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Photo by Nathan Rocky

Group Shots: A-List Country Artists for People Magazine

The Job
I was recently asked to shoot a group portrait for People Magazine showcasing the performers, presenters and executives of the ACM Honors broadcast at Ryman Auditorium. When I got the list of talent we’d be photographing I got quite excited; several artists I had worked with in the past, and it would be great seeing them again! But overall, just an A-List group of country music talent together in one room would be a thrill for any Nashvillian!

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Bottom Row (L to R): Miranda Lambert, Cam, Chris Young, Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell, Luke Bryan, Dan + Shay Top Row: Thomas Rhett, The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town

We would have 2.5hrs to pre-light and 30minutes to shoot. We had 3 phases of the groupings to get through, the Performers, the Performers and Presenters, and finally the Performers, Presenters and the ACM executives. A lofty task right out the gates, but I oddly enjoy shoots that have a time challenge aspect to them, it’s a bit of a rush.

I would be working with set designer Britt Johnson, who I had worked with on prior photo shoots, to start planning on how we would stage so many people. The room we were given to shoot in was a great size for just about anything you want to shoot, outside of a 40 person group shot! We spent a lot of time working out that specific issue over coffee and emails.

The Shoot
Doing a photo shoot alongside a television production means that things can be a bit chaotic. It isn’t normally anyones fault, more that there are multiple companies (venue, magazine, network, production company, etc..) all working their own agendas that at the end of the day end in the same place, but communication can get mixed up and difficult fairly easily.

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That being said, we were about a half hour late getting the grip truck unloaded and multiple loads of gear up the elevator. A great thing to keep in mind when working alongside productions like these is that you need to make bumper time for delays. It’s almost inevitable, and if you don’t consider them a possibility while scheduling your shoots setup, you may easily find yourself running behind.

I had my A-Team on set that day so the delays were no problem. To add to that, the talent was going to be late getting to set (supposed to be 6:15pm, ended up being 6:35pm).

Because we were the last stop before they went in for the show, we were on a VERY strict time frame and from first shot to last, we had talent and shot all 3 groups in 8min. Quiet the rush!

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The Set
As I said before, I was working with rockstar set designer and decorator Britt Johnson on this shoot, and the room we were working with was a bit smaller than we would have preferred. So, how do we give each of these large personalities the proper amount of space when space is one of our main issues? We decided to go the layering route with 2 different heights of risers from our rental house and chairs from the prop house.

We knew the main image People Mag was going to run would be the 1st grouping, 28 people, but that by the end of the shoot we would have about 40 people, so the set had to be a bit versatile. Can’t feel empty with 28, but needs to fit 40.

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The Lighting
I personally love the challenges that come with lighting people and groups. I can inch light stands around all day long till it’s perfect if you let me!

Large groups can be tricky when you’re trying to do a lot of light shaping in-camera. We had four key lights for this shot, and we viewed it as lighting in quarters. The difficult part is that every time you move a single key light, it affects the sections to the left and right to some degree. So we might have the first 2 sections lit well, but when we move the light for the 3rd section you’ll now have to got back to section 2 for tweaks. Quite a bit of small changes in light direction, a lot of back and forth.

For me, the important part was getting a good highlight on the face with a nice shadow to help shape facial features.
We did this by using medium Photek umbrellas as the key lights positioned well above the talent, up to the ceiling. We went with Photek because the ceiling height was an issue and, when horizontal, the umbrellas are fairly shallow. Once we started to position lights we gave most a strong angle and it still worked with the ceiling height.

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The Key lights were on mega booms which we launched from the fill lights. We needed to keep all stands and grip as far back from the set as possible:

1) Because when the talent poured in, the room was about 150 people deep and we needed room
2) With the angle and focal length we were working with, we had about 2 inches on either side of the frame of negative space before we saw grip. It was a very tight set so having those mega booms to keep stands away from the set was absolutely crucial.

In addition to our key lights we had three 74-inch Elinchrom Octas for fill light, positioned to the right and left of camera. I love a good fill light, really helps with large groups to pull out a lot of otherwise missed details.

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The Camera
Possibly my favorite part of this shoot, well at least for the inner detail nerd in me, was using the new Phase One XF 100MP system!

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The beefy files this bad boy puts out are truly amazing and fun to work on. For a shoot where head swapping in post was almost inevitable, being able to work with that type of resolution is a dream for compositing. We shot at 1/800s at f/12, ISO 200. That aperture gave us the ability to focus toward the center row of artists and have the ones in front and behind still fall into focus. Shooting at 1/800s made sure all those wiggling artists were nice and frozen in the frame.

