Recently I gave this advice to a friend, and decided that it was something that should be shared on a wider basis, and some advice that I myself need to remember and live by…
What makes you a professional photographer? is it the paycheck, the ability think and breath in f-stops and shutter speeds? the ability to set up 42 hot shoe flashes in TTL mode to light your subject? or the knowlege to do all that with just one light? Maybe its post processing ability, and profoto lights ?
Truthfully its none of these things, its the ability to when shit hits the fan make it work, to take the equipment you have, be it SB900′s, Alien Bees, Profoto, a 2,500$ 5d2 or a 500$ Rebel, and just make it work. Your gear does not matter, how big your paycheck is does not matter, your ability to think on your toes, and put your knowledge to work is really what separates the Amateur from the Professional.
I recently did a gig, Photographing Automotive Rims for a small tuning company. This was my third time shooting on White seamless paper, my first time ever photographing rims, with the exception of using a Point and shoot to take a few pictures for a craigslist ad, Needless to say, I was a bit worried.
So, I visited my buddy at a local camera store, and borrowed a ton of equipment, a 46″ Light tent, a background stand, white seamless, the whole 9 yards, pretty much grabbed every modifier and every light that myself and my friend Sean (who would be co-shooting this this me) had, the trunk of my car was a mobile studio… Joe McNally would even ask me if i was being a bit excessive…
When we got there, and I was surrounded by a world that the 19 year old me would of killed for, Beautiful Porsches, Audis, BMW’s, Muscle Cars and even a White Skyline GTR. Needless to say at this point I was quite intimidated.
So we clear some space, and go for our first set up; 46″ Light tent, AB800 on a Boom, infront of the box with the 22″ Beauty Dish, 2 580 EX II’s on the left and right side of the box, a Q-Flash behind the box… we kept getting this weird reflection… So we upped the power, we were blasting a ridiculous amount of light onto this rim, and this spot was still there…. So we constructed an elaboriate flag with an extra light stand and some folded cardboard boxes… moved it to twenty different positions, just couldnt get rid of that reflection.
45 minutes waisted now, we finally make the right decision and give up on that set up/location… make our way to a back office, kill all the lights and set up the white seamless… Grab the Alien Bee on the boom (which at this point now has the 28″ Apollo, we gave up on the beauty dish hoping the softbox would of worked better), the 2 580′s, and just start from scratch. After about 15 minutes of playing around with power levels and placements, we finally got it down… Final set up also involved the Q-Flash into a Small umbrella below the rim, making a Beauty Light Combo that I learned from reading Joe McNally and Stobist. Below is one image of the final results.
My point of this whole story, or at least what im going to attempt to walk away with from the incident, is that end of the day its all about how you adapt to the situation, How you can take the knowledge you have accumulated and make it work, and manage to keep your calm even when your scared and quite worried that your shots will suck… Just think of something you’ve done before, know the equipment you have… and make it work.
Good Night for now everyone, new blog posts coming in the next few days on Shooting Musicians spooning with intimate objects, and Shooting a model on a crowded boardwalk at Coney Island.