This should go without saying, but it behooves me to do the best possible work on every single project I shoot. The client hires you, then you should bust your ass to knock it out of the park so that they feel they got what they paid for, right? Duh.
But the larger picture, the Big Plan Of Business, dictates that I push myself so that not only is the client satisfied, they are motivated to recommend my work to others–friends, colleagues, even competitors. Marketing nerds call this “exceeding expectations” and “referral marketing”. In my past life, I worked as a sales pro and way back in the Dark Ages I earned a degree in marketing, so this stuff is pretty ingrained in my psyche. Which is fine, since it benefits me greatly in my new profession as a business owner. Oh, you just thought I was a “photographer”? Wrong. I’m a businessman. Or as Jay-Z would say, I’m a business, man.
As usual, there is a point to this excessively rambling intro. My musician pal (and repeat client) Ryan Spearman, who I have mentioned numerous times here before, happens to be married to lovely lady named Kelly that is quite talented in her own right. And when it came time for her to procure promo photos for her band The Lulus, she came to me because she liked the work I have done for Ryan’s various projects in the past. While this may come off as crass braggadocio, my point is simply that she could have chosen to work with any number of talented photographers in the area, but she came to me. She liked the work I did for her husband, and his experiences working with me indicated that she would have similar success. Simple, right? If Ryan’s photos had sucked, no dice. If Ryan liked my work but I was a dick to work with, no dice. If anything about any of the multiple projects I had done for Ryan didn’t please him, no dice. That’s why every single project I work on is taken very, very seriously. Even the not so serious projects.
OK, enough business talk. The Lulus are a fiery quartet of ladies that entertain audiences with music from a bygone era. In their own words:
Old Time, Bluegrass, Classic Country, Strong Vocals, Tasteful Harmonies, and Independent Women combine to make The Lulus a musical experience that you won’t soon forget. These women tell it like it is with their blend of southern and mid-western sass. The Lulus meld an array of instruments with a unique repertoire of little known songs that you’ll want to hear again and again. Come fill your glass up to the brim.
The primary goal for this shoot was to create a solid group photo for promo use and a possible album cover. My idea for the shot was to group the ladies around a microphone in the same way I have seen them perform on stage. Originally, I wanted to light them from above with a huge softbox, but since it was so breezy on the day of the shoot I opted to keep it on a stand so as not to decapitate anyone. More lighting details in the NERD ALERT section below, as usual.
Once we had wrapped the initial shot, I decided to shoot some individual portraits of the ladies as well as an alternate group shot. Given the amazing, golden light of a late March afternoon and the swampy grasslands of the park we were shooting in, I ditched my usual M.O. of dark, moody lighting in favor of a warmer, airy look that would better complement the vibe of the group. Sure, we could have gone all film noir on these ladies, but they are a folk group, not a goth-punk outfit.
I could have done this shoot with natural light, but I don’t think it would have looked right. Sure, it would have been easier to just show up with a camera than to haul all our gear through the weeds and mud. But that’s why I (think) I get called to do this stuff in the first place. The Lulus love the photos, which is awesome. And with luck, they will send a client or two my way in the future. All because I worked with the intention of exceeding their expectations.
The group shots were lit with a single Alien Bees B800 strobe in a 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox. The swamp we were shooting in was not equipped with power outlets (is that up to code?) so we powered the light with a Vagabond II battery pack. It was pretty breezy, so my assistant for the day, Jarred Gastriech kept a steady hand on the light stand. Typically, I would shoot with the fastest shutter speed possible (1/200 sec) in order to reduce the amount of ambient sunlight in the photo, but I went the other direction on this day. 1/30 of a second allowed the sunlight to pour into the exposure, resulting in a nice warm vibe. The big softbox simply filled in the shadows of the ladies’ faces.
I used a similar approach when shooting the individual photos, but instead of a strobe I just had Jarred bounce the sunlight into The Lulus’ faces with a collapsible reflector. Simple, fast and effective. Honestly, I don’t know why I don’t shoot that way more often.
Now check out The Lulus’ website!