The Jersey Boy – Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

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Imagine you’re just sitting around, not doin’ anything besides playing with your cat, and you get a call asking if you wanna shoot Frankie Valli? Yeah…that happened. Kat Malott at the Wall Street Journal offered this chance to me and it once again reinforced that decision I made to be a photographer. We talked about crossing the river into New Jersey and shooting him in his old neighborhood in Newark, or on the street in New York, but the logistics were getting tough and the weather wasn’t cooperating, so we decided on the wonderful surroundings of Shoot Digital Studios. But no stylists, wardrobe or big production…Frankie was just gonna come down for an hour or so and we’d see what happened…

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For our first shot, Kaz and I picked up this great tabletop from Surface Studio and an antique microphone. The Journal has an affinity for grey backgrounds, and this classically lit portrait would fill that need…

Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

For the next shot, we put the microphone onto a mic stand and fired up the spotlight…

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Finally, I really wanted to do something with this window…

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We were happy with what we had done, but then looking back at the first setup, I saw the chance for another shot, so I pressed Frankie for a few more minutes of his time, pulled out the tabletop and backed up a bit for these…

Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

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So thank you Kat for the opportunity…and thanks Frankie for a day we won’t forget.

Frankie Valli

The BIG One: Behind The Scenes At The 2014 Barron’s Roundtable

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In an attempt to freshen things up around here, today I’m giving the blog a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new Theme. The old dark grey was getting a bit depressing, so I chose a brighter version complete with much larger photos…and larger text for those of you who might rely on reading glasses. I also slightly modified the title. After much deliberation, gone is any reference to the Song of the Day, since my increased work schedule has made dropping a regular stream of free tunes on you guys just about impossible. I’ll still post on music that catches my ear when I have the time, but I think going forward I’m gonna focus on why I’m here in the first place…Damn Ugly Photography. With that in mind, I have a lot of catching up to do, starting with today’s mega-post, long-winded as it is…

The posting frequency has been reduced to such a level that we completely blew off discussing this year’s Barron’s Roundtable from earlier this year, but fear not…today I’m gonna spew out the full behind-the-scenes for the three issues that ran back in January, as well as how we put together the mid-year cover story that hit the stands this past Monday. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since Adrian Delucca first called me to shoot the Roundtable Feature for Barron’s, and each year we have tried to one-up ourselves with new ways to shoot the ten Roundtable members for both the January and June issues, including multiple cover images, inside opening shots and individual portraits…and get it all done in the two hours before their meeting begins. And this year, for the first time, we would have to come away with four cover images instead of the usual two. We had our work cut out for us…

With the increased image count, we had to set up three separate shoot areas in the very tight confines of the President’s Room at the Harvard Club…

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Adrian and I cooked up a re-working of the old financial Bulls & Bears theme, and our Big Ticket prop items this year were a couple of mascot costumes we had made for the event. Photo assistants Rob MacInnis and Takeshi Koike got to spend the day sweating inside the furry suits.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself…we’ll talk about those costumes later…

The first January cover would involve shooting each Roundtable member on white in various poses to make them look like they were in Pamplona…running with the Bulls…

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…then in post, I would hafta do a bit of magic with a cobblestone street and a toy bull I shot earlier…

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…which eventually turned into this…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Now as complicated as that might seem, the inside opener for Week One was actually waaaay harder to pull off. I now had to convince these ten financial gurus to imagine running away from, jumping outta the way of, cheering for and riding…an imaginary bull. For this, I first went down to Wall Street and shot the famous Bull statue…

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…then I took some outside shots of the Federal Reserve Building…

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…and combined the two images with those cobblestones again…

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Now we had to get some reaction shots of the Roundtable members…

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Oscar Schafer and Mario Gabelli are probably hoping they won’t have to ride the sawhorse…

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…and finally, many, many Photoshop hours later…

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With Week One outta the way, we now had to get workin’ on those furry suits for the Week Two & Three covers.

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And here are the final images…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Are you gettin’ tired yet?!!

Finally, for the Midyear Roundtable cover, Adrian and I wanted to assemble a group shot in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. Our initial idea was to do the puzzle effect in Photoshop, because I had heard there was actually a filter for that, but after a bunch of tests we decided it just looked too fakey and so…we had some real puzzles made by PortraitPuzzles.com!

