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PHOTOGRAPHING FOR THE MOVIES

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Working as a photographer on the set of a movie requires a different discipline to other areas of commercial photography and achieving a successful shoot requires careful planning, plus strong communication and interpersonal skills.

In the case of British movie, Habit my main role was to shoot portraits of the key actors ‘in character’, one of which would be used for the movie poster. I also spent some time shooting general production stills (also known as unit stills) but for the sake of this blog post, I will only be featuring the official actor portraits.

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Roxanne Pallett – Copyright Image ©

After receiving a commission from the movie producer, I had to quickly get to know the script and plan to be available to shoot on days when the the key actors were available.  I therefore had to liaise with other crew members, including the assistant directors and actors, who allocated time to shoot the still images between movie ‘takes’. In most cases, I only had around 5 – 10 minutes to photograph each actor, which meant I had to set up my studio flash gear well in advance and be ready to work quickly once the actors appeared.

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Robert Beck – Copyright Image ©

Due to various limitations, including time and space, I was restricted to shooting with one or two flash heads and lighting had to be tested well in advance of shooting – there was no time fumble around during the shoot! The only exception was when I created the portrait for the official movie poster, which was organised by the movie director as a studio shoot on a separate day after filming had completed.

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Jessica Barden – Copyright Image ©

Equipment used for the shoot included a Nikon D810 body and 50mm and 85mm prime lenses. For lighting, I used Elinchrom studio flash fitted with softbox modifiers.

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William Ash – Copyright Image ©

Scenes from Habit were shot on location around Greater Manchester and in studio in Manchester’s Media City. The official trailer for the movie can be viewed below.

Habit Movie Trailer (due to be released next year)

All images are protected by copyright © and must not be used in any way or form without permission.

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Workflow – After the shoot

Once you’ve completed a photo shoot it’s vital that all images are backed-up as soon as possible. It’s possible for memory cards to be lost, damaged or corrupted and I have witnessed this myself, especially in the case of SD cards!

Of course some cameras now have dual memory card slots, allowing you to write images to two memory cards at once – one as primary destination, the other as back-up. But, don’t get complacent if you do this and bear in mind that if your camera bag is stolen, both cards could be lost! So, separating your backed-up images as soon as you can is strongly recommended.

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After completing a shoot (or sometimes part-way through a shoot), I will usually copy all images straight on to my laptop or portable hard drive and then duplicate the images to a second hard drive for additional security. Also, since hard drives have been known to break down, I always create an additional back up to another drive that ‘mirrors’ the contents of my primary one. As a general rule it’s good to have at least three copies of all your digital files.

Because I always shoot in RAW, backing up every image can quickly eat away at hard drive space, so some photographers actually delete unwanted images prior to backing up, purely to save on hard drive space.

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Next, I import all images in to Adobe Lightroom and add basic keywords relating to the shoot as I do. Since using Lightroom, I have found the simple keywording function to be a massive bonus and consequently I’m able to find any images from previous photoshoots in a split second, simply through a simple keyword search of my Lightroom library. Once my images have been imported in to the Lightroom library, I may add further more specific keywords to particular groups of images for greater control when searching.

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Editing in Adobe Lightroom is pretty much the same as editing in Adobe Camera Raw but with some extra functionality. Both are good for making overall selections and changes, such as exposure, colour balance, cropping and some general retouching, etc. I can normally have large batches of images ready for client viewing within around half an hour and usually only use Adobe Photoshop for detailed retouching purposes once a selection has made out by the client. Once an initial edit has been carried out, I then ‘output’ my selected images from Lightroom to the file format appropriate to the client.

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Presenting Images To Clients

For the past few years I have been using Photoshelter for client proofing and delivery service; once I have uploaded my Jpg images to their platform, I can quickly create a password-protected gallery for my clients to view and select from. I always state that the images are only for preview purposes and that any selected images will be retouched. I therefore don’t allow a download option at this stage within the gallery permissions.

