Final Image Reveal - Final Q&A
So I would love to open it up to questions if you guys have any questions on the shoot since you guys were there, or even the post-process.
I have a quick question as far as the retouching and just how to find a retoucher that you can actually work with because there are, of course, there are different levels of retouchers that are out and about, but how do you go about finding the retoucher that sees the same vision that you're having for images that you want to produce and things like that? What's your process of trying to get that guy on board.
That's a good question. I think it takes time, it's a relationship. I think the first thing for me, I look for is someone who has done what I'm looking for or at the very least I can see the potential for what it is that I'm after. Maybe they've only done fashion work, and you know I'm not doing fashion. It doesn't mean they couldn't do what I do, but you have to see something in their work that makes you feel like they get it. Maybe they...
haven't had the opportunity to do this type of work but there's got to be something in there and sometimes it comes from a conversation, sometimes it comes from, you know, I've been in situations where a retoucher has written me and it was like eh, I don't think it'll work in in two, three years later I get another email from 'em and look at the work again it's like oh wow, something's changed. and like, this make sense now. So sometimes it takes time. I will say though every retoucher I've worked with who I love working, my favorite retouchers, we didn't like get great results the first few times. It takes time and the first time I didn't know that, they'd send me something back and be like oh my gosh this is terrible, you know. But it has nothing to do with the retouching it just has to do with a great retoucher can make an image look like anything. So it's really finding out they don't know what exactly you're going for and so it's trying to develop that style together and get on the same page and. It really does take time to figure that out. Now as I mentioned earlier, you can begin to develop shorthanded as you create success together you can kind of reference that success and grow from there. That's why I talk a lot about developing the crew as soon as possible. Because if you get a job or project and you need a retoucher next week, like now our next week is not the time to start that process. You need to have that figured out so that you can develop or deliver something great when the time comes. So yeah, it just takes time.
So when you're setting out to create a series on this particular one you had four separate scenes that that were kind of conveying the story that you were playing out. In your work when you're kind of doing these things do you have situations where you want to have multiple looks from one scene that you're displaying or is it pretty standard for you to have just a separate progression.
Yeah, that's a good question. I talked about kind of variety before we did these shots, I think in one of the earlier sections. And then as I got through the shoots I realized these were probably the most focused of types of images that I have created because usually I do shoot more variety but I think there was a number of things that play. It was A our time, B the sets were so specific I had spent so much time thinking through these sets and concepts, even the ones that we didn't figure out til the very last minute. They we're kind of structured to be something very specific. There wasn't really a lot of room to play. I think with the rowboat, at one point, we were kind of taking audience ideas and participation. We put it would put a dead guy in there with his feet out and stuff. And we'll always try to do stuff like that, it doesn't always work though, but it's always worth trying. Sometimes if I'm doing a studio portrait I'll move them all over the place and we'll do all kinds of stuff and we'll move the lights and everything. But if you build a set, you know it depends on the set. I have an image where I had a woman dressed up as like a 70s sports coach in this old wooden room and we had a desk. So she was all over the desk, you know, she was standing sitting and crawling on the desk like hunching, you know crouching over the desk like and we'll do that kind of stuff. But these sets just didn't really like warrant that. It was also more of a humor based concept and so I feel a little more freedom I think sometimes with humor. It's a long-winded answer to your question but yeah it just depends on what it is that we're going for.
Can you tell me or walk me through, like how is it that you figure out from the inception of your project how is this timeline, how is that conveyed, with your team, with the talent to the end of post? What's your timeline like for a project this big?
Oh for a project, like how long does it take?
This was a project for CreativeLive so we had like a broadcast date. From when we started talking about it we probably had like five weeks, six weeks maybe to talk about it. And then, as we mentioned, there was another concept we were originally gonna do and we had to pivot from that into this concept. So we probably only were working on this concept specifically for two weeks. But we had some background work that we were able to kind of build off of that had taken place before that. I have projects right now, personal projects, that I'm doing for my fine art work that I've been thinking about for a year. Maybe it's just I don't have the funding to pull it off right now or maybe I don't have access to an element or something that I need to make that happen. I can get a little antsy, I always have the feeling like I need to do everything right now. But sometimes it's okay to wait and sometimes it's better to wait so I'm constantly kind of kicking through four or five different projects that I'd like to do and it's just kind of waiting until everything makes sense or whatever it is funding, or timing, or time of year maybe you need a location where you need trees to look like fall or something like that. It's different for everything. But if you're talking about a commercial project usually you only have a week or two at the most and so you've got to have your crew lined up and you've got to communicate quickly what it is that we're doing and move from there. There's a big distinction between personal work and client work I guess. Does that answer your question?