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I put my still-life photographer cap on and shot the assembled puzzles…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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And with that, one more year of the Barron’s Roundtable is done!!!

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On the Top of the World for Barron’s

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A few weeks back, Adrian sent me uptown to the GM Building for a feature on Jeff Kolitch, the manager of Baron Capital’s Real Estate Fund. Since the focus of the article was Real Estate, they kinda wanted to see Real Estate, so on the scout, even thought they had a lot of fish tanks that might make for some fun portraits…

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…I still had to make sure to come up with something that might actually relate to why Jeff was being interviewed…

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Adrian really liked the window and its view, so Ben and I figured we could turn it into a ‘frame’ that would hold our photo…

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And the final images…

Jeff Kolitch

Jeff Kolitch

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But we weren’t done yet. When Jeff walked me around the offices on the location scout, I really liked the space-age, floating glass staircase that joined the 48th & 49th floors…

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…and after a bit of lighting…

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Jeff Kolitch

…we ended up with this…

Jeff Kolitch

Sharp eyes will notice that in the final image I cloned the wall on the right side of the photo onto the left side to make things more symmetrical, a technique I used once before on another staircase shot for Businessweek.

Making Sun Where There Was None

Connie Brown

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Today’s behind-the-scenes (and lighting tutorial) is from my recent shoot for the Wall Street Journal’s Review Section on Connie Brown, who paints one-of-a-kind wall maps on canvas that are, quite simply, works of art. She researches each private commission and creates much more than a map, but instead produces what can be described as personal portraits of a region special to the client.

I spoke to Connie and she told me she lived in a converted schoolhouse, but her studio was an all-new building out back, with lotsa white walls, high ceilings, and quite bright…which it was…but it was also surrounded by a lot of really tall trees…

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…and as bright as it may have been, those trees did a super job of keeping any direct sun from lighting up the studio. And since I wanted to have a bright, airy look to the shots, it fell upon me to invent some Sun…fast! Thankfully I had the perfect thing for making Sun when there is none…a Profoto Magnum Reflector

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As a light modifier, the Magnum couldn’t be simpler…it’s just a deep dish with a 50 degree throw that is highly polished to a mirror finish. This not only makes for an extremely efficient light…even backed off 50 feet from your subject you still get a huge output…but the quality of light has a nice, open feel to it that looks just like the Sun!

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We placed one Magnum with a Half CTO (for warmth) on a Profoto Acute 2400w/s pack about 20 feet from the main, double-height window…with a second pack & head lighting up a smaller second window…and were amazed at how realistic the results were…

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

The white ceiling and walls acted as natural fill cards, so we were able to point and shoot from pretty much any angle we wanted, and the hot backlight perfectly mimicked the Sun. And when we switched to a more head-on shot of Connie against her easel, the bright, open, lifestyley look of the first shots now turned wonderfully dramatic…

Connie Brown

With the portraits done, I now had to do some vignettes of her studio, and the outside lighting still proved to work without any changes…

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I can’t say enough how impressed I was with the lighting effect we were able to achieve with essentially one pack and one head. This is the kind of thing filmmakers do all the time by dropping a few 10K HMI’s outside of a window, but this was much, much easier!

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Behind The Scenes At The Most Expensive Barron’s Roundtable Yet

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We here at Damn Ugly Photography have done many, many, many Barron’s Roundtable shoots over the years, but this time we came close to breaking the bank…literally! Our cover idea was to have the members of the Roundtable rockin’ Chef Props as they cooked up the perfect economic recipe for the coming year, and for our ‘ingredients’ we needed cash…lots and lots of cash

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Since Photoshop has added high-tech security filters that make it almost impossible to scan money and print it out…and prop money looks way too fake…we decided to hit my bank and just get real cash (that’s about $30 Grand in the bag) to use in our recipes…

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The basic cover setup was a raised plexiglass platform that I could shoot from both a low angle for the cover image, and from slightly above for the inside compositions for the Week Two & Week Three images…

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Hasselblad H1/50mm f4.0 with a Leaf Aptus 33 for the cover and the 5DmkII/24-70mm f2.8 for the higher-angle inside shots…

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As in previous years, we have only two hours to shoot everybody…all separately as they arrive at The Harvard Club for the meeting…on two different sets, and we must come away with two covers (for the January and June Mid-Year issues), two inside openers for those covers, two feature openers for the second and third week follow-up issues and individual shots of each person for the June Mid-Year issue. In those two hours we try to cram in as many different poses and props as possible so we have enough to work with when it comes to assembling the final group shots. Here’s some of the fun…

