Evaluating Location and Set-Up with Assistant
Shoot number one, I described it a little but now I'll give it, give yous some more detail. We're going be in this room, shooting in an editorial shoot. So I'm treating it, as though I got a call from a magazine and this is what would happen. They would call me and say, "Hey Victoria, are you free on Thursday "to shoot so and so?" The answer's yes and they say, "Great we'll get back to you with more details." And then on the day before, I get a I'll get an email, sort of like a brief that just says, the subject, where you need to be, Creative Live studio at 9:30 so, well you know what? On my brief if I show up at 9: that means that the shoot's a little bit later. So, anyway the point being I know I need to be here, I know what time and I know where and that's it. So that's, that's how we're approaching it. Now when you're dealing with celebrities or musicians or CEO's or you know, anyone who has a very tight schedule they normally have a manager or a publicist. Kenna is going to be pla...
ying that role because that is, how to manage the talent is one thing and how to manage the talent's handler is also part of my, my daily life. So I'm gonna share that with you guys. So essentially I, if I know that my shoot's at one o'clock I try to get there as early as possible. A lot of celebrity shoots or particularly on press days, have you guys ever heard the term a junket? Okay so, what a junket is it's a long press day that's set up for the talent to promote a movie. So let's say name an actor. Kevin Hart so, alright so, when Kevin Hart does a movie, he's required actually, most of the time, they're required to do a couple days of press and so to make it easy and efficient for everyone in the film. They have everyone in the film be in New York or LA on the same day and then what they do is they setup interviews and and photo shoots that whole day. So starting in the morning, they'll have an interview with the Hollywood reporter and then later that day it'll be people magazine and then In Style and then blah blah blah blah blah and literally the list goes on. So these, the talent go from one to the next. And so you get your time slot. So my time slot, you know, let's say it's 11 o'clock, I would show up as early as possible. Sometimes when I get there, the room's not even available. But I'm there, hi guys, I'm here. It's easier for them to get rid of me and shove me in a room so I can get started than have me stand there going, hi guys I'm here, really would like to setup. You know I'm not trying to be a pain, I'm just trying to do my job. The best way for me to do that is to prepare and I need time to see the space and sort of trouble shoot from there. So, what I know about today's shoot is that our talent is coming and we're going to shoot her in this room. So, this is Daniel, my assistant who we've been working together for approximately 24 hours.
We know each other really well.
Yes but we do. You'll be surprised and I'm gonna talk about this a lot later, how much you learn from each other and this is a team. And we're gonna talk about that later but it's only been 24 hours but we're already working together seamlessly so. Here's some of the gear that I brought. And generally speaking, and this is on my gear list, when I show up, I try to bring as much stuff as possible that I can carry and I bring an assistant always because not only do I, I need the extra hand, actually physically moving things but when you have a time crunch, you just need the manpower. I'd normally bring, it's like a clown car, sort of the way I describe it, I have all these cases and I wheel 'em in and then I just, it all pops out and turns into this studio. And in there generally are four lights. Sometimes I use all four, sometimes I use none. You just don't know so I just like having the option. Today we have ProPhoto B1s which I love. If you're not familiar with them, they are self contained mono heads with batteries attached to them so you don't need to plug in. It makes it great for location shoots and particularly when you don't know what the outlet situation's gonna be and old hotel rooms which is where a lot of junkets are, tend to have old wiring so even if you have a pack you can plug in, you not necessarily sure if I'm gonna short the whole hotel. If you ever see a headline that says all the power goes out at the Plaza Hotel in New York you'll know why. So I actually like to bring the B1s because I don't have to worry about that. Also if you're ever shooting in a theater in New York, there are union rules with the crews there. So you're not allowed to plug in. Well you can for a very large sum of money and nobody has that (laughs) sort of budget. So you have to be self contained. So I have a B1 over here. And we actually set it up with a strip light just minutes before we started because that's one of my go-tos. And I have a beauty dish over here. Let me move this out of the way. With a grid. This is my go-to. It's not that easy to travel with and ProPhoto just made a new collapsible one actually that I haven't had any time experimenting with so I can't tell you about it. But I can tell you I'm gonna try it 'cause it makes it a lot easier. But this is sort of like that, it's the thing I don't leave home without, with my American express card. The same ah (laughs) those are the two things I never leave with. Alright. When is our talent coming?
