Band and Musicians

Zitong Zheng • Headshot

Zitong Zheng Zitong comes to me from the Boston area.  He was recently part of an international piano competition, and he needed a ‪headshot‬ created that was going to be used for their program.

This was Zitong's first time in front of a camera in a professional manner. He's a natural! So relaxed!  He really liked some of the examples I had on my headshot page with a grey, neutral background.  He specifically requested it.

The tones in this shot are gorgeous.  I love his slightly reflective tie.  And the texture in his shirt is fantastic.

And those cheekbones.  Seriously.  SRSLY.

 

Lacy Kay • Musician Session for Hot Mess

Lacy Kay • Musician Session for Hot Mess

I've been developing a relationship with the band HOT MESS over the months, and they were so happy with the work we've done so far that when a new member of the band came into the mix, Jason, the head of Hot Mess, contacted me asking if we could create some new head shots for Lacy, but he also needed one other thing: he wanted a photograph of Lacy in the style of the group shot we did months ago so that she could be inserted into the group photo we had taken months before.

Let's give it a shot.

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Tim Paul Weiner

Tim Paul Weiner

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tim Paul Weiner.

Tim is a bass player, employee of Berklee College of Music, and member of HOT MESS.  Remember them?  We also have a mutual friend, Elise MacDonald, former owner of Studio 99, who introduced us.  Tim liked working with me when we created some images for Hot Mess, so he booked a solo session with me.  He needed images for a revamped website.  I love working with musicians, and with Tim, it was so easy since we had already worked on the Hot Mess session together.

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Don't be Afraid to Ask: Jonatha Brooke

Don't be Afraid to Ask: Jonatha Brooke

I can't even explain to you how amazing it is that I made this photograph.  This is Jonatha Brooke.  She is one of my all time favorite musicians.  She, along with musician Jennifer Kimball, formed the band THE STORY in the 1990's.  I've been a fan of Jonatha's since then.  A little while back, I got to make a portrait of her.

How?  Simply because I asked.

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Hot Mess

Hot Mess

Let me introduce you to the gang that makes up Hot Mess, and give you a little behind-the-scenes of our session earlier this year.

Hot Mess came to me via musician Tim Paul Weiner, who came to me by way of Elise McDonald.  Elise used to run Studio 99, a local music venue that I miss terribly and I cherish all the friendships I made when it was open - both professionally as well as personally.  Tim and I met and talked about creating some images to be used for a new website and other promotional needs for his music.  During our conversation he told me he was part of a larger band that was going to be re-doing their website and branding and he'd share my work with them.

Jason Silverman is the man in charge of Hot Mess. He looks a little like actor Tom Hardy.  I'm a big Mad Max fan, so any chance to photograph someone that looks like Tom Hardy is kinda cool to me.  Hot Mess is a cover band out of Boston and were recently voted 2016 Wedding Wire Couple's Choice Award.

Jason was looking for something they could use as a splash page image on their soon-to-be-new website.  Something simple with everyone in a row.  I love keeping things simple, and we set up a time here at the studio.

I had never photographed a group of seven before (though recently worked with Fever Pitch made up of 7 smaller people).  Up until now, I think the most I've ever photographed in my studio was the Mwano brothers or the Brooks Young Band.  I knew that fitting 7 people on a nine-foot roll of seamless paper wasn't going to cut it, so the day before the session I went into the empty studio space next door to me and I took a roll of seamless and I ran it along one of the walls in there.  It let me go past the 9 foot restriction I would have faced here in the studio so that I could get everyone lined up along side each other.  I forget what the exact dimensions were, but it was pretty long.  So I gaff tapped the paper to the wall and we were good to go.

I wanted to keep the lighting simple, so I set up three lights.  I lined them up so that I created a single bank of light all flashing straight ahead towards where the subjects would be located.

Lights arranged in a line to create a bank of light, aimed at the wall with the backdrop paper.

Lights arranged in a line to create a bank of light, aimed at the wall with the backdrop paper.

Once they arrived it was just a matter of lining them up and visually making sure I had them in a good arrangement and getting to work.  When dealing with a group of 7 people, your rate-of-return when it comes to usable shots is going to be low, because you have seven sets of eyes that you need to make sure aren't blinking, seven faces that need to be looking at me and looking good, seven facets of seven people that need to be in check, etc.  After each shot I tried to take a peek at the back of the camera, but sometimes you get into rhythm of the shoot and don't check as often.  I had them pushed right against the wall at the start.

