Brian Friedman is an event and publicity photographer based in NYC. When I first became acquainted with Brian and his work, my reaction was, “damn! I wish I could shoot this type of work.” Looking at his website, you’ll see the kind of gigs that Brian shoots – interesting and diverse. Quite exciting. Brian was gracious enough to describe the behind-the-scenes activity of a recent photo session: “Kitten Bowl 2014”
Anatomy of a “simple” photo session for a client
a guest post by Brian Friedman,
New York portrait and event photographer
The assignment. Take a portrait of the gorgeous Beth Ostrosky, as well as some “action shots” of kittens. Kittens just “being kittens” and playing. Football that is. Say What!?
And so it is bestowed upon me by my client to do so – and not in a photo studio. I had to create my own studio in a common room of a sound stage. Okay then. It’s time to get to work. Here’s what I did for “Kitten Bowl 2014” gallery shoot which will be broadcast during the Super Bowl half-time show on Sunday, February 2, 2014.
For this photo of Beth Ostrosky:
1. Listened to the client.
I made sure I knew EXACTLY what they wanted because I had very little time to get done what was needed given the schedule and the level of talent involved. They made things clear to me and I did my research on what other photos within their brand looked like. This immediately put me where I needed to be – which is not guessing before, during, or after the shoot.
2. Kept it simple (stupid).
The client didn’t need the background of the portrait to be white. So I shot Beth against an unlit white (paper) background (causing it to go light grey). Not having to light the background saved me a ton of fussing, not to mention space within the limited space I was given. So I lit her with 3 lights: For the main light I used a 54” Elinchrome Octagon, powered by a Profoto 7B2 Power Pack, and for the 2 hair lights I used a a Profoto 7B2 power pack with simple reflectors and grid spot inserts.
3. Used less time than I was given.
My goal was to be so prepared that I used LESS time than I was given. Because I’ve come to learn that, especially with celebrities, the less time you need the more they love you. Not like you; love you. So the attitude I always carry with me on a shoot is “get your s**t done and get out.” Any portrait client, especially celebrities, will love you for being fast. In this instance I had one of my assistants (who’s the same height as Beth) stand in so I could adjust the lights accordingly. And I taped an x on the paper where I needed Beth to stand. This may seem obvious to do but it’s easy to forget when you are in the moment. Beth was able to walk into the space, hit her mark, and be done with the portrait in less than 10 minutes. I photographed her solo and holding cats.
4. Admired and respected, but didn’t dote over.
As a fan I want to dote over. As a photographer I want to respect. So even though Beth is a big star and huge advocate for animals (as am I), I didn’t dote or hover. I shook her hand, smiled and looked her in her eyes, introduced myself, and got to work. Because at the end of the day the environment you create with the subject, famous or not, is what shows up in the camera. In these quick situations, you have to do everything you can to disarm your subject. Being kind and professional is all you need. Don’t overdo it and shoot yourself in the foot.
For the photos of the kittens
1. I knew it’d be a game of numbers.
I shot 818 frames. You’ll see 2. Kittens were moving and not listening to me or the professional handlers (#shocker). That means there will be a ridiculous amount of photos taken in order to get the “right one.”
2. Adjusted power of the lights to favor quick recycling time.
If you know the action is going to be fast, you need to be able to fire your strobes quickly. Crazy enough, I had these power packs on their lowest setting and my exposure was STILL: f/9, 1/200th @ ISO 800. f/9 at nearly the lowest power… That should tell you the lights are powerful!
3. Used plexiglass.
This surface is great for reflections and adds a 3rd dimension to any photo. In this instance I wanted to make the kittens look a little larger (think football players) and so I shot from a low position. Shooting from above the kittens would have been the wrong approach and would have made it look very common in my opinion (because we are normally towering over kittens).
4. Shot the props separately.
We incorporated the props into the photos with the kittens but knowing there may be a desire for their art department to manually place a prop in a photo I knew it would be a good thing to provide them with “prop only” photos. Sure enough their art department did use one of them to make the composite of the kitten getting ready to catch the football. By saving their art department retouching time makes me a more valuable photographer to them.
More technical info about the shoot
I used a Nikon D3X camera because it met the minimum resolution requirements the client provided. I chose this over the Nikon D800 because I am more comfortable with the D3x.
My lens was a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8. I tethered with a cord to my 13” Macbook Pro and brought along a 23” Apple Cinema Display so the client could see what was coming out of the camera right away.
I had 2 trusty assistants who helped me in all areas of the shoot.
Hopefully this glimpse of what goes into a photo shoot where the time is limited, was helpful and interesting.
All images by Brian Friedman ©2013 Crown Media Family Networks