She will be coming whenever you are ready for her.
Or would you like me to be playing my role (laughing)
Well I would like to know how much time I have to set up.
So this is what I'm gonna walk into the hello, you have a checklist here normally and the checklist has, you know, I'm supposed to give you my name and my affiliation. Victoria, I'm here shooting for Creative Live. And they look down the list. Oh yes, I see you're right after Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair. No pressure (audience laughing) No pressure. And I say great! Could you tell me what room we're gonna be in and what time she's gonna be here. So then, I'll go to my room but I'm gonna take about probably 20, 30 minutes and we're gonna do some testing here. 'Cause this is what I would do. We'd roll into our hotel room.
Great, and that's plenty of
Okay she'll be ready then, great. What's really funny is sometimes, very very rarely, the subjects are done early and they just roll in while you're like in the middle of putting an umbrella up and you're like, ah. That's very unusually but most of the time, when I'm standing there they go, oh we're running an hour and 1/2 late. And you're like okay, great that means I have an extra hour and 1/ to play around. So... I can tell you some really funny hotel room stories. That sounds really shady but (laughing) I have walked into rooms that have had basically, there it's a hotel room, so you've all pictured that. Four walls and then no bed but the head board is still attached to the wall. What am I supposed to do with that? It makes it difficult for so many reasons. I've never understood that. Just one more curve ball that gets thrown at me. So let's go ahead and setup my camera and if this is our room and I just walked in. I'm going to have a think, based on our lighting. Alright so, I'm shooting for a magazine and they're expectations are that they need a portrait. Oh do you know what I was doing there, I was seeing how the light was hitting my skin tone. So you can watch it change. So the light looks pretty nice right here. And it changes, it looks different, also nice over here. And then here's back lit a little. Hm, you do yeah. We used to do, it's very you know, it's a good Litmus test basically. I have my personal expectation of course, is that I would like to walk away with beautiful portrait also. But my editor would have my head on a platter if I just came back with one picture, right? Even if I came back 70 pictures, 70 shots of the same setup. My editor doesn't want me to come back with one really amazing picture. My editor wants me to come back with options. Horizontals, verticals, I mean, literally down to the basics. Horizontals and verticals because I'm not sure they know what space it's going into. And my job as a photographer is to make their life easier. I'm also gonna give them options in variety. So in a room like this, it's essentially a box with a lot of walls. I actually see a lot of options and you'll see probably I'm guessing in our difficult spaces segment, that we won't have as many obvious options right away. But what I have to do in my limited time is keep the flow of the shoot going and move her around. And I want to, here are ways to come up with options when you don't have different props and furniture to bring in or different walls. It's the I'm going to shoot something available light and then I'm going to shoot something lit. So right there, that's two options. I'm also gonna try, this background I like, and I think it looks pretty nice, pretty simple too. I would just use daylight that's here from this beautiful window. I would... I think I'm gonna put a seamless paper up here. I always travel with seamless paper. It's really annoying. I don't love it. Or canvas backgrounds or you know, just some sort of backdrop because when I walk into a room to be honest, I don't like brick. I don't like shooting on brick. I don't like the texture. I don't like the tones. It can be very successful but, for me to make it successful, I need more time to nuance it. So I just sort of eliminate it. And if I'm in a small space, I'm going to tape paper to the wall. And just make myself a studio. The reason I, we have the space here so I'm gonna use these background stands. However, if I'm in a small room, conference room 'cause conference rooms can be huge right? But there's a giant table in the middle that's too big and too heavy to move. So it's an obstacle that you have to work around. So instead of putting up a background stand or using two C stands, I just tape it to the wall because look how much space I save. From here to here, that's about 2 1/2 feet of space that this stand is taking up. I need that space. That is valuable space to me. So here, I'm gonna use it because I have it. And one way if I was using a background stand, I could put almost two back to back and I would put a seamless here and a seamless here. So I'd have two different colors. This would be lit by daylight. And this would be lit by my strobes. So right there, that's options. My editor's gonna be thrilled, I hope. Other ways that I'm going to try to deliver options are and I have to remember this, standing and sitting. That immediately changes people's posture and what they're doing and it keeps the flow of it. So I'll bring in a stool or an apple box or and then, we'll go from there. So let's set up some lights. I'm gonna take this