Marni worked her super-fast makeup magic on everyone before they got on set…

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Oscar Schafer…

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Brian Rogers…

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Fred Hickey…

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Abby Joseph Cohen…

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Scott Black…

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Adrian and I liked the idea of placing everyone on the edge of a mountaintop made from a butcher block cutting board and viewing them from below…

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…so once I shot a bunch of angles on the board, we had all the raw materials in place. Now it was up to me to assembly the individual shots into our cover and feature opening photos…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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This stuff never gets old!

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Stay tuned next week and you’ll see what we did with all that cash once Barron’s runs the Week Two and Week Three images…

Alec Baldwin Is Santa Claus

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In the Dreamworks Holiday Blockbuster, Rise of the Guardians, Alec Baldwin is lending his (Russian-accented) voice to Santa Claus, and in a bit of cross-promotion, David Baratz at USA Weekend called upon me and the crew to shoot him for the cover of their Holiday Tech Gift Guide. So a few weeks ago, we turned a room at the Crosby Street Hotel into our studio and brought a bit of Christmas to Soho…here’s how it went down…

Since it was a Christmas cover, I figured it was OK to dress up the set with a few Xmas lights…

Even though we knew we would only have Alec for maybe half an hour, my stylist, Cynthia Altoriso, pulled together a stunning array of clothes, including a couple of $7,000 Brioni burgundy velvet jackets (that unfortunately didn’t get worn)…

Since the idea of the cover was to have Alec plugged in to the tech gifts, he worked with the few props that played on that metaphor…

…and here are the final images…

Merry early Christmas!!!

Where Has Damn Ugly Gone?!!

Relax…relax…I know I’ve been incognito!

The ongoing project of moving the Damn Ugly World Headquarters has proven to be a much more daunting task than we ever could have imagined and with that, updating the old blog has certainly suffered. But never fear, we’ll be back with a vengeance come Monday morning!!!

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The 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Mid-Year Report

First off…I’m gonna thank Timothy Archibald for getting me off my ass and back on the blog! He wondered aloud on his own blog the other day about how facebook might be causing a lotta guys like me to slack off on our blog duties, so thanks T.A.

Now, back to business!

My twice-yearly Barron’s cover story on the meeting of their Round Table participants popped up a couple of weeks back, so just as I did for the Black Board cover back in January, here’s a little behind-the-scenes on how we put together the cover for Part 2…

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Since we only have about two hours to shoot all ten Roundtable members individually for both covers and all the inside photos for the two issues, we have to have our two sets nailed down pretty tight. And because we decided on the very complicated Black Board set for the January cover, the Mid Year cover set had to be somewhat simpler. Barron’s Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca and I came up with the idea to use arrow props that would be held to illustrate the Up and Down market trends and pose everyone on white around a few cubes…

Once we got all ten members shot, now I just had to assemble them into believable groups for both the cover and the inside opening spread…

…the final spread had most of those red arrows changed to blue…

…and for the cover we went without props altogether…

See y’all next January…

Smithsonian Magazine Goes to the Museum of Math

Hot off the press, my portrait of Glen Whitney, the Director of the Museum of Mathematics, is in this month’s edition of Smithsonian Magazine. I went down to DC a while ago and saw Molly Roberts…the Photo Editor at Smithsonian…and she said it would be perfect for a new feature section they were starting that profiled “Big Ideas”.

You can check out the story HERE!

SXSW Special: The Bird Call Cover Shoot & Song of the Day

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BIRD CALL
Waltz in the Snow


DOWNLOAD: Waltz in the Snow

SXSW starts this week, and Bird Call is heading down to Austin to play a whole mess of dates, so I figured that since the festival has morphed from being just a week-long Indie music show into a multi-media-mega-extravaganza, today’s post would mimic that sentiment by including music, photos and yet another these stop-action jpeg movies I find myself playing with when I got nothin’ else to do.