I also have a question similar to her. You said you have like multiple projects that you have like in the back of your mind. Are you actually like writing them down and then if you're to the point where OK I can get this portion of this particular project done at this particular time, do you work on like different projects and pieces or do you try to complete one project before moving on to the next?
That's a good question. For me I like to do it all at once as much as possible. I have a friend who does personal projects kind of piggybacking off client work. So while he's traveling all over shooting editorial work if he finds himself in Portland he knows oh, there's someone I've been wanting to photograph in Portland. He'll do that while he's out there and that makes a lot of sense. I think it depends on the type of work that you're doing. For me, because it's like usually I'm creating a series or a single image that's kind of conceptual I lose steam if I spread it out too much. Once I'm ready to strike like I need to go after it and make it happen. I think I lose focus or interest if I don't stay focused on something. That's just my personal process. But I think it's different if you have a different temperament and you can take longer and you're patient and you can kind of piggyback things off of maybe you travel and that's great, 'cause you're saving money and that would be a great way to do it. It depends on who you are and what is it you're trying to do, I think.
So in this particular series that we had here at CreativeLive, it was a controlled setting we were indoors and so you were able to make all the templates for your retoucher. If you're on location and you've got lighting changes with clouds, sun and all the things that kind of happen, how does that impact what you need to provide for your retoucher to come up with that final image?
I think first and foremost if your on location it's hard but I try to just develop this idea that it's gonna be what it is. So you do the best you can and you prep and do everything you can to get your idea to where it's going to be but if you're going to be working outside to some extent you have to be willing to accept what nature gives you. Sometimes that means it will actually be better than you planned or imagined and sometimes it will be different and I'm not gonna say worse, but it'll be different. I guess from there it's up to you to decide what you need to supplement or what you're willing to accept or change but no matter what your approach or where you shooting it, whether you're retouching it yourself or you're working with someone you want to be as focused and like organized as possible to give yourself the best pieces to work with, so to speak.
Hi John, when you're working with your art directors when you say that you're building the team do you keep your team the same or does your team change according to what you're shooting. If, for instance, there's an art director that's say, better at doing say more moody, darker type thing versus you know lighter, I'm just thinking of something, does your team change according to the content?
Absolutely, yeah that's great. It does and I would say my team changes constantly for various reasons maybe someone's not available, maybe they're on another job or they're traveling. But then as you mentioned the thing that we as photographers, we hate, we want every job right. And someone goes oh we went with someone else, that's like the most painful thing to hear, but I do that all the time and it makes total sense like of course, people would do that to a photographer as well. You have an idea and a vision and you want to bring in the best possible, not only pieces but people, to make that happen. As you mentioned, if you have an art director that does really moody work and you have something that's really bright and fun, that may not be the best you know connection. And it can be real specific sometimes there's an art director or a set builder who works just for example like completely that's someone that makes everything purely with found items like recycled waste or whatever. And it has a very specific look and that's awesome. You would probably only want to work with them on that type of work. If I was making a short film and I wanted to do something that was like really dark and moody and dramatic in live-action with people I probably wouldn't be looking at art directors or DPs or anyone really that works on stop-motion claymation film work, right. It's just totally different. It doesn't mean that they don't make beautiful incredible claymation films, it's just they're focused on something completely different. I want someone who's focused completely on what it is that I'm trying to do. And that's, again, why not to get on tirade, pulled in a different direction, but that's why I do think it is so important to shoot what you want to show or what you want to do and show that so that when people have that they come to you and then you get to just do the stuff you love, not trying to do things that you don't want to be doing.
So I wanted to go back to the concept when you said you have a lot of ideas in your head and then you would mention that you kind of sometimes grab inspiration from images. Do you put together a board and then share that with your team or do you sketch or how's your process to actually get to your final image to make sure that everyone helps you get there?