off. Yeah, we'll start right. And you guys are not gonna see what's on my camera while I'm shooting but, when I, right now. But when I ingest my card into, ingest is my word, it's a photojournalism word. And I'll talk to you guys in a little bit about my career and how I got here. But, I started as a photo journalist and I use a photojournalistic, it's a photojournalism tool called Photo Mechanic. Everyone can use it of course, but I tend to see a lot of photo journals that use it. And when you put your card in the computer in Photo Mechanic, it asks you to ingest instead of upload. Which is why I say ingest and people look at me like, I don't know what that means. I think I'm just gonna start actually with daylight. It's the easiest. It's simplified. Here we are, I have a bunch of stuff to try. My talent's getting ready to come. So start with the obvious particularly if she is to walk in early and she's ready to go. Because when she walks in, I don't have the opportunity to say, could just wait a couple more minutes 'cause they'll say we're gonna go to the next interview, thanks. I'll talk about this a little more later as well but I find that shoots are a little bit like a dinner party. You're in my house. I'm hosting this. So I not only want you to be as comfortable as I would want my guests in my house. But I'm not gonna have you show up and say, thanks for coming, dinner will be ready in two hours. It just doesn't seem to be the way I wanna run my dinner party. Alright so let me grab my camera from you. Alright let me test on you. Another reason it's really important to have an assistant, or someone to help you, is that you need to be able to test. I can't test the light on this wall and know what it's gonna be like when my subject comes in. And I try to test on somebody who looks like my subject. So if I'm shooting a dark, a dark tall dark and handsome man, I will try to find a tall dark and handsome human to test on. I actually did a shoot recently when it was an ad campaign for an underwear brand and of course, they were wearing underwear. And the whole time we were testing, my assistants were wearing clothes. And we actually really couldn't, we were trying to dial in and couldn't get there so, I asked my assistant to take his shirt off and he obliged. Thank you very much for doing that, I appreciate it. But really, not trying to be creepy in any way, it was because as soon as he took it off, we knew that we had the light right. It was because he was wearing a white shirt. So the white was reflecting in ways and... that we really couldn't see, you know, the nuances of what we were doing. So soon as he did that, it was like oh we're here, we're ready and then we could start the shoot. So you should try to test in the right way. Sometimes, you just don't have that. I have worked with couple assistants for years that are like Daniel, petite women and I don't shoot that many petite women but it still works. You need to some sort of skin tone to shoot on. Just start there. That's definitely a good place. And when I've had to shoot by myself with no assistant, I will just ask people in the hotel or in the office if I'm in a someone's someone who walks by the conference room, I'll just open the door and I'm like, can I grab you for a second. Everyone's like ahh. But it's really important. Alright so I'm just gonna start here. Get my exposure (camera clicks), make some creative decisions, what ISO I want it to be on. I think I'm gonna be on around ISO for this room so I can move around a bit. I like to be very fluid. In a situation like this I would never shoot tethered. I just don't have the time. I also, for two reasons. It slows me down. And also I don't want the publicist stand, Kenna I don't want the Kenna standing there going oh, can we fix her hair, can we do this, can we add lip gloss because I don't have, that's my time that's she's encroaching on. And just because the publicist comes in and wants to fix something right then and there doesn't mean she's giving me two extra minutes. So I just keep it all self contained. Does that make sense? If you guys have any questions let me know. Yeah? (female voice talking in distance) (laughing)
Can I just ask what kind of camera you're using and what lens you're using right now?
So this is a Canon 1DX. This is a 24 to 70 lens, two eight. I have a lot of cameras. I use Canon, I use Nikons, I use Hasselblads, I use Fuji, I mean the list goes on. I like I was telling you earlier, every shoot's different so I have to approach that shoot, I have to take in all the data I know and then that's how I pick my gear. For this shoot, time is of the essence. So you have to make that choice. My Hasselblad is a beautiful camera. It's much more deliberate and it's a little bit slower. And so I have to ask myself, what do I want? Do I want fewer frames that are have a larger file, the sensor's bigger. Or do I want more frames? It's also about latitude, going up in ISOs and being able to play around. For a lot of these very quick shoots, I use my Canon. Sometimes I use my Hasselblad. There really isn't, there's no right answer 'cause it's just a tool. It's just an extension of your hand so don't get caught up in too much what the gear is. In my, I actually could show you, I don't know if you guys can get 'cause I can open up my Pelican case and show you what's in there. I'll wheel it out here. What's the best place for that?
