This is a story of how I landed a big client that I've been waiting a long time to shoot for, and how almost everything that could go wrong at the beginning of the shoot did, but we still made it happen... Let us begin.
A few weeks before the shoot, the ad agency for this job reached out to see if I was interested in shooting the upcoming DH3 campaign (DH3 is a Mark's clothing brand). Saying yes was a no-brainer, so we arranged some time for me to sit down with the Art Director & Producer for the shoot to go over the specifics. The 'specifics' generally means "we've never met before, so let's have some face-to-face time to see how our personalities mix and make sure we would like working with each other". Fortunately, you have to be a pretty big asshole for me not to get along with you, and they were far from it, so all was good. Hurdle one passed.
From there we moved into the bidding process, which usually requires some back and forth, especially when working with a new client who has specific needs and is used to handing them a certain way, but we managed to land in a place that worked for both of us. Hurdle two passed.
This is where things get a little rocky. The shoot was to take place in a rather cool, but also rather small brick loft. Knowing that the light would be travelling rather quickly across the sky (the shoot happened mid-December, so the days here are short that time of year) and that we wanted to use some of the natural light coming through the windows, we made plans to scout the location the day before the shoot to see where the sun would be at certain times of the day. I showed up at the location to scout it, but the people who we were renting the loft from never showed up to let me in... I guess we're winging it!
That night I slept like shit, waking up roughly every hour to make sure I didn't miss my 5:30am alarm. Early call times can be less than awesome, especially when you are all jacked up about a shoot. Sleep deprived I got up the next morning and headed to the location.
The crew arrived (we had talent and hair/makeup flying in from LA, Vancouver, and Toronto) and we all made our introductions. Everything is going a-ok. We set up for the first shot, and about 4 frames in the tether to my laptop loses connection.
Unplug camera - reset laptop - everything seems to be working...
Couple of frames later the camera loses connection again.
Try a different tether cord - reset laptop - looks like were working...
A couple of frames in we lose connection again.
Grab a different camera body - reset everything - hoping it works...
A few frames in and it loses connection again.
At this point it's been about 20 minutes of screwing around and we haven't shot a single outfit. Inside my brain I am freaking out, and on the outside I'm doing everything I can to remain calm but I am pretty sure I am noticeably sweating. We have about 20 people on set, including the client, all watching me, and nothing is working.
So, at this point I give up on the tethering and just start shooting to card. It's a pain in the ass because the Art Director now has to try and see the LCD screen on the back of my camera while were shooting to make sure we are getting what we need, but he's awesome about it and we make it work.
We also have to rename the files on the fly (as an example: 5CPBDHSP7-C2402_DH_SIGNAGE) so that they can be easily cataloged, which is another reason I was shooting tethered. I sent one of my assistants out to the nearest camera store to buy a card reader, and my digital tech dumped cards after each outfit and renamed the files as we moved on to the next shot. Fortunately I had about 12 memory cards with me (because you never know when you'll need them) so the process worked seamlessly.
From that point on, everything went smoothly. We spent the day chasing the light around the loft, which kept us guessing and would last for anywhere between 5 minutes to 15 minutes before changing again, and had a blast creating work that the client was super pumped with. I'll take that as a win any day.
Here are a few Behind the Scenes photos from the day. I feel like the wide angle makes the space feel larger than it was, but you get the idea:
And here are a few of the images we created:
- Nikon D800
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART
- Paul C. Buff Einstein heads
- 10 & 20 degree grids for mimicing sun beams
- Profoto large deep umbrella
- Profoto medium deep umbrella
And there you have it, so next time you're on set and everything seems to be going south, just remember it happens to all of us. Take a breath, think it out, and make it happen. Thanks for reading.