Yeah, I think all those things are great. I mean I think the more you can do to communicate the better. Words, spoken and written, pictures are certainly great if we're talking about photography. But I do try to convey color and mood and wardrobe, especially. Sometimes, you know, you can't find exactly what it is that you want but I will find examples. Recently, I did a video shoot where there was it was like an old kind of 70s, 80s, ski mountain lodge themed and I wanted it to be kind of quirky and everything but I couldn't find anything like that specifically. And I referenced this like fashion editorial spread. But I was very specific, it wasn't that I wanted this fashion or even this bright color that was being referenced in the photo but what I loved about it was everyone's wardrobe flowed together. It was all very specific, defined color palette and each piece was a little different but it wasn't all over the place. They were all basically wearing pretty much the same thing with just slight embellishments and adjustments on each thing. So I wanted to convey that idea to my wardrobe stylist. I want everyone to feel very similar but each person needs to have something just slightly different to kind of distinguish themselves. But the color palette should flow. Like the Wardrobe shouldn't be something that people are noticing, like, because there's a blue over here and a red here and a yellow there. So, yeah, I think in whatever way you can convey to whoever it is that you're working with, if it's wardrobe or art director or hair and makeup, the more you can give them to work on the better.
What I do I kind of assumed the role of everything. So you know I have creative control over everything that I shoot and so as I evolve I'm kind of thinking, OK, so if I have that art director or various elements that are coming into play that I want to pull from, you know, how do you develop? Do you just do practice shoots prior to actually doing the committed shoot that you really want to do where you have that supervision so like you want to make sure that it's tested out and take your people?
I think, so I have two thoughts on that. Because we're talking a lot about crew. But, I would say even if you are working with doing it all yourself, which is totally fine, I would still advocate doing all this stuff like coming up with mood boards and color palettes and examples and writing it all down because that's gonna benefit you just as much as anyone else. What you're doing is basically defining your vision so that you're giving yourself a blueprint to work from. And a lot of times what can come from that is you realize oh my gosh like I totally drawn to this shade of blue, I had no idea until I grabbed these five random images and realized they're all the same color. Clearly something's going on here. So, I think it is really important to visually define what you're trying to do for yourself as well. But to answer your question, I think it's really important to always create what you feel compelled to create and to do it now. I think it's really dangerous to push off ideas because of excuses, like I told you I used to do this I used to have these ideas and I'd say oh I'm not gonna do it right now because in six months I'll be so much better at lighting and I don't want to waste this great idea on poor execution. Well, the reality is hopefully my ideas will be getting better also. I'm not gonna say they're bad ideas but hopefully not only am I lighting is gonna be getting better but my ideas will be getting better as well. That idea that I thought was so brilliant and worth saving, I don't want to do it now, I'm you know I'm not interested in it anymore. But I should have done it because I would have learned from it and I could have grown from it. So, I would say if you have an idea and you want to practice growing with a crew or a team take the idea you're excited about and do it with the team. Don't categorize ideas as being better than the others because once you do that you'll come up with something better.
Separate question, on the tonality in the wall and the colors and things like that. Is that something that you kind of knew going in that those are the colors that you wanted to pull? And what kind of inspiration were you looking at as you were getting that feel.
So, that again came in from the mood boards and that was actually something that was kind of reinforced for me during this process with CreativeLive. I probably had the luxury of a little more time than I would typically have on certain projects of this size because usually commercially this stuff comes in kind of fast and you only have a couple weeks. So I was able to really like force myself to sit down and think and overthink a lot of these things and so I use Pinterest a lot to collect inspirations. So anytime I really like something I'll pin it to a board and at this point like I have a portrait board that's like hundreds of images and I constantly will refer to that. Sometimes now I can pull like OK, I love this color, I love this feel, I love that set wall or whatever it is and kind of start to gather from this collection of images things that resonate for a specific idea that I'm thinking about. So for this one, yeah, we had a very specific color palette picked out and we had talked about you know all that type of stuff and so the colors that show up here are very specific for those reasons.
I love the color grading that happened on the first image, this subtle color grading in post. Can you talk about that, the behind-the-scenes, what went on with Victor?
How we got there?