If you aren’t familiar with medium format systems you might be asking how we can flash sync at 1/800th of a sec when your DSLR can only sync at 1/160-1/250. The Phase One cameras are made with leaf shutters that allow them to sync at speeds up to 1/1600th of a second. A lot of medium format cameras can’t shoot at high shutter speeds like 1/8000th the way DSLRs can, but for what I shoot I’d take that sync speed over shutter speed any day!

What makes the final image even more exciting is that it is made up of 2 separate images. A left frame and a right frame. All artists were present at the time of the shoot, but we would pan left and right to fit everyone in. The decision to shoot two frames goes back to dealing with the size of our room. We could have used a 24mm lens, but didn’t feel that it would give us the look we wanted. A 120mm lens would have been great, but I would have needed another 20ft of space to backup and shoot from, just not possible. So we shot at 80mm and doubled the image, which makes for some incredible detail when you stitch together two 100mp images into one.

Below is an example of the resolution power of the XF 100MP! Notice Charles Kelley’s face on the left side of the screen grab from Capture One; that’s at 100%. And at 100% there is every bit of detail you’d want to find and work with!
Bravo Phase One! This is one fantastic system!

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As wild as this shoot was, the controlled chaos of it all is why I love working with big names in high pressure situations. It puts you in a place where you have minutes, or sometimes less, to perform and get the job done or fail. It’s both a rush and a unique time of being extra focused and a grade A problem solver.

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One thing I feel like I relearn every time I have a shoot like this, and something you should always remember, is that when chaos is in the air and you have 100 people asking questions, keep your cool. As the photographer, it’s your set, you’re the captain and everyone is looking to you for direction. As long as in the chaos, or at least perceived chaos that those not in the know of things may see, you remain calm and un-flustered, giving strong direction (and maybe even with a smile), people will calm down, talent will trust you and a successful shoot will follow.

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You can see more of Robby’s work at RobbyKlein.com, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

 

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If you haven’t signed up – it’s not too late! Don’t read about all the fun everybody had – come and be a part of it.

Here’s where you sign up (it’s free): WorldwidePhotoWalk.com

Can’t walk? Don’t have a walk near you? Still want to help the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya? Awesome! Here’s the link that takes you directly to the donation page (hosted by Generosity.com). We’re trying to hit our goal of raising $35,000 for the orphanage (we’re already ahead of last year, which is just fantastic, and with your help, we’ll get there!). Every single dollar helps. Again, here’s the link to donate.

That’s it for today. I’m probably in Italy by now, and looking forward to meeting all the great folks here in just a few days, but for now, I’m off to the Dolomites Mountains (another place I’ve dreamed of visiting). I’m so excited I could just burst!!! :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Could you please share this post with your friends and fellow photographers. We want as many people as possible to have a chance to participate in these photo walks. Much appreciated! :)

 

5daysSo….,whattayadoing this weekend? Why don’t you come and join around 20,000+ photographers around the world having fun, making friends, and taking millions of pictures?

We’re just 5 days away (it’s this Saturday) so head over to the official site and see if there’s a photo walk set-up near you (if you haven’t checked in a while, it’s worth checking again – we have photo walk organized in over 1,000 cities around the world. Plus, it’s free; you’ve got a chance at some amazing prizes, you’ll take lots of photos, and you’ll just have just a ton of fun.

I’m off to Venice, Italy to lead a local walk there Saturday – my first time back in Venice since 2008, and I’ve dreamed of going back for years, so I’m really psyched. I’ll be posting images to my Instagram and Facebook accounts – I hope you’ll follow me there.

See you here tomorrow for a Photo Walk update! :)

-Scott

P.S. If you’re signed up for the walk, make sure you check your inbox for an email from us with more tips created for our walkers on how to get awesome images on your walk. 

Hi Gang, and greetings from the yummy cheese capital of the USA – Milwaukee, Wisconsin (here for my seminar today – looking forward to meeting everybody!).

So, here’s the scoop (well, as it relates to Photoshop anyway). Basically, Adobe would like your feedback on how often you’d like to see Photoshop updated, as well as your thoughts on balancing new features, bug fixes and polish to existing features.

They put together a quick survey over at this link

I took the survey myself, and you have lots of opportunities to share your thoughts with Adobe, by answering Multiple Choice questions, or by writing in your own comments (totally optional).

Anyway, this is so worth doing, and a great opportunity to be heard directly by the Photoshop team at Adobe — I hope you take advantage of it.

In other news…

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It’s just 8-days away, and we have walks set up in over 1,000 cities around the world. There’s still plenty of time to join a local walk near you (it’s free, it’s fun, you’ll make new friends, you’ll take a lot of pictures, and you might even win a cool prize or two). Here’s the link to see if there’s a walk near you.