Probably back out.
Back out here, okay. Thank you, I'm gonna grab that. Alright so. This is my Pelican case. It goes with me everywhere. Pelican's actually the name of the brand. And on it are stickers from my travels and my husband's travels. The reason I like it as a case is that when I was a photojournalist I ran around with back packs. Horribly heavy backpack. And not only did that hurt over time but I can't do this on a backpack and I like to shoot above people a little bit particularly women. And also a lot of the men I shoot are really tall. So this gives me that extra step without having to to bring an apple box with me or rely on a chair at a hotel which tend to be or an office space they tend to be too tall. So inside my Pelican case, right now I brought, this sort of changes around here. But in here was my camera body and my lens. I also have my longer lens which is a 70 to 200 which I love. I love this lens and I really don't get to use it very often in my portraits because the spaces are just too tight and in here I probably won't use it. But I have it just in case. I have a 24 which is fixed. I have an 85. I have my 50 which I love. And I love all the 50s even the the one four, this is the one two, I mean they're all great. The cheaper ones are still great and when you drop them and break them like I do often, it's okay. Photojournalists tend to be very very hard on their gear and as you can see I have the wrong lens caps. I just sort of, I'm definitely a do as I say not as I do type of person. I mean take good care of my gear but compared to a lot of other people, my husband included who is a photojournalist actually he, they take very good care with gear. I just know that it can withstand a lot having run around with it. I have extra batteries and my air remotes. And then over here, a couple things, what do we have? Altoids, hilarious but it's so true. I talk so much as a portrait photographer that my breath occasionally, especially after coffee, you know, who wants to talk to somebody that has coffee breath. So that I always have those. And then extra batteries. For the air remotes and for some other things. And a color checker, which I won't use today. I use it in much more controlled studio settings. But it's here just because. And that's basically it. So this is, these are where I'll be going on the shoot. The thing about these quick shoots is that changing lenses, I like prime lenses better, I think they're really beautiful, they're really sharp. But when I change lenses, that's time. I will have time to do that here. 15 minutes is actually a lot. I have had, I had two minutes with Justin Bieber. Robert Redford gave me about three minutes. I'm talking really fast. So in those three minutes, I'm not gonna change lenses so. Here I will, 15 minutes, I actually think I have plenty of time to do that. And I think that's actually another thing we can add to our list of ways to provide options for your editors is changing lenses. I think that's a big sort of call out here because if I find that sometimes I'll go back through my work, maybe you guys can relate to this. And I'll look and everything that's the same focal distance. Everyone's here. I never went in really tight. And you can obviously with a zoom lens, I can move my feet and I can come in closer or I can pull back and do something super wide. But, most editors, I think will appreciate the fact that you actually took the time to change your lens and get something else. Each lens has a different feel. Alright so, you know the other thing about this Pelican case, I just realized as I picked it up is that I sit on it a lot, not only in airports but during shoots. If I wanna get lower, and I have had many people sit on this. Richard Gere sat on this most recently (laughing) True stories. Okay, so Daniel, I'll just put this right here. Alright so let's, let me have you over there and let me actually have you sit on the ground. Alright, turn your body this way for me. And just lean. Okay just relax. Be very concerned that we have... Be very concerned that the fact that our talent is coming very soon and we have nothing set up. That's right. (camera clicks) Okay. Turn your head this way a little bit, great. (camera clicks) alright go ahead and stand up for me. Go ahead stand up for me, great. (camera clicks) so I'm walking myself through a creative process which I will talk to you about. I'm literally just looking at how the light is hitting her. So go ahead and turn this way for me. And lean against the door. (camera clicks) okay. (camera clicks) Now go ahead and stand over here. I basically am doing what I did with that hand. Just seeing how (camera clicks) the light's hitting. Okay, excellent. Let's set up some seamless. So let's get this white one ready. I very rarely do full lengths. There's just no space. And I don't really have any purpose for that. I will at full length, I mean, like a head to toe vertical shot. I had obviously when Daniel's on the floor, seeing all of her outfit. So that was a full picture but not a full length. I think we might need one more clamp. So you wanna grab it for me actually 'cause I don't want this to fall. Having an assistant, when you're using seamless is the best because otherwise you do this. You start here and then you go over here. I'm sure you've all done this before. Really glamorous. And then we do it again and then you go back and forth. And it just, such a pain. So having...
