Monday 25 March 2013

10 Steps to the sub 10 min portrait.

I considered this after hearing Rankin talking about this on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island discs.

Rankin referenced a conversation he had with David Bailey where they were talking about this

Bailey to Rankin 'It's an hour, isn't it?

From my recollection Rankin agreed.

My experience though is a little different.

Often it is less than and hour, much less than an hour in fact.

Perhaps it is because I'm not a big name photographer?

That could have something to do with it...I think.

But there is a very serious point.

It is all about respecting people time and bearing in mind that this may be the very last thing they want to do.

One hour is the time oft agreed by agents, publicists and the like who may not even have told the talent (or busy CEO) that they have agreed to such a big hole in their day.

You may end up with 5 mins or less....

A friend of mine was recently shooting a big name Chinese industrialist and was given 6 frames.

I seem to recall 'Prince ' letting a photographer have a single frame....

That was it.

Ok, both of those scenarios are a little extreme, but they could one day come to a photo shoot near you.

Here are 10 pointers which may(or may not) help.

1. Know your subject. Research all you can on the net to know a few little bits about hem, the name of their new album or how their company is doing.

2. Play for time. Use the info (above) you have gained. Being a photographer who knows at least a little about them can stop them in their tracks, buying you valuable time. I once turned a 5 min portrait in to a two hour shoot like this.

3. Try to make the pic a done deal. Have a clear idea of what shot you want,(practice if you can)
So by the time they walk in, nothing short of a major natural disaster can derail the shoot.

4. Try to win hearts and minds. Let their Agent or PA in on the shot if you can, showing them just how amazing their boss or client will look

5. Pre light the shot. Do this with your assistant, or anyone else who is passing as a stand in. (I came a little unstuck doing this just the other day when the stand in was super short and skinny and the subject was erm, MANY sizes bigger)

6. Try ambitious lighting at your peril. Play safe for at least one shot or set up. When it's a big deal no client will love you for some edgy shot which is just not their house style.

7. Have a secondary set up. If all this pays off you may even have a little extra time for a second shot, it would be a crying shame not to make the most of it. You can even try 'I know our time is up but I saw something super cool just over here, would you like to see it?'

 8. Contemplate shooting at a higher ISO. Loving my low ISO as I do, I never thought I would say this (strike me down) Consider shooting at a slightly higher ISO this will give you a shorter flash recycle time. Sounds extreme, but if time is short it really could make a difference.

9. Make the test shots of the sitter count. They are often the very best frames of a shoot.

10. Be polite. Don't moan and bitch about the lack of time no matter what. The agent or CEO's right hand man or woman may even hire you as you were so efficient. (this has happened on several occasions)

So, there you have it.

All, some, or indeed none of the above may work for you, but those little 'rules' form the basis of my lighting fast portrait routine.


Libby said...

Sage advice, and don't you know it. I shot an affiliate TV anchor once just before she went to one of the major networks. She was like a machine. She knew her mark and knew just what to do. It was done in 7 minutes. On film. She was ever so cordial, but I had the feeling a small hurricane had just blown through.

Unknown said...

Hi Libby,

A good tale, and I have massive respect for people like that.

Super pro's

Ah, on film too....

Nerves of steel were needed then.


Unknown said...

I can vouch for you using tip 1! I remember you calling me one afternoon on the way to a shoot asking who a particular musician was, haha!

Unknown said...

Ah Dave

So true! Never forget the 'Phone a friend' option, something I have resorted to many, many times....


Good old Clive said...

Never done a celeb shoot, never say never, tomorrow's another day. There's similar advice from another pro somewhere. All makes total sense even with non celebs, real people.

Disclaimer: I don't buy into the celebrity thing.

Unknown said...

Hey Clive

It does indeed apply to anyone as you quite rightly say.

Celebrity is in the eye of the beholder....


dnanderson said...

Excellent words Drew. I shoot a lot of politicians and I know for a fact I'm being told I have an hour where I have, at most, ten minutes tops.

It took me a fair few sessions before I learned what you've just outlined.

Unknown said...

Thanks dnanderson

10 mins tops is pretty much my experience too.

I have had some horrid experiences and got it very wrong.

Not cool to name names but I learned the hard way....