Photoshelter

Once the client has made a selection, I will then work on specific images in Photoshop (if necessary), where further retouching will be carried out. The final images are then uploaded to a new gallery in Photoshelter but this time I ‘switch on’ a download permission and the client can immediately access or purchase the images for use. Any further actions are mostly fulfilled within the Photoshelter environment, allowing me the freedom to carry on to the next shoot.

The beauty of this workflow system, for me, is that I can usually back-up and get images to a client viewing state within about an hour of the shoot, with relatively little effort. I only spend time retouching selected images and once the final images are uploaded to Photoshelter, I have an additional off-site back up system of both unedited and edited images from the shoot, albeit in Jpg format rather than RAW. As a result, I can sleep at night knowing my images are secure!­­

 

 

 

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Workflow – Planning a successful photo shoot

Whether paid, or not when organising a photo shoot I always plan as much as I can beforehand in an effort to ensure the outcome will be as successful as possible.

The Brief

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Most photography briefs received from my commercial clients don’t provide a great deal of detail and are usually delivered by email. In order to gain a better idea of the kind of images my clients are looking for I have encouraged the use of mood boards as a means of sharing ideas. More recently, many clients have started ‘collaborating’ with me on specific Pintrest boards, which currently I am finding is the perfect platform for sharing ideas and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

The Call Sheet 

Where people are involved, communication is paramount and I find creating a ‘call sheet’ is essential if you are expecting the shoot to run to plan, especially if shooting on location. My call sheets always include names, phone numbers and email addresses of all involved, along with location and arrival times, plus weather information. Another essential item to include is the expected shoot duration, so all involved will know exactly how long they are required to attend. I have had a few situations in the past where models or crew were under the impression they were only required to attend the shoot for half an hour, but in fact were needed for much longer in order to meet the requirements of the brief

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Equipment Check List

I tend to use a generic equipment list relating to the photographic gear I own. I’ll tick off any equipment required for a specific shoot but sometimes customise the list by adding any additional items needed, which sometimes involves hired equipment. In addition, I’ll have a section for adding specific items and details, which might include items like backgrounds, props, water spray, a smoke machine, and any other relevant items.

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On The Day

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-20-36-28I nearly always print off specific Pintrest boards and take them with me on shoots. I find this helps everyone involved gain a clear idea what needs to be achieved but also helps by keeping me focused on a specific style of photography, rather than straying off on tangents. The mood board I use could be a customised version of the one I share with the client and may include notes and images with details relating to lighting ideas, backgrounds, and so on, all listed in an shooting order that’s logical for an efficient shoot.

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Model Release Forms

In addition, I always pack model release forms and aim to get them signed prior to the shoot, where possible. Getting hold of signed model releases after the shoot can sometimes be a problem, therefore causing delays and jeopardises an efficient workflow. Nowadays, there are model release ‘apps’, which can be downloaded to smart phones. Utilising a model release ‘app’ may be more efficient but currently my forms are still paper-based.

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Sample model Release generated from the ‘app’ Easy Release

 

 

After the shoot

In my next post I’ll discuss my workflow, from backing up images to client delivery – keep watching this space!

We also advice on planning and workflow during our photography workshops!

Portrait lighting: keeping it simple!

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© Ian Thraves

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking we need to utilise multiple flash heads to achieve professional lighting results but this is not always true. Much depends on the effect you are aiming to achieve and often there is a lot to be gained from keeping your lighting simple. After all, when shooting outdoors we normally only have one light source to deal with – the sun!

Prior to undertaking any assignment it’s a good idea to plan your lighting in advance. Your style may be influenced by the needs of the client or by your own creative vision, but the environment you plan to shoot in, along with any constraints, should be considered when planning your lighting set ups.

Recently, I was involved in photographing a number of actors on the set of a movie. I only had around 5 minutes with each actor, plus I was also faced with the challenge of shooting in a very tight space. There simply would have been no room to set up more than one studio flash head, especially with members of the film crew continually walking through the set. The images you see below were all created using one flash and a single small soft box. My additional light source used to fill in shadows was a pop up reflector. Photographers are often seen using a second flash and soft box to fill in shadows but generally, a reflector does the same job with less fuss.