Where do you want this one?
Pretty tall. So let's start at the top and just keep going. And then this is gonna start rolling. I would actually clamp this afterward because of this, the weight of this pulls it. And I wanna go up even higher. Great so just pull this down a little. I think it's about right. Okay. Alright so is it, you're all the way up, good. Pretty good. I don't think she's taller than that. Okay, so now we'll clamp this. Let's put this in front. And we might wanna bend this this way. Is that even? Alright. Thank you. You know it doesn't need to look pretty but it helps. Just about sort of a presentation situation. Good. Okay so, pull the stool in. Is this even? Still not even is it? Come down a little. Part of it's 'cause its... Dah, is that good? Okay cool. So lemme take a quick picture of you there. Just ambient. I'll put you pretty close.
Lemme see what the... So a lot of, in a lot of situations, in a lot of the clients that I work for are newspapers and photojournalistic magazines. Meaning, I can't retouch. I also shoot for the city press, Reuters, you know, things like that where, I find being hired by them, I have to play by their rules, right? So no retouching, which means I have to get it right in camera. I can process the image. You know, I can shoot a raw and then do a little color correction, put a little Victoria Will spin on it. And send it off but, there's nothing I can remove. So for example, this. If this is showing up in my image, I can't go in and clone it out and move it. I'd either have to crop it out or live with it. So I have to get it right now. So those are all things, I have to take into consideration. If there's a really cool wall and then but there's this red exit sign above it and I wanted to use that, you know in some situations, in some magazines I work for, I could take that out later. Depending on the client, sometimes I can't. So I just have to eliminate that as an option. So if this is just available. I'm not deleting anything so you'll see all of this when I go through our card. Beautiful, take a look this way for me. Okay so let's set up. Let's do two things. Let's back this up a tiny bit, maybe about a foot. (strange mouth noise) Great and let's bring over a Photek umbrella. Is that...
They're cheap, you wanna small one?
Ah yes, the medium or the small one. How's that? Up?
No do your top clamp isn't clamped down. So it keeps just moving up.
Oh it's not, ah, the top one. That's weird, well how are we, this is gonna be fine. It doesn't look great but, it is clamped.
The middle one, the middle one.
It's not locked.
The middle, oh this one's not locked?
Thanks guys. How's that?
Yeah, it's better.
Thank you. I thought you're talking about the clamp and I was like (audience grumbles) but right right right. I was like really? (laughing) looks pretty clamped to me. This, the knobby.
The screwy thingy.
Yeah so, Victoria in terms of preparation, are you doing any preparation on the subject matter themself as you're thinking about what the backgrounds might look like.
Very good question. Very good question. Okay. I'm deciding whether or not I'm gonna answer that now or later.
Because I have a whole, I actually have... I will answer that in just a minute actually. Let me bring this light in. The quick answer is that I do not do any research beforehand.
Other than to see what they look like. Quick google image. And I'll go into why.