I mean, I would say typically, my work, I'm drawn to desaturation and contrast. But I typically, I like to add contrast and maintain detail in the shadows. Because, oftentimes, if you just apply general contrast, you're gonna just get blacks and brights. So I like to kind of maintain some of the outer edges of that, but then make sure that the mid-tones are not falling too dark. I think some of that comes from experience of us working together, again, I mentioned in the notes for that particular image to him that I was referencing an image that we did together of Joe, so it had, if you put those two images up next to each other there's very strong similarities of those two images. There's also strong similarities because I used very similar lighting too. That's another thing you have to be careful of is sometimes it's easy to say oh my gosh I love this picture, I want this to look just like that. But if you didn't, if you lit it different, like you have to really be, you have to understand what it is you're actually responding to. You might like this picture because it's really hard punchy light and it falls off quickly and it's moody and you have this bright, soft lit image over here like it's hard to make those. You can maybe pull some color and stuff. But I'm not sure if that's answering your question but pretty much we were referencing past work and using those things to describe where I wanted it to go. But, I knew I wanted it to be dark and moody and I wanted, she had that bright lipstick and you know again she's very attractive, so if you're not careful that can kind of steal the show or can feel off balance. So I knew we need to pull that red back without losing the red obviously and I wanted kind of to feel a little bit of the like dirt that was on her in the scar I wanted to kind of justify that. So that's that's how we ended up getting there, that answers your question. Awesome, so let's take some questions from the internet. Who is the client base for this type of portrait work? would you pitch a series to magazines, et cetera? That's a great question. Yeah, I think you could definitely, you could definitely pitch something like this to magazines. I think if you're gonna do a pitch to magazines you need to have a specific story that you're pitching. I mean, you can show this work, and maybe if a magazine ever wants to do something like this, they would think of you for that. But, oftentimes, pitches to magazines would come if you said like hey, there's an all-female fishing crew up in Alaska and here's their story and I'm fascinated by them and I'd like to pitch this story to your magazine. Magazines love that kind of stuff. They love it if you can give them a story and even show them what how you would want to tell that story. So that's certainly something you can do. If you're talking about just generally showing magazines hey this is the type of work I do. I could see a magazine doing that. But, for me personally, I'm focused more on advertising. So, I definitely show this work to ad clients and would want to be able to do something like this for ad clients. I'm also, for this particular series, it's something that since we've done the course I've written four more scenarios and characters that I would like to create. So, I very much see it as a series. I'd like to keep shooting and ultimately someday I think maybe sell prints, show them in a gallery that sort of thing. I think anything you create, though, I mean, again, depending on your goals, assuming you want to create work for a living you should absolutely pitch it to everybody. I think anything's possible. I think it's dangerous if you start limiting your work to, I'm creating work that I think people want or I'm creating work and it's it has to be here. You know the only way things progress is if people do new things. If you only create work that you see in advertising now you'll probably never make it because by the time you're showing that work, they're tired of that, they've been doing that for years. They're ready for something different. People, consumers, are ready to see something different because they're kind of, they've been, they're zoning out on seeing the same imagery over and over again. So even if you create something and it seems different from anything else you're seeing out there, that's great. Show it around and pitch it and do whatever you can to get that work out there. Next question. For someone who's coming in with editorial clients and small local brands, what advice do you have for moving to large corporate brands or advertising agencies? I would say create the work that you want to be hired for. So take opportunities to create personal work like we did here, this, you know for me, this was an opportunity to not just teach, which I love, but this is an opportunity to create something that I didn't have in my portfolio. To create something that I actually wanted to create. So, this wasn't me just like regurgitating something that I've done before. There was, as I mentioned like a lot of fear in this project for me 'cause a lot of this stuff I hadn't done before. I hadn't done like a smoke-filled room trying to, I had an idea of what I thought it could look like but I hadn't done it. So I think if you want to shoot, and that's this is the type of work I would like to do more of. I'd like to do more open space, still controlled, because I love sets kind of telling story in that way, but you've gotta show it. I could talk til I'm blue in the face about this idea of these like female sailors and this really interesting atmospheric spaces but no one's gonna hire me based on this story. They're gonna hire me once they see it and they know, oh my gosh, that's what you're talking about. Yeah, that's the best advice I could give you is try to create work that will appeal to those types of clients. Not saying create work that you see already that you