Hot Mess
A shot taken during the start of the session with some text added as a mockup for them

After getting some shots with them against the wall, I pulled them away from the wall a few feet and then took my two side lights and moved them around a bit:

Hot Mess
the view from my perspective
Hot Mess
Hot Mess

Once we got some good shots, I then started to play around a little bit, and bought out my prism and started moving it around the front of my lens:

Hot Mess

I was really liking the reflections that the prism was picking up and took a few different shots moving the prism around and picking up reflections and little light blooms (like the one in the above image in the left corner).

eyeballing the shots to make sure everybody is in focus and not blinking

eyeballing the shots to make sure everybody is in focus and not blinking

By now we were starting to fall into the groove.  I knew that we had the shot they wanted for their website, but I was just feeling like I was getting to what I wanted from the session, so I started to pull them a little further away from the background and stagger their arrangements.  Jason was the head of the band, so I knew I wanted him in focus, and if the focus fell off a bit, I was okay with that.  Not everyone had to be crystal-sharp for me.  I wanted to add a little dimension to the group shot.

Hot Mess

And that was the shot I was looking for.  Visually I was interested in the composition and layout of all the members.  Jason was tight and in focus, and everyone else starts to go out of focus.  Visually I liked how my eye started on Andria in the left of the image and you can feel your eyeballs move up and down as you move across the image to the right.  This was the shot for me and after I got this, I knew we were good.

I also played around with the prism a little more:

Hot Mess
“look that way”

“look that way”

Once the group images were good to go, I wanted to get individual shots of each band member that would go on the website's "About Us" page.

Hot Mess
Hot Mess
Tom Hardy. Totally.

It was a really great session and I think they were very happy with the images we created.

Their website went live and it looks pretty darn good:

Thanks gang, you guys were great to photograph, and I'm looking forward to working with y'all again in the future.

To see a few more shots, take a spin over to my Flickr feed.

Working on not being afraid to ask: An Introduction

Growing up I was very shy.  I had a hard time approaching people I didn't know.  I couldn't even walk up to the counter at a McDonald's to order food.  It was pretty bad. Once I got into high school though, I discovered that if I made people laugh, I felt more relaxed around strangers.  In my weird logistical thinking, getting their attention and making them laugh somehow made is so they were easier to interact with.

After graduating high school, I spent my 20's working in various record stores and video game shops.  Working in customer-service showed me very quickly that you have to be able to talk to people to handle their requests and needs.  With a simple smile and a genuine conveyance of friendliness, I was able to interact with people better.

When I got out of college and decided that I wanted to try to live a life as a portrait photographer, any sense of shyness needed to be completely destroyed.  Photography, for me, is about interacting with the person in front of the camera.  Sometimes it's more important than actually taking the photographs.  People aren't used to be in front of a camera.  They aren't used to lights and strobes and all this equipment surrounding them.  Then you have someone with a camera mashed against their face telling them to look up, or down, or to the side, or close their eyes, etc.  It doesn't feel natural.

Being able to make someone feel relaxed is imperative.  If they don't feel relaxed or at ease, you'll see it in the photographs.

Over the years I think I've been able to make almost all of the people I've ever photographed comfortable.  The biggest advice I would have is to simply be yourself.  Just be yourself.  Share your story.  Share your passions.  Share why you do what you do, and why you are into the things you are into.  And listen.  Listen to their stories.  People love to be listened to.  And be friendly, and be confident in what you do.  Most of the time, a client has no idea what all this stuff does that you are placing around them.  Talk with them through the shoot; explain what you are doing and what each change does.  Show them that you know what you are doing.  And keep them talking.  I tell my clients that we'll probably spend just as much time with the camera down and me chatting with them as we'll be shooting.  It's an organic process and takes time to get to the shots you want.  But to do that you have to be able to talk to someone, to keep a discussion flowing. Most importantly: be nice.

I'm digressing.  Back on track:

Earlier this year I promised that I'd swallow my fears and I'd start reaching out to people whom I would love to photograph.  Musicians. Actors. Artists. People.  People who have affected me in some way over the last 40 years of my life.  I know some of them probably won't be a possibility, but the biggest thing for me is just taking that first step and asking.  Telling them who I am, telling them my story, and then asking if I could take a portrait of them.  It's worth a shot, and the most they can say is no.

This is hopefully going to be a new series of blog posts here on the website that I'm going to call "Don't Be Afraid To Ask".  You can't meet the people you admire unless you ask, right?