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Actors: William Ash, Jessica Barden and Robert Beck from the movie, Habit (© Ian Thraves)

Sometimes we may want to back light a model to help ‘lift’ them from the background and create a more three dimensional effect. Using a backlight to illuminate hair is a common technique used in glamour photography. Below is an example of a photograph featuring actor/musician Martin Kemp that was taken using two Nikon Speedlights off camera. The key light illuminating Martin’s face was fired through a small soft box to diffuse the light, whilst the backlight was a ‘bare’ Nikon flash positioned to the rear right hand side of Martin’s head, just out of shot (see diagram).

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Martin Kemp, Actor/Musician (© Ian Thraves)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Although two light sources were used here, I have created a similar effect in the case of the image below, which features actor Bruce Jones. The example below is an old image captured back in the days of black and white film. So how did I create the same kind of effect with only one light source? Simple, I positioned my single studio flash head to the rear right hand side of the actors head and used a reflector to bounce soft light back in to his face – similar to using a soft box.

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Bruce Jones, Actor (© Ian Thraves)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To learn more about effective lighting using single and multiple light sources and modifiers, find out more about our studio lighting workshops by clicking this link.

 

All images are subject to copyright protection ©

Lighting diagram created using: Online Lighting Diagram Creator by QHphotography.com

Music Photography

Creating Track Artwork For Band White Eskimo

White Eskimo Game Time, Ian Thraves Photography

White Eskimo – Game Time by Ian Thraves Photography

A few months ago I was asked by band manager and TV presenter Yvette Fielding to shoot the artwork for the up-and-coming band White Eskimo.

I have worked with White Eskimo a few times in the past (see blog history), so I’m familiar with the band members but this time the requirements for the shoot were much more specific and included detailed instructions and mood boards, as the images required were to be considered for use with their latest track release, Game Time.

I’m happy to say the images were well received by the band’s American music publicists and one of the images was used as the official track artwork. The image was created using a white paper background and two Elinchrom flash heads fitted soft boxes and shot using a Nikon D810 camera and 35mm and 50mm Nikon lenses.

View the music video to White Eskimo’s previous track release, 100X here.  You can also see a more detailed post on planning a band shoot here.

Article Published In Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2017

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Bloomsbury, publishers of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook are due to publish my ongoing article on the subject of entering in to professional photography. First published in 1998, the article has been updated over the years to accommodate the many changes that have taken place in this ever-evolving industry.

Since the advent of digital photography and web-based marketing, it has become possible for photographers to reach global markets more readily. The article provides a wealth of information on how best to exploit these markets, whether seeking commissioned-based jobs or selling existing images via international ‘stock’ agencies.

This edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook can be purchased at leading bookstores or Amazon via the web. It can also be found in the reference section of most UK libraries. You can reach the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook blog here.

How to plan a photo shoot with band, White Eskimo

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A few months ago I was asked to organise another publicity shoot for up-and-coming band, White Eskimo. I’d photographed White Eskimo in the past on two separate occasions, once on location and another time in studio (see previous blog posts). However, this time it was requested that the shoot should be booked for the entire day, with the aim of producing both studio and location images on the same day.

In order to achieve this, careful planning and organisation was essential to keep the day running efficiently, so a crew of specialists was added to our call sheet, including an art director from the music distribution company, a hair stylist, a make-up artist, a clothing stylist, a ‘behind the scenes’ videographer/still photographer and a couple of general assistants. In addition, Band Manager, Yvette Fielding (former presenter of Blue Peter and presenter of Most Haunted) was also present to oversee that the shoot was going to plan.

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A call sheet is distributed to all members of the team and includes relevant details such as the time of the shoot, location, duration and the contact details of all team members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a good equipment list that ties in with the mood-board and brief is a key to success. The mood board is an essential visual aid, helping the entire team synchronise their aims and ideas with one common goal – to create a specific ‘look’ that suits the band’s target market. I use mood boards for virtually every shoot I do, as it serves to keep me mentally channelled, as well as help with stimulating ideas for style and technique.

