For this episode of the series, I opted to literally shoot the shooter while he worked. Jay Fram was shooting a series of images for a local university and invited me along to shadow him on a pair of setups on the same afternoon. While the weather was less than optimal (read: pissing rain, blustery winds, constantly changing light) I was thrilled to be able to include him in the project. And as usual with these STS sessions, I was forced outside my comfort zone as I had to shoot strictly with natural light so that I didn’t interfere with Jay’s work.
Jay is a true pro, doing high-caliber work for commercial and editorial clients ranging from ginormous hospitals and universities to ad agencies and private companies. And he occasionally hires me to assist him on shoots, which is how I met him. And while I welcome the income, I learn something about the photo biz every single time I am around Jay.
Here is some of Jay’s stellar work. You can see much more on his web site.
One trait I have noticed in watching Jay work is his patience and meticulous methodology behind the camera. I don’t claim to know what’s going through his mind or how he sees, but I often see him make a test exposure then stand for several minutes, brow furrowed and hand on chin, as he calculates his next move. He seems to waste nary a frame and my hunch is that this process is influenced by his penchant for shooting film, particularly large format such as 4×5–something he still does in his personal work.
Other things I have learned from working with Jay:
- Dynalites are pretty cool. And hard to blow up.
- Klieg lights are also pretty cool. And pretty hot when you don’t have gloves that fit.
- Be careful when working with a 12′x12′ silk. It snags easily on big feet like mine.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to stop on a busy bridge to unload equipment.
- Capture One sucks compared to Lightroom. My opinion, not his.
- Discretion. Loose lips sink ships.
- Pre-visualizing and planning ahead both pay off.
- So does improvising.
The single biggest thing I have gleaned from watching Jay work is how to deal with people. Both the ones in front of the lens and the ones looking over his shoulder. He has an infectious, ebullient demeanor and works incredibly hard at drawing forth genuine responses from his subjects. I’ve seen him make grumpy CEOs giggle and make nervous professors feel as at ease as supermodels in front of his camera. He made me realize a long time ago that people skills are just as important as technical ability.
Yet again, I learn something from this series. And from Jay.