Later. Okay so, let's see is my pocket wizard on? (buttons beeping) Alright so let me have you have a seat here. (camera clicks) Okay, it's a good one. (camera clicks) Whoo. (camera clicks) Okay. Let's try putting this over here up a little bit higher. A little bit more to the side here. Let's try that. Okay so you're probably wondering why the light is not facing my subject. That is because the best quality of light out of something like this is on the sides. It's softer. If this is facing her, like this, there's gonna be a big highlight on her forehead. So I'm trying to use the edge of the light. I'm feathering it 'cause that's the quality of light that I like with this particular modifier. Not every modifier necessarily reacts that way. So, I'm also when I'm looking at the setup, we already have beautiful, natural light, right? We have this beautiful window, so I'm using it. And I'm mimicking. I'm adding extra light from where the window came from. If I put the light over here, I'm fighting it. And I'm making the image flat. So I'm gonna keep my light looking as though it's coming from the window. So when I was shooting wide open, and I'm still not there. See if I can, I'm gonna turn this down. That's why. Okay, let's try that. You'll see. I'm all over the board on here. I am not dialed in at all. Okay. I went up an F stop, now I'm going down an F stop. There we go, okay. Let me go back and compare it to this one. Very similar, okay. (camera clicks) Alright (camera clicks). Okay (camera clicks). Hm, it's pretty similar to my window actually. This light's actually providing a lot of light which is really nice. I don't normally have that luxury but I love to use it when I can. Okay so, let's set up a seamless over here and then pretty sure around then, is when I'm going to have my publicist barge in the room so I wanna be ready. Let's do, let's put it right here and we'll do... Start with gray. So I was, one of the things I was saying about seamless was that it's really annoying to carry but I always bring a whole bunch of colors because I don't know what these people are wearing. And like I said, if I hate brick, I mean I'd love it in the house but in a background, it's not my favorite. So I just bring seamless, and just sort of make these mini studios and I bring a safe color like gray and then something hot pink or purple or green or. I also tend to shoot, sometimes I shoot underexposed a little and sometimes I shoot overexposed a little depending. And what's important is that I know where I'm going with these images. So when I'm shooting over here, I can tell you right now that I'm probably gonna make that black and white. So I'm shooting with that in mind. So that's another way also to provide options for editors. Some color, some black and white. So that's... And I'll remind you all of this when we're going through my contact sheet and you're like, wow she was 17 stops over. That's so weird. It's probably just because I don't have it dialed in yet. Alright but let me help you here. I'll go up. I'm gonna go up here.
You're gonna go up?
Yeah. The taller person should always go up on the ladder. This one definitely doesn't have to be even because the whole purpose of this is that it just doesn't fall when my subject's there. That's it. And I don't wanna have wrinkles. Again, 'cause I don't necessarily have the ability to take that out later. So okay, let's move that and just breathe, there you go, okay. So for this one I wanna use the beauty dish. So let's bring this over. Okay I think, let me shoot on you again. So, I'm gonna have you come a little bit forward. Great.
You want that taller?
For you it's okay. So, I always have my Pelican around so I can sit on it or stand on it like I showed you. Take a half step this way. Alright so now a totally different exposure here. Potentially (camera clicks). Okay, I think I'm gonna have you hand hold when it comes time. But this is just so we can dial in.
The beauty dish?
I think it's gonna end up being easier and then I can actually move this out of my way. Turn your head a little bit this way. Yeah, that's nice. (camera clicks) alright so, what I'm seeing is it goes super wide. Should give you guys an example. (camera clicks) and then let's... Where the fall off is here. (camera clicks) So... Let's now, let's actually just wheel this over here and I'm gonna put it behind me. And... Let's have the strip light ready to go.
The beauty dish is gonna go behind you.
No I'm sorry. I'm gonna have you hand hold that. I want the Photek. Totally mis-spoke. Glad you asked. (laughs) That'll be very confusing. I'm gonna light it from across the street, no. (laughing) You can though. Did you guys see, there's a hotspot right here in this window. Can you guys see that? That's 'cause across the street there's something white and the sun's reflecting off of it so I'm getting extra fill. So I'm gonna use it. I mean she doesn't have to stand here with a reflector because I have it already. Okay so this is gonna be here. So I'm gonna take two frames this way. This is just becoming cumbersome and it's great to move around particularly if you have in studio. But it's just in my way. So it's gonna remove itself. Just put this this way. Thank you. Alright so I'm going to take a test frame. Without the beauty dish.
And the box?
I'll bring it in one second. It's on right now but let me just, this is, these are pieces to a puzzle. Okay. (camera clicks) And I'll throw this in. Also another piece to a puzzle. And then, if our subject is ready, she can come in and we'll put it all together. Ooh, gotta have that one screwed on tight. Okay. This is my mini stand. Most places, when you say oh I like the smallest possible stand you have, it's still this tall. So I found this I think at B&H somewhere a long time ago and it fits in my suitcase and I bring it all over the place. So here's a little tiny, still. (camera clicks) okay. Okay. You ready?
Alright we're ready.
You want your timer on?
When she comes in.