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A mood board is a specific set of images (usually downloaded from the web by myself or the Art Director), which have been chosen for their style, the aim to help with stimulating ideas, both technical and aesthetic. Mood boards also help other team members pre-visualise the art director’s and photographer’s aims.

Organising a photo shoot that includes so many team members is a big responsibility, as well as a costly process, so planning is essential in order to eliminate the chances of anything going wrong and ensure the day results in a successful outcome. Photographic equipment can break down, so I always carry back up cameras as well as most other equipment, including flash gear.

Behind the scenes images are useful for publicity purposes, such as blogging, Tweeting and for use on other social media platforms. Below are shots of the team in action and an entire team group shot.

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(Thanks to still photographer/videographer Terry Kane of Eyewitness images for the above photos) Click image for larger view.

Within days of completing the shoot, a national newspaper requested some of the key images, so an efficient workflow needs to continue right through to post-processing. This ensures that when you are suddenly faced with an unexpected picture request with a deadline that might be just a few hours away, you are able to respond immediately.

White Eskimo, Manchester

All images are subject to copyright protection ©

Click here for – Official video for White Eskimo’s ‘100X’

 

Photo Shoot for BBC2 Sitcom, Boy Meets Girl!

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Photo released by the BBC

Back in January 2015, I purchased the Nikon D810 and within days of owning this state-of-the-art high-resolution camera I received a commission to shoot images for the BBC2 sitcom, Boy Meets Girl. The brief was to photograph two models and in combination, produce highly artistic images of an unusual nature that could be used for display in an art gallery scene featured in episode 3.

Previous to owning the Nikon D810, I would have been concerned about using a DSLR to create such huge images as required by the brief. However, the D810 handled the job perfectly, closely matching the quality of larger format cameras I’ve used in the past.

Currently, I am unable to showcase the images until they have been aired. However, if you get chance to catch up with episode 3 of this ‘ground-breaking’ transgender sitcom, see if you can spot which images you think are mine – the clue being that they are highly unusual!

UPDATE:

Episode 3 of Boy Meets Girl has now been aired and here are some of the images used in the gallery scene.

All images subject to copyright ©

Post-manipultion by Gavin Lewis

How to light a Triathlete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am currently in the process of building a specialist portfolio related to Health, Fitness and Sports photography and recently completed a studio shoot involving Triathlete, Alison. Initially, the plan was to create a set of images with impact which could double as portfolio shots, as well as be used for stock purposes. As usual, I started by researching images on the web; from which I created a mood board in order to springboard my ideas. I then sent the mood board over to Alison so that she could check my ideas accurately represented the sport.

The three images featured here have so far been uploaded to Facebook and 500 pix, as well as Twitter and Flickr, and as a result I have been asked by a number of people how the images were created in terms of lighting. Gaining this kind of feedback using social media is a great way to establish which images are most popular and consequently consider for use on my website and in my printed portfolio. It seems that the darkest image at the top of this page is so far receiving the most compliments, especially evident when analysing the numerous responses received on 500 pix.

To respond to the requests via social media, I have generated a diagram to show my lighting set up for the first image at the top of this page. I will be posting more images in the near future.

 

Technicals

Lighting: Three Bowens Gemini 500 flash heads, two strip soft boxes and one honeycomb grid modifier.

Camera: Nikon D810

Lens: Nikon 85mm/1.4 lens

All images subject to copyright Ian Thraves ©

Ian Published In Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2015

Bloomsbury, publishers of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook have recently published an update to my ongoing article on the subject of working as a professional photographer.  First published in 1998, the article has been updated over the years to accommodate the many changes that have taken place in this ever-evolving industry.  Since the advent of digital photography and web-based marketing, it has become possible for photographers to reach global markets more readily. The article provides a wealth of information on how best to exploit these markets, whether seeking commissioned-based jobs or selling existing images via international ‘stock’ agencies.

This edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook can be purchased at leading bookstores and via the web. It can also be found in the reference section of most UK libraries. You can reach the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook blog here.