Archive for the ‘Promo’ Category

Promo shoot: Salome

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Salome Promo 07

Last week I did a promo session with Salome, the Virginia-based doom metal band whom I’ve now shot live three times. Pretty fun shoot, didn’t really pull off anything amazingly creative, but they built a mountain of amps, I stuck them in front, and I lit the amps with a red-gelled strobe. Bingo. Very simple but I think the effect looks pretty good. In the shot above the band members are lit by two more strobes, one on each side of the camera. In others I just triggered one of those two lights to create a more shadowy, mysterious look.

I stuck with hard light the whole time – I’d brought my umbrellas but never used them. The harsh shadows and noticeable falloff work better with their image than soft, diffuse light, I think. I did keep the flash-to-subject distance relatively short, though, mostly to save power, but this also had the effect of keeping the light from getting too hard.

Salome Promo 03

We also did a couple shots with no background, as below, and instead of using a background light I used my third strobe high camera left to add more light to the front and center band member. We tried several configurations with each band member taking a turn in front, but I think the ones with Kat up there, like the shot above, turned out the best compositionally by far (sorry, Kat).

After the full-band shots we banged out a few individual shots of each band member, which was a simple affair since we just used the same background and I didn’t even really change the lighting setup at all. Got a few different looks by using or not using the background light, and by using or not using the fill light. I like the sudden light falloff in this one – the lighting ratio is off though – it’s almost 1:1 main:fill. Oops. Also, I should have used my third strobe as a kicker/hair light to get some separation up there, oh well.

Salome Promo 15

A few more of these are here, and I’m sure some others will trickle out as the band uses them in various upcoming interviews and feature articles. Check out their music at Myspace.

UPDATE 2-26-09: Well, there’s the first usage of a photo from this shoot: an interview with Kat at BrooklynVegan.

Dancing about architecture

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Sarah Fridrich Promo Outtake 3

If “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – a quote that, as a sometime music critic for the past 10 years, I’ve heard (and lived) over and over again – then what is, uh, portraiture about music? I don’t mean live music here; I mean, how do you capture what a musician is all about in a portrait or promotional photograph?

For lots of rock and metal bands it seems simple enough. Stick a few dudes in front of a brick wall, in a grungy alleyway, or in the midst of a wintry forest, and you’re good to go. Doesn’t seem like the standards for this kind of promo photography are all that high – or maybe it’s just that I hang around low-budget indie bands. (Yeah, it’s probably that.) Anyway, I did a promo shoot for Sarah Fridrich, who is a pianist, guitarist, singer/songwriter whose music tends to be a little brooding, a little quirky, a little jazzy. And we had a hard time figuring out what the right kind of image for her would be.

Divorced from these concerns, my favorite image from the shoot is this one, but it’s probably more appropriate for a musician whose material is more romantic and dreamy than Sarah’s is:

Sarah Fridrich Promo Outtake 4

Technique-wise, nothing fancy. The two above were shot with available light and a single SB-800 through a shoot-through umbrella, camera right, plus a touch of on-axis fill. I did some dodging to bring out detail in Sarah’s dark hair. The second shot went through some blur and tonal shifting as well. We did some more shots inside which required a bit more lighting: below, a shot in front of a red wall with a bare light through a houseplant to create a little interest on the background, camera left and a shoot-through umbrella’d light camera right. I’m using this shot as an example of mistakes galore – the background light is too close, creating that distracting glare; the main light should have been gobo’ed to prevent spillage on to the wall; and most of all there’s not enough separation between subject and background, which would have made the above two issues easier to fix.

Sarah Fridrich Promo Outtake 7

OK, and one more – we did a couple on a nicely textured wood stairwell. For the full-length shots like the one below, I needed two main lights, as one wasn’t sufficient to light the entire subject. Took a bit of experimenting to minimize the specular highlights on those wooden steps (and the shot might still benefit from a few seconds of work burning out what highlights are left there). Also, it was impossible to completely eliminate shadows on the back wall, but I think I controlled them enough that they’re not too distracting.

This photo was blurred and toned in the same way the second shot above was. Kind of a lazy, global retouching method, but in limited instances I do like the look.

Sarah Fridrich Promo Outtake 5

Obviously I have my nitpicks, and obviously I have a lot to learn here, but overall I’m pretty happy with the results. Only problem is, many of these shots aren’t quite what Sarah was looking for image-wise. The shot above with the red background, for instance, is probably way too happy and cutesy, even if it is a fun pic. So we’re still brainstorming.

A couple more of these are here in this Flickr set.