2019 Red River Theatres Oscar Portraits

I love celebrating movies with Red River Theatres. I love films. They love showing films. Over the years I’ve done what I can to be involved with them. Plus, they let me do this, so how can I not want to be on their team. I love them so.

One of the things I love doing is being part of their yearly Red Carpet Oscar Party event. Each year I get the chance to photograph people with a real, honest-to-goodness Academy Award statue. This Oscar is for the screenwriting award (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Ernest Thompson ) from 1982's "On Golden Pond".  It’s amazing. It’s like an old friend now.

The last few years we’ve set up a little area and we’ve photographed people with all kinds of gold around.


I love how excited people get. I love that someone is willing to share their Oscar with others. I’d never held an Academy Award before. It’s heavy. It’s awesome. People get so jazzed when being near it. It’s a small connection with the vastness that is Hollywood and the world of filmed-dreams.

But as a portrait photographer I always want to kick it up a notch. I love doing the Oscar portraits on gold, but this year I wanted to also do something else. Mainly for myself so I could flex a little creative muscle; because we’ve got an actual Oscar sitting here.

Every year at the real Academy Awards in Hollywood, portrait photographer Mark Seliger creates these gorgeous portraits of the Oscar winners. You can view 2019’s portraits here.

Mark Seliger’s 2016 Oscar Portraits

Mark Seliger’s 2016 Oscar Portraits

Some of the Red River Oscar Party guests really go all-out dressing up. Some of them look like Hollywood glamor. And I wanted to celebrate that with a series of portraits.

Here is what I was thinking:

I could create a small coupon that I would personally hand out to guests that really looked fantastic for the event. Some that really took the time to dress up and look amazing. I wanted to give them a little “thank you” for going the extra mile. That it didn’t go unnoticed.

The coupon that was handed out.

The coupon that was handed out.

The Hotel Concord - who graciously lent us the main floor of their hotel for all the Red Carpet Oscar Party, said that I could use a section of the room that I would be in for the Oscar portraits on gold for another setup. They moved some furniture in for me and I had picked out an area that had a three-panel painting hanging up. I wanted something on the walls that had a little personality and I didn’t want it to feel like a “backdrop studio” setting.

I had blocked off the rear “location” with a large curtain that guests could not see while we were shooting the Oscar images on gold. Then when I spotted someone that I wanted to photograph for the formal shots, I would pull them aside, explain what I was hoping to do and give them a very low-to-no-pressure invitation. If they could spare a few minutes, c’mon back to this room later in the evening and we’d make a few images in our second location. I got some yes’s and I got some no’s. No problem. I work with those that want to work with me.

You can see the top of the 50” softbox peeking over the top of the gold backdrop.  Behind there was where I was doing the “Academy Portraits”

You can see the top of the 50” softbox peeking over the top of the gold backdrop. Behind there was where I was doing the “Academy Portraits”

Later that evening, a small group of people came in, and I got out the medium format digital kit, and started making some images:


I ended up working with four subjects, and I think that was a good number of people for my first time. I’m pretty happy with these, and there are some things I’ll change for when I do this again next year. I’ve had some constructive criticism that even though I had an Oscar on set, I didn’t actually do anything with it. It just kinda sat there. And I agree with that. I was so busy concentrating on how to arrange the subject that I wasn’t cognizant of the statute sitting there. Next year I’ll get more interaction with it. This year was a good test to see if I could pull it off. I think, mostly, it works.

I struggled a ton with the lighting on these.

One 50” Westcott Apollo and one 28” Westcott Apollo.

One 50” Westcott Apollo and one 28” Westcott Apollo.

When I was pre-lighting I was a mess; I was all over the place, moving lights from one side to the other and nothing seemed to be working. Mostly because of the three paintings hanging on the wall. The painting closest to the lights would always look much brighter and I started to panic because I was running out of time before the event started.

Ultimately I just left both lights on one side with the smaller softbox aimed more towards the single chair on the left of the frame, and the larger softbox aimed more to the right side to illuminate whoever was near the lounge-looking chair.

It created a nice large light, and the shadows stick out to me, but I don’t think they are all that harsh, so I can live with it. Plus, it didn’t help that in my mind I was trying to reach the quality of a Vanity Fair session which had a production value of more than I make in a year. So there’s that.

Eyeballing and checking exposure as I was taking the images.

Eyeballing and checking exposure as I was taking the images.

But over all I think they look good. I’m definitely happy that I took the extra time for the setup, and it was a good learning experience, and I’m looking forward to doing this again next year with a few small changes. I think the subjects that came for the portraits were perfect, and they looked amazing. So a big THANK YOU to them for taking the time. You all rock.

This definitely gives Red River and The Hotel Concord some excellent examples of the evening, and I can’t wait to do some design mock-ups to use these to help promote next years Red Carpet Oscar Party.

Thanks to The Hotel Concord for letting me shoot in their space and for moving the chair and other items into the room for me so I could do this. Thanks to Red River for always being awesome, for allowing me to be part of their time, and most importantly for always making me feel like I’m part of the team.

Onward to next year!

What to you think? Were the images successful? What do you like? What don’t you like? Let’s talk movies! Let’s talk shop!