think they want, but understand what is it that a corporate client wants. Be able to speak that language and create work that would appeal or apply to their needs. Same thing with advertising. So another thing I will say, I guess to be more specific is because I can definitely resonate with this because I started off shooting editorial and small local brands. Production value is so important. Even if you're doing something really simple. It's all about production value. And we talked about that a little bit in the course as well. But thinking about what are the elements in your image, who's the person in your image and why are they there. Something that we mentioned from one of those student examples that happens all the time. There's a beautiful girl in a dress and she's standing outside and I'm usually, I feel like, why. I mean that could work, someone can make that work. But you've got to give me a reason to feel like, oh, I love this image you know. Then that comes down to production value. Like thinking through what your vision is and what you want people to feel, and what's supposed to be going on here. It's not enough to just have like pretty color, pretty color, pretty face. There needs to be a justification for like why are these things here and then you have to sell it in the same way where I was talking about I was freaking out about the production value of the portrait with the tattoos. Like, I love this idea of the tattoos it's really cool and it's edgy but here's this beautiful face, like how do we make this actually work, like we need to scar, the lipstick, is it hair, I don't know. Maybe it's the beanie, maybe you don't want to see the hair, the hair is making it lean too much in the fashion realm. So, you have to take all those things and put it together. Next question. Do you ever shoot personal projects for stock photo? I don't, I don't, yeah, that's the easy answer for that. I think I prefer to shoot photos for myself and maybe sometimes like there will be like a stock opportunity or something but I find if I'm shooting images for stock purposes I'm not really shooting what I want, I'm creating an image that I think someone else wants to buy. And so, again, if that's your job and that's what you want to do then that would be a great thing to do. But for me, I have advertising work that I do and so when I'm shooting for myself I really want it to be for myself. I don't want to be like, thinking about what other people want in that instance. Yeah, do you have a question?
So during the class you talked, you shared with us the portfolios that you would share like and bringing to shoots for clients to see. On your personal project, is that something kind of pictures that you might add to that portfolio that you show them?
As far as your work goes?
Yeah, I mean my current portfolio right now like these four images are the first four in the portfolio. So I definitely show these and hopefully my personal work would make sense in that.
And is that kind of what sets the stage for who you are creatively that you're trying to portray?
Yeah and you know people don't want to see ads they want to see who you are. They want to see what you're up to, what you're interested in, you know, they want to hear you talk about things that you're really passionate about. I think that's what people really want to see when you're doing meetings. Which artists you turn to for inspiration? Photographers, cinematographers, painters or writers. All of them, I guess. Yeah really, I think when I started out I was really only just looking at photographers and I still do like photographers. But I definitely look at all different types of artists and you know there's different things from different artists that I did I draw from. Really great exercise that I did recently was I created an artist statement for my fine art work. I had to create an artist statement about myself, in my work, in general and I had to create an artist statement about the series which was uniform. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I found this really fantastic article online kind of talking through like how this person creates an artist statement and they had all these really great exercises where you think about and identify artists that you're influenced by and then breaking down what is it that you're influenced, what are you're inspired by about them and it was it was hard, but it was really great to think about like, oh man, this person I love their confidence or their timing. This person I love how you know, quiet their work is. Whatever it is you just find all these things and it really informs you about what you're drawn to as an artist as well. So I think the more different art forms you can look at the better off you'll be in terms of inspiration. Would you ever swap a face or a head of an image if the expression were perfect in one take but the environment didn't quite work. Absolutely, yeah, I've done that. You know obviously you'd like to get it in camera as much as possible. My goal is to have you know one image that I send to the retoucher for one image. But you know sometimes it does take two or three, four images to make that. If that is something that you feel would make your image better I would say you should do it. I would never advocate for having rules like if you made a rule that says, I'll never swap out a face, that maybe you know hindering you from creating your best work. So yeah, if something can make my work better or closer to what I envision or I'm excited about I will do anything, there's nothing I probably wouldn't do. All right. Do you give your retoucher the original mood boards even if your concept has changed? Only if it applies, I guess, or makes sense. As I mentioned earlier with giving the fashion wardrobe spread to my stylist for something completely different. If it's justified, if there's a reason and benefit to showing