A couple months ago I had a fun shoot with Chef Ashley Shelton and Bess Kretsinger Heffernan, the GM, from Sardella, one of the newer Gerard Craft joints here in St. Louis. One of the things that Ashley and Bess focus on is a environment in their shop that breaks the mold of most kitchens. These two were a lot of fun to work with – I had a blast at this shoot. Hey, this is for Wine Enthusiast, so why not swig from a bottle in a paper bag like a bodega forty? Nailed it.
Let’s be honest, sometimes corporate head shots can be pretty dry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in many cases a corporate portrait is a way to show professionalism and success. This usually means a portrait of the subject in a suit looking, well, professional and successful. The trick with corporate head shots is keep an open mind and look for opportunities to make a dramatic portrait when your client gives you a little more flexibility.
This is exactly what happened while working for Clayco, a construction management and design company based here in St. Louis. Unlike the standard cubicles and offices you find in most corporate headquarters, the Clayco building is a showcase of their architecture and design capabilities, and as such has a lot of really cool glass walls, industrial materials, open spaces and in general is a really fun place to shoot.
The first thing that I do when I’m setting up a portrait is to scout out the area where I’m going to shoot to find something cool and unique. When shooting corporate portraits this can be a bit tough. Beige cubicles are the norm in office construction and let me just tell you that they are no fun to shoot in. As a way to get around this I generally take a walk around the office and try to find something that will give my photo a little more interest – with a little luck I can usually find a lobby or a hallway that will do the trick.
The great thing about digital photography is that we are no longer bound 12, 24, or 36 frames at a time. And we don’t need to waste time during setup to snap a few polaroids. And yes, as a commercial photographer, it is in my best interest to be economical with my shots if for no other reason than the amount of time needed to edit 1000 shots is obviously much great than 100 shots. That said, however, I’m not afraid to keep shooting until I’m sure I’m got the shoot, and more importantly, until the client is sure as well.
Being creative and finding the perfect shot is the photographer’s job. Period. When you accept a job, you also accept the responsibility for taking ordinary situations and turning them into something amazing. This is why the client has hired you and this is why you charge the rates that you do – because not everyone can do this. Therefore, you, as photographer are the master of the universe and all creative decisions that you haven’t thought up yourself are crap.
If you can’t stand the heat … get out of the kitchen.
When I’m booking editorial photo shoots for restaurants, whether it’s food or portraits of the chef, I usually try to book the shoots for a time when the kitchen is slow so as not to upset service. After all, these establishments are taking time out of their busy schedules to accomodate this guy marching in and taking over their space for a while. Plus it generally makes this a whole lot easier without customers around and kitchen staff bustling around knocking over my lights and body checking me out of the way. When I exchanged emails with Cary McDowel, the chef at Winslow’s Home, about scheduling a portrait he told me to come on by at 11:30am. Which is pretty much when their lunch service starts winding up. Challenge? You betcha.
Those of us who live downtown are super excited about the new branch of the Pi chain of pizza restaurants that just opened up on Washington Avenue in St. Louis. Sure, it’s a chain but it’s a local chain and their pizza is kickass (albiet a touch pricey). I caught up with Pi co-founder Chris Sommers at the shiney new downtown location to photograph him for Feast magazine’s My Stuff column.
Another of the fun assignments I got to shoot last month was a quick portrait of Rob Uyemura for Sauce Magazine. Rob is the executive chef at Yia Yia’s Eurobistro in Chesterfield. Rob reviewed several cookbooks about fresh-from-the-soil produce and the creative brief was for a portait of him cooking out of one of the cookbooks. According to Rob his kitchen wasn’t photo-ready, so I ended up shooting him in his backyard grilling up some lovely ribs and some really delicious looking produce that he’d just picked from his garden.
I love living downtown but I would kill for a garden. Growing up in PA, I always had access to fresh vegetables and fruits straight from my dad’s garden – nothing tastes quite like fresh picked corn, tomatoes and onions. Maybe I can talk my building into letting me put a garden on the roof deck that no one uses …
Recently I had the chance to meet local artisan Jermain Todd, who I photographed for Sauce magazine. Jermain owns Mwanzi, an eco-friendly design-build-supply firm. Among other things, Jermain makes really excellent furniture out of local wood, whether it’s reclaimed or trees he acquires from people around town who need to cut them down for whatever reason. You’ll be able to eat on some of his tables at the new Pi in the Mercantile Exchange downtown. I met up with Jermain at another small business, WunderWoods in St. Charles where he was going to pick up the wood for the Pi tables. Jermain is a cool guy, the type of guy you want making your furniture for you – the shoot was a lotta fun.
Last month right before the print deadline, I squeezed in a quick shoot with Chef Wes Johnson for Feast Magazine. I met Wes at his downtown loft for an impromptu portrait session right before he was scheduled to head off on a “barbecue road trip.” I kinda wish I would have had the opportunity to tag along for that one!