A few months back, we were out at the Brooklyn World Headquarters of Bird Call Music and mindful of the low-budget, Indie-Music, keep-it-simple aspect to the shoot, we turned a very tiny white room into a photo studio for Chiara Angelicola’s new record, using nothing but four do-it-yourself lights and a bit of ingenuity.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes of what we did and some of the resulting final images…

We started with nothing but some sheer drapes covering a sunlit window and a piano dropped in front of it…

…in a very small room (thank God for wide-angle lenses!). We added a couple of my DIY ‘Ghetto-Flo’ florescent strip lights as backlight skims, but decided to use no front light at all, just overexposed the living daylights outta the thing to let the background blow out and see where that took us…

Not bad at all, even if GiGi looks kinda bored…

Chiara getting beautified…

…and standing in…

Some last minute touch-ups…Lovin’ the Horns!

And away we go…

The final resulting images…..

Next, we pulled out the piano and added a couple of front lights…

…and Chiara jumped around in a cool stripy dress with a pork-pie hat!

Which I was able to turn into this cool multiple…

And then a fun stop-action movie…

In the end, GiGi was impressed…

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!

I Live In New York…

…and I’m hardly gonna be mistaken for a shrinking violet, but I still think these posters that have sprung up all over town for the new season of ‘Mad Men’ are in bad fucking taste

Just Google “Mad Men Poster” and you’ll get hit with hundreds of pages with the words ‘Controversial’, ‘Desecration’ and ‘Uproar’ featuring prominently in the headlines. Esquire suggests that the only people upset about this are “bloggers looking to create controversy”, and to that I cry, “Bullshit”! I had heard about the posters a couple of weeks ago when Michael Surtees, a graphic designer friend of mine who catalogs his daily existence on his flickr account, posted a photo of one of the posters he casually took on the walk to work with the caption, “I’m not too sure how appropriate is this Mad Men poster”

He then posted his own thoughts on the poster and the ethics behind producing such an ad on his designnotes Blog. Within days his photo had been viewed almost 37,000 times!


*EDIT* Michael just told me the photo is now at 250,000+ views…!

I hadn’t actually seen one in person until this morning when I got off the Times Square shuttle and the entire tunnel into Grand Central was plastered with them. It stopped me in my tracks. And it really pissed me off. When I was taking the shot at the top of the page, a guy walked by and said, “That Sucks!”, and I wondered if he thought maybe I was just another tourist documenting my time in the Big City and he wanted me to understand the frustration a real New Yorker might have over seeing something like this every Goddamned day as you commute to work. I wanted to say something back to him…to let him know I was just as upset as he was…but he was already gone, swallowed up among the thousands of people who seemed to be purposefully ignoring what was on the walls around them.

I know how ad guys think, and I know that not one of the fuckers who came up with the concept or worked on this campaign or greenlighted the final art didn’t know full well that they were capitalizing on the falling man imagery from 9/11 to advertise a bloody TV show. I know they’re all feelin’ puffed up and important, cuz look at how everybody is talking about what they did! All I can think is what kind of uncaring asshole would be proud of producing this, and especially to place them all over Manhattan! And before you cry that this poster is merely an extension of the show’s opening title sequence that has been part of it from the beginning, again…Bullshit! The Mad Men opening credits start in the context of an office environment and then the artifice falls away and the falling character very obviously implies the downward spiral of the shows main character. This poster was only produced to create the exact kind of controversy us ‘bloggers’ are writing about. And good for them. It worked! After almost two years off the air, we’re all talking about Don Draper again, even if it does bring up all those shitty memories from a decade ago. And maybe I’m wrong, but I seriously doubt Mr. Draper would ever sink so low as to pull up the memory of people leaping to their deaths to sell a product.

Behind the Scenes of the 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Cover Shoot

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I first photographed the annual Barron’s Roundtable cover story back in January of 2007, which makes this the sixth year I’ve had the privilege, and each year the team of Art Director Pamela Budz, Photo Editor Adrian Delucca and myself have stepped up our game to reinvent creative ways to show the gang of financial prognosticators. This year the three of us came up with the idea that centered around the entire group posing in front of a blackboard. I did a quick mockup using shots of the Roundtable members I had taken previously…

So we packed up our usual thousand pounds of lighting gear along with a blackboard and various other set pieces and headed uptown to The Harvard Club to make it work…

Our main prop…a 4′x6′ blackboard…

Now for those of you who haven’t read about some of the previous Roundtable shoot days, I’ll break down the schedule for you. We have roughly two hours to shoot everybody before the meeting begins at 10:00AM. In that two hours we have to come away with two cover shots (one for main January issue and one for the mid-year follow-up in June), three additional situations that will be used for openers in three January issues, an opener for the June issue and individual portraits of all ten Roundtable members that will get dropped into the copy of the June issue.

