As you saw on Tuesday, a local pro has agreed to take me under his wing and mentor me on the skills needed to shoot more commercial work. Now, he's not someone I randomly called - though I had some names and considered doing that, but this worked out well - Jason owns a studio in Pleasant Hill, the next town over from me. I've been renting his studio for a lot of my work with models and he has ALWAYS been extremely helpful in showing me subtle adjustments that can make all the difference in an image. I've really enjoyed that part of shooting there.But he does a lot of other commercial work - interiors, products, location shoots for business clients, and such. I've put forth to him for a while that I'd be available to assist if her ever needed that, and he's kinda pooh-pooh'd it.
I called to book the studio for a shoot coming up on Sept. 1. As is usually the case, Jason is always ready to talk shop. So we were on the phone for probably an hour just shooting the bull about all kinds of photo-related stuff, mainly what he's been doing and what he wants to do, new cameras coming out and the quality of older lenses. Towards the end I asked him once again if I could work with him and he finally agreed. I was stoked. So we talked about that for while, then I had to scoot. Jason's a great guy and man, does he have the gift of gab. I admire that to some extent because, a) I don't need to do much talking, and b) I don't have it.
He mentioned that he'd scheduled a headshot session this (Weds) evening for a big shot from Wells Fargo. He said I was welcome to come to the studio to help, then we'd get a chance to talk about things after. GREAT! I've done a headshot session, matter of fact I did it at the studio there, but it was very interesting watching him work, what he looks for, how he talks to the client and shows them what he's doing based on their requirements. You would think (and the exec thought) that, "eh, headshot. I can do that with the iPhone). Fortunately Wells knew better and wanted it done professionally. Now you may call me biased, but there is a huge difference. I'm not quite sure why that matters for an exec. I certainly understand why it matters for someone in acting or modeling, but it does, and so there was learning to be done. When the client was away I'd ask question as to why he did what he did - posing, lighting, etc and Jason was more than happy to explain and when he did, it all made sense.
I need to jump back for a moment and acknowledge to wealth of help and guidance I've received from photographers and artists (or should that be photographers/artists, or just artists???) who are far away from me - Cary Brooks, my friend and antagonist for years on what constitutes photography and what is art; Ron Martinsen, who's blog is amazing; Scott Kelby and Joe McNally (through books and training sites like the NPPA); (this is starting to sound like a damn Oscars acceptance speech, eh? So what!) Chris Sommella, who is a huge help in guiding me on the business side of things; Joanna Kustra, who's been gracious enough to share some of her lighting secrets; and many others in Facebook groups and other online sites. And most of all, YOU folks, whose support has been invaluable and extremely motivating. All of the progression I've been able to make in this craft has been accomplished with the help of kind and generous people. However, working hands-on is on another level. Don't get me wrong, I'll certainly be keeping in touch with all of them, this is just an addition to my set of tools.
One of the really fun aspects of this is being able to give back by helping others. Mostly online but still, to help others as I have been by others is a great, great thing. It also lets me know how far I've progressed. Sometimes I catch myself saying, "come on, that's basic stuff." Then I check that by reminding myself that not too long ago there were people saying the same thing about me (and most likely still are).
Back to Jason. After the session concluded we sat down and went over that, and other headshot sessions he done. We extensively went over lighting because, well, that's what photography is. It's awesome to sit with a pro and watch him critique his own work. I noticed right off, from the first time I shot at his studio with his help, that what I thought was a perfectly acceptable shot, was often dramatically improved by just a slight movement of the strobes one way or the other. We went over the lighting of the background, something I've really not paid enough attention to, and several other things. It was really cool.
Then we went through some of is location and product shots. More for show as I had to leave so we didn't have a lot of time to get into the nitty-gritty details. And that was fine because we're going to get together soon and do some product shooting just so I can get a grasp of it.
So this old dog is getting to learn some new tricks. Once again I chuckle because this isn't remotely what I had in mind when I started this a couple of years ago but this seems to be the way things are heading and I'm enjoying it, so why change things. Now everything I see is looked at as if I were going to shoot it (photographically speaking, of course) ;). What would my settings be? In the case of places inside, where would I place the lights? Now I'll actually get an answer to that question and more importantly, WHY place them in certain places for the most effective shot. I've seen over and over again how Joe McNally does it, but it's difficult for me to absorb it unless I'm actually doing the thing. Now I'll get the chance.
So things are moving along. I've recently moved a couple pieces and have more going shortly. It's quite exciting, actually.