Going Dark with Bob Amsterdam, the Billionaires Lawyer…

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Maggie Soladay, Photo Editor at American Lawyer, recently sent me down to Washington to photograph Bob Amsterdam, an international lawyer whose clients include Russian oligarchs, South American political prisoners and billionaire Thai politicians. His biography reads like Robert Ludlum spy novel, and I’ll admit that I kinda went into this one with the idea of doing some dark and shadowy images. Problem was, we could only shoot him at his hotel in D.C….in between meetings…and the hotel said there were only a few areas available to use. Let the fun begin!

After a very quick location scout, we decided that one of the restaurants would serve our purposes. Against one wall was a framed tile art piece that sort of reminded me of the movie poster of ‘Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil’

…which after a bit of Photoshop magic looked like this…

Right around the corner was a white-washed paneled wall that provided a simple background for a second portrait…

…and that became the opener for the story…

But I wasn’t quite done yet. Right outside the restaurant was a staircase leading to the hotel’s courtyard. Despite the bitter temperature and rainy day, this fit the dark, forbidding idea I had in my head of this international man of mystery skulking in the shadows, and it helped that it was also shielded from the rain! I convinced Bob to stick around for just a bit longer, and Kaz and I quickly pulled some lights outside…

Nice, but not exactly what I had in mind. After dialing the color temperature down, Photoshopping all those leaves off of the stairs and doing some digital masonry by ‘bricking over’ the distracting area at the top of the stairs, this was our final image…

Three distinctly different portraits in half an hour, and then back on the turnpike to New York!

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14 thoughts on “Going Dark with Bob Amsterdam, the Billionaires Lawyer…

  1. Did you change his shirt color to red there? I’m always hesitant to do something like that. Not sure why. Thanks, again, for showing the setups. Good stuff.

    Nope…that’s a real red shirt. I bought a couple of shirts for him because one of his clients are the Thai Red Shirts….just trying to hammer home that metaphor! BT

  2. O.M.G. 3 in 30 mins, including dragging lights outside? Sheesh. And 8 hours on the road? I hope those editorial rates are better than they used to be, cause your client got a LOT for their money. … BYOOTIFUL sculpted light, especially on that white background opener… your typical beauty dish and ring? I mean typical as in Typically Trentian…

    The color card — why not just use a card with a neutral gray or similar? You don’t really care where those other colors fall, do you? I mean, you’re just looking for a white balance from which to depart on your merry post-production ride? No?

    thanks …

    anono guy

    Yeah…shooting editorial is often a labor of love. Especially when you factor in things like that round trip to D.C., but when you get a chance to shoot certain people it’s often worth it. Honestly though, upon arriving at the hotel and being told that they weren’t gonna let us shoot anywhere except in the restaurant or his suite, I was thinking it might have been a very long trip for nothing, but that’s when experience and creativity have to kick in. As for your questions…yeah, the shot against the paneled wall was pretty simple…gridded Profoto dish and a ringlight fill. I did have a flag cutting the dish on the upper left side to throw a shadow on the wall. As for my love of the Macbeth color checker…it’s true that I could grey balance with something as simple as a grey paint chip from Home Depot, but I like having the entire color palate to look at when I’m doing my post work so I can see how my color and contrast changes affect things across the spectrum. Well, that and it looks cooler in my test photos! BT

  3. Great stuff again, Brad. Thank you for sharing both the images (tests and final), and the way they are used in the magazines. Ditto for your responding to our comments.

  4. I am new to your blog and website. I am loving both and the insight you give is awesome. Years of assisting has given me a very good foundation and understanding of what has to get done on a shoot, but like you said only experience can give you the foresight to find three different shots and execute in an half hour’s time. As a youngish photographer I don’t know how I would have handled this situation but reading your blog and stories is a good reminder that it could get done and good photographs are right in front of us.
    Thanks
    Ian

  5. Love your work, Brad. I really appreciate the behind-the-scenes info you’re putting out there. If I may ask a question–I see that orange skin, teal background look here, and I’ve seen you do it before. Are you simply using a CTO gel on your main light and shifting everything toward cyan in post? Thanks!

  6. Great shots and thanks for sharing all of the BTS stuff Brad! BTW – how’d ya manage to keep everyone so consistently cheery on this shoot – does x-rite make a target for that??? ;^)

    Cheery? Hell…we were running around so fast that day the last thing on my mind was makin’ sure the guy was ‘cheery’…!!! BT

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