Ten People. Two Hours.

Oh yeah…we shoot everybody separately as they arrive at the Harvard Club and assemble those shots into the group photos for the cover and inside openers.

Simple.

Here’s what it looked like…

Adrian reminding me we have very little time…

And this is just from the Blackboard set. You can see the second white seamless setup behind me in one of the above photos, but I can’t show you any of that until it publishes in June.

Once we had finished with the people, we now had to shoot the blackboard, out of the rigging we used to suspend it for the portraits and back on its stand…

…and various elements on the blackboard that I could insert into the final compositions. Since Pam can freehand fonts way better than any of us, she got to draw the cover headline on the board…

Adrian was elected to do the ‘Charts & Graphs’…

And with all of the elements photographed, now it was up to me to push everything together in Photoshop and manufacture that group shot for the cover. The individual photos looked like this…

…so first I had to silhouette the images and paste them into a new Photoshop document…

…and then fill in the group with everybody else…

…do a rough mockup with the blackboard inserted behind the group…

…and after Pam and Adrian had approved the final composition, do a whole lotta fine-tuning…like erasing the rough edges around the silhouette, feathering the hair to blend naturally against the blackboard, add shadows in front and behind everybody and finally cook in my own special sauce of color and contrast adjustments…

With the cover outta the way, next up was the week one opener. I started by seriously stretching out that blackboard so that it would run over a two-page spread, then I added both the people and their names that I had them write on the board…

Using the same fine-tuning I did on the cover, this was the final image…

And here’s how it appeared in print…

And using the same basic technique, just on a smaller scale, here is the image that ran as the opener in this weeks issue…

Just like I said…simple!

Saying Goodbye to Sam Palmisano

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I’ve been shooting Sam Palmisano since he was named CEO of IBM back in 2002, and as CEO’s go, I always found him to be a very honorable, straightforward guy. But I also knew that since he had reached IBM’s mandatory retirement age of 60 he would be stepping down, so when I got the call to photograph him a couple of weeks ago for what would probably be his last hurrah at the helm of the largest IT company in the World, it was a little bittersweet. I did three covers with him and made a lot of connections with IBM in the process. But connections aside, I was still ‘warned’ by the P/R person that Sam didn’t like being photographed and that he would only have five minutes. I assured her that I knew the drill and that Sam and I went way back…we would be ready to rock-n-roll the second he walked through the door. We were taken to the Board Room and went about turning an area that could easily double as the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise into a white studio, then we quickly set up a second shot, ‘cuz I didn’t wanna come away with just just one since this might be the last time I got to bother Sam with my camera. And when Sam arrived, true to form, he warmly greeted us and asked how we had been doing since the last time I had to put him through a photo torture session. And then with the P/R person looking at her wrist, our five minute clock began to tick down…

The IBM Boardroom…

You can see how we set up both situations side-by-side, mostly because I knew if I had to walk Sam more than 50 feet a second shot just wasn’t gonna happen!

The simply ridiculous area we dropped our white background…

…how it looked on camera…

…and the final spread in the magazine…

The second shot was deceptively simple…I planned to work with the ambient light in the room and drop him against the stainless steel wall that I had lit with only two of my DIY Kino-Flo lights…

And the final image…

I just checked the metadata on the files. The first shot was at 17:06:54…the last frame was at 17:14:55…..Sam must have enjoyed our last session together ‘cuz he let me go over by three minutes and one second.

Gettin’ Smart at the Museum of Math

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Not to get you guys thinking that I’m in a creative rut or anything, but hot on the heels of last weeks post about my Digitalman, here’s the series of photos I did of Glen Whitney…a Harvard-educated mathematician and former hedge fund manager…for a story on philanthropy in Barron’s Penta.

An unapologetic numbers geek, Whitney is pulling together about $30 million and building the Museum of Mathematics in a prime 20,000 square foot raw space on East 26th Street right on Madison Park in Manhattan. Since the construction hasn’t even begun on the museum, Adrian and I thought it might be kinda cool to inject some math into the portraits, and maybe using a projection technique would be one way to to pull it off. But the magazine budget wasn’t quite as lofty as the previous ad shoot, which meant spending the kind of money required to produce the job with the super-spendy toys I used on the Digitalman was not gonna be in the cards…so we went about as low-tech as possible, left the strobes at home and decided to work with the available light and use nothing but a digital projector. And it all ended up being not only a lotta fun, but we got some very cool portraits of Glen in the process.

