien Bee with a 10"x36" stripbox. We had ad 1600 White Lightning with a 30º grid for our hair light/rim light and a large 5 in 1 reflector on the white side bouncing light in the left hand side of the model. We also had a 4'x4' diffuser panel directly under the subject. We wanted to soften the light under the chin but also leave a little contrast there for the face.

The Hair Light was set at 2 stops above the Key Light so that it is almost over exposing the skin. The purpose of the Hair Light is to create contrast which allows the subject to feel like it's popping out of the background. 

For example: If the Key light metered at f8 @ 1/125 at ISO 100, then you would want your Hair Light to meter at f16. This means in order to get the Middle Grey exposure of light from the Hair Light you would need to be at f16. But since your camera is set at f8 (or near it) due to the Key Light..then the Hair light is 2 stops brighter....get it?

Sorry! You'll have to wait till next week for the final shots!!

Sorry! You'll have to wait till next week for the final shots!!

You'll have to wait till next week to see the final ads for St. Charles vision! Stay tuned to this blog for the final selects..in the mean time - get out there and shoot! experiment! have fun!