it, I'll absolutely show it. but I've got to be able to explain it. I don't want to, it would probably just be lazy if I had a bunch of stuff that didn't apply and I send it anyway because I already packaged it up. I think you've got to be really intentional and thoughtful about what it is that you're communicating and sharing. Would you ever ask your retoucher for a different version of the same image or do you have a clear direction by the time you're handing images off? That's a great question. I don't always have a clear image. Sometimes, and my retoucher can attest to this, sometimes it's like ooh, this or this, this or this, this or this, and I have to like sometimes I have to do something that doesn't work to know what does work. So yeah, you know I'm talking about having a clear vision but it's not like it's that easy all the time. I mean sometimes you do have to kind of go down a rabbit trail and sometimes you do have to create something and realize like oh my gosh, you know what, it was actually better the first time and I'm sorry. It's a learning process and you have to figure that out as you go and you'll get better at it as you go as well I guess. Will you ever do any compositing on your own before passing on images to the retoucher? Yeah, that's a great thing to do if you can do it. There's been times where I've tried to do that and my work was just so bad it was more of a hindrance, it would be worse to show them what I was doing. Not because I'm embarrassed of my work or anything it's just like it's making the idea more convoluted. But again the clearer image, the clearer of a picture you can paint for the people you're working with or even for yourself the better off you'll be. So I would do anything you can do to explain the the goal as clearly as possible. Would you ever consult your art director during the retouching rounds? I don't think, maybe, I mean, I guess you could. I don't know that I'd necessarily do that. I definitely think it's important to sometimes get outside opinion and sometimes when you're stuck in a rut it's good to kind of take advice from others. And sometimes I'll take advice and I don't take it, but sometimes you know I'll listen to people and it's like you know what, OK, I'm seeing a theme develop here and I and I feel like I agree and I needed to hear that. I think it's important to be comfortable and confident in who you are and what you like when listening to outside opinion. Don't be easily swayed. But sure, if it makes sense and you're working with an art director, yeah absolutely. I mean they should be part of the whole process if it makes sense for you. Can you talk about next steps for these images? What types of printing, et cetera? So as I mentioned these images I'm you know, probably today I'll put on my website and I do have them printed out in my book already, so I've had a few meetings at ad agencies and places where I'll show them the prints. So I will continue to do that and use them in my general marketing. I'll probably send out like an email newsletter to clients at some point. But I also want to keep shooting more of the series and eventually I'd love to print them out. I think I am thinking about doing a smaller size larger print run of these images that will hopefully be more accessible to more people. So, hopefully, eventually selling these images as prints. And then maybe if it makes sense eventually something in a gallery show would be would be really awesome depending on how the series unfolds. So what type of printing? I use an Epson printer and I print, these I'm printing on legacy Beretta paper, which is kind of like a luster, it's like not glossy but not matte, it's kind of somewhere in between. I really love the paper. When you add these to your online portfolio do you separate these out as a series or include them as individual shots? That's a great question. I don't know that there's necessarily a right or wrong way to do that. I think it just depends on your website and you know I'm constantly reassessing my website with my agent especially we'll have conversations about like even as you add one or three or four images to a portfolio that can change the whole portfolio. So it's not just a matter of plopping them down in there you have to kind of reconsider the whole group of images. The more work you create the trickier it can be adding or introducing even just one new image into that. I have a section of projects where I'll list, I can show whole bodies of work. I don't know that I would create a project for just four images at least on my site. So I'll probably just put them in under like portraits or something like that. But, someday if I have seven or eight of these images I would absolutely create a project or a series of them. So I think that just depends on what your brand is all about and how you present your work and what makes the most sense. But I will be showing them as much as possible in the ways that make sense for me, hopefully. So, one more question, yeah.
Going forward after you've done the four shoots and you kind of found those kind of glitches where you're stuck with like the smaller background or you know the things didn't extend as far as you wanted so we're kind of limited in that shot. As you're continue on with this series are you doing completely separate scenarios or are you taking the elements that you were kind of limited by and expanding upon that as you move forward?
That's a great question. Certainly there are elements that have kind of emerged throughout these first four that I take into account that I hadn't necessarily taken into account moving forward. So you've kind of created the structure of this world and so you try to live within that world. That doesn't mean you want to limit yourself in terms of what you can do, but I'll definitely be taking pieces of that and kind of hopefully growing it in a similar way as I move forward.