Here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend! :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m shooting the Bucs/Rams home opener in Tampa on Sunday, but if you want to read a really shocking football photography “incident” that happened to me a few years back, read my story “Aaron Rodgers Owes me a New Monopod.” You will never forget it. Here’s the link.

Fine Art Photography: Marketing Your Work with Steve Hansen
In the conclusion of this two-part series Steve Hansen returns to give you a solid understanding of pricing and marketing your fine art photography. You may think of yourself as a photographer, but to be successful in selling your prints you need to be a marketer and sales person before anything else. It’s rewarding to have people enjoying your work through buying your prints, and in this class Steve teaches you the importance of knowing your subject and setting yourself apart, how to use existing events and competitions as marketing tools, how to price your images, how to make a name for your self, and most importantly, how to close the deal and sell your work.

In Case You Missed It
Make your fine art prints stand out from the pack! Join Steve Hansen for an in-depth look at all of the steps involved in creating a large format fine art print. In this class you’ll learn what makes a print a fine art print, how Steve takes a photo from capture to post production to print, the importance of a test print, and how to decide what type of paper, ink, and printer is best for your type of photographs. Throughout the class Steve shares tips, tricks, and techniques for working in Lightroom, Photoshop, and with all of the materials used in creating the final print. Creating a fine art print is all about bringing your vision to life in a print, and by exploring a variety of finishing options that fit your style you can add value to your work and make it stand out from all of the rest.

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Photo by Branden Harvey

When There’s More Than Photography
In 2005, I made the cold-turkey switch from graphic designer to photographer. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t even know what an f-stop was. But I was all-in and had found my identity.

I was off to the races. Within three months, I landed a photography agent in LA. Within four months I was meeting with the biggest TV and movie studios in Hollywood. And within six months I was hanging out on set, photographing the likes of Sting and TV shows like FOX’s Prison Break.

The past 10 years has been a continued blur of album cover shoots, editorial shoots, a few weddings, a couple three month tours (one with Britney Spears), six-figure advertising shoots, three-figure shoots for friends and everything in between. I even became a photo industry leader. I’ve spoken at every major photography conference. I became a KelbyOne instructor. And I’ve built a good following among photographers over the years.

I had found my identity as a “photographer” and was convinced that would forever be my thing.

But something funny happened along the way.

I had other ideas. Ideas for things that didn’t even involve photography. Books, apps, TV shows, education ideas, speaking ideas, invention ideas, the list goes on and on.

What I realized was that if I’m creative as a photographer, then I’m creative period.

And so are you.

We tend to latch on to one identity don’t we? “He’s a photographer.” Or, “She’s a graphic designer.”

But what if we can still be anything we want? I’m almost 40 years old and I’m dreaming bigger and harder than ever.

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Four years ago, I had a dream to build a hotel. What?? Yeah. That was my thought too. It just came out of nowhere and it’s haunted me for the last four years. “But I thought I was just a photographer?”

What I ultimately realized was that photography was a bit self-serving for me. I’m only building my name, my brand and making myself “famous.” Not that there’s anything wrong with becoming famous as a photographer (as far as fame within photography goes). But what if I could build something that was bigger than myself?

I don’t want to be an old man, bragging to my kids that I once photographed the Kardashians. I want to be an old man, telling my kids about the bold risks I took… That I stared fear in the face and overcame it time and time again. I want to tell them about all the times I failed. About all the shoots that sucked. About the ambitious crowd-funding campaign that failed and how we immediately stood back up and tried again. I want them to learn more from my attempts at success more than the success itself, just as I have.

What are you learning as a photographer today?
What have you failed at?
What other dreams are you pursuing?
What have you been too afraid to try?

I love thinking about these things. I simply refer to it as curiosity. I’m always curious. I love walking into the dark and exploring the unknown.

I’ve never been more in the dark than I am right now, pursuing this dream to build a hotel. I mean, I’m in meetings and conference calls right now with people who are using words that I don’t even understand! I’ve never been stretched more than right now, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Are you growing right now? Stretching yourself?

The biggest thing I learned two years ago when I lost my brother is just how short life is.

Good grief it’s short.

Pursue your curiosity today. Those little whispers of ideas you have? Those are your most valuable assets. Listen. Document them. Pursue them. That’s all I’m doing these days.

And while you’re at it, help me navigate the dark today. I can’t do this on my own.

We need your help reaching our “Step 2 Goal” on our Kickstarter campaign for The Purpose Hotel. Here’s the full vision for the hotel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVyjXBV4VhM

Let’s do something bigger than ourselves.

P.S. If you want to check out my full life story, see below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC-rpAkfE2I

Keep up with Jeremy and The Purpose Hotel at ThePurposeHotel.com and JeremyCowart.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, and YouTube.

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