I did a location scout, ‘cuz I really needed to get an idea of exactly what we had to work with…a dark, dirty cavern with lots of rough concrete walls and pipes was what I found…

After spending a few days making various Photoshop ‘slides’ using hundreds of real math equations, we rented the biggest digital projector the budget could afford, and Bo and I headed off to MoMath…

Any early test…

…and a couple of the final selects. We used the ambient light from the construction worklights to fill in the background areas, but the shot was essentially lit entirely by the digital projector…

Next, we moved to an area that was a bit cleaner and less cluttered for a cover image…

…and I broke out my home-made Kino-Flo florescent lights and we did this…

The Museum of Math is scheduled to be completed next year…check out the details on their website and make sure to take the kids when it opens!

A Tiny Sofa and a Big Table for Barron’s…

My eclectic tour of the Nation’s boardrooms recently took me to the offices of Riverpark Capital, where I was to photograph Morty Schaja, Mitch Rubin and Conrad van Tienhoven for a Barron’s profile. Lest any of you think that the life of a photographer is all Supermodels and hangin’ with Diddy, I beg you to read on…

Riverpark’s midtown office would never be described using words such as ‘opulent’, ‘palatial’ or ‘ostentatious’. But they are hardly alone in this…most places I find myself having to shoot in are equally utilitarian…but it can rattle my bones when I keep seeing the same furniture, cubicles, lighting and paint used again and again and again. Still, after a quick tour of the space, I decided to begin in the reception area…

…sort of a mini-history of the financial markets as seen through the eyes of Time Magazine. I kinda thought it would be a good place to start, so we dropped Mitch and Morty onto the little couch and went to work…

But we also had to photograph a situation with Conrad, the third partner in the firm, and there was zero chance of him fitting on that couch. That part of the story brings us to this conference room…

The first thing you gotta do when faced with the dreaded White Board/Conference Table scenario is ignore how frightfully normal the situation is and try to envision it instead as a set piece that will only work because of the personality you can bring to it. That first means usually cleaning it up and add some tasty lighting…

Next, stir in the talent…

…but the whole serious/symmetrical thing wasn’t doin’ it for me, so I told the guys to just go about doing what they normally do…let loose and ignore me…and they did…

…and that kind of unguarded moment was exactly what Adrian wanted for the story…

Keeping It Simple With Gabrielle Aimée

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When my friend Gabrielle Aimée asked me to shoot her new CD cover, she was very specific. She wanted to keep it very simple, but very direct. She wanted an intimate connection with the viewer, with minimal styling…maybe just a white t-shirt. Oh yeah…and we had to keep it dirt cheap, ‘cuz in case you forgot, my indie friends aren’t exactly rolling in GaGa Money to throw at their self promotion!

Now one of the things that always impresses people when they first arrive at Damn Ugly Photography is the giant 17 foot by 9 foot high South-facing window that greets them, and on the day Gibbles came up to my place to go over a few ideas, I had her stand up against the wall next to that window and popped off a few quick frames, just to see how she looked on camera with no styling and just a big wash of soft light…I was kinda blown away with the results…

So blown away, in fact, that I told her maybe we should just shoot here, and use the same big, soft lighting. I had an idea to include some rough hewn wood planks and maybe a painters canvas drop as backgrounds, but the real focus had to be her expressions. With that in mind, here’s a bit of what we did…

We started with a few seated poses on my new plank floor…

After a quick wardrobe change we did a few close-ups, but amped-up the window lighting to brighten things up a bit…

Then I turned our plank floor into a wall and we moved in this direction…

And even though we were diggin’ the window light, I figured I would fire up a couple of lights and do a few moodier variations…

And then, just when we thought we might be done, I messed her hair up, cranked up the ringlight, and things took on a totally different look…

Finally, Gibbles told me she wanted to do something fun for her boyfriend, Brendan Brown, the driving force behind the cult alt-rock group, Wheatus. That ‘something’ involved her brand new guitar…and not much else

Gabrielle is set to release ‘I Know Better’…the first single off the album…and all you have to do is go to today’s Song of the Day to download it.