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…

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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…

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 Shot Mr. Post-It® Note For The London Sunday Times

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So I get a call from Andrew Mitchell, one of the photo editors at the London Sunday Times, and he needed me to hightail it to the Palace Hotel to shoot a feature on George Buckley, the Chairman & CEO of 3M. Now the Palace is a really nice hotel, but the idea of shooting a couple of portraits in his suite just kinda seemed flat, so after a bit of pleading with the hotel’s P/R people, they said if I was quick I could use the Gilt Bar as a studio. So Kaz and I packed up the van and made our way uptown, but not before making a stop at an Office Depot for some props. You see, 3M makes more than 55,000 products, including adhesives, abrasives, laminates, fire protection, dental products, electronic materials, medical products, polishes, waxes, car shampoo, car chassis rust protection, electronic circuits and optical films. But if you had to pick the one thing they make that everybody knows, it’s the Post-It® Note, and I bought almost every Post-It® Note on the shelf at that Office Depot! I had been to Gilt a few times and I had an idea to dress up the ultra-modern lounge area with a few (thousand) of the little paper stickies…

Kaz sits in for the first test…

…about half an hour later, after Post-It-ing the set…

…and the final image of George…

For a second photo, we turned 90 degrees to the left and set up a shot with George framed by a golden wall and warm lights…

The gold wall…

A nice start…

That was nice, George…but what do you say we try this…

Dont’cha just love it when the CEO of a HUGE multinational corporation has a sense of humor?!!

Your 5 Minutes with the CEO of Bayer begins…NOW!!!

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Here’s another from my ongoing series of CEO Spotlights from Barron’s…this time featuring Dr. Marijn Dekkers, the new CEO of Bayer AG. He was up at the Barron’s offices to be interviewed and I was told that because of his tight schedule, I would have precious little time with him for the portrait session. So we set up in the tiny video studio the magazine has tucked away down a back hallway and waited. Precisely on time, Dr. Dekkers and his publicist arrived and yes, they were already looking at their watches. Still, the five minutes was more than enough time to get off a couple of looks…without getting a headache!

Big Rubber Balls, Bright Blue Walls & Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

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A few weeks ago, Manuela Oprea, photo editor at BloombergMarkets, offered me a job that proved to be one of the more interesting business magazine gigs I’ve done in a long time…to shoot a cover story on Barry Silbert, the Founder and CEO of SecondMarket and some of the people that make up the largest secondary market exchange dedicated to creating liquidity for illiquid assets. Silbert came up with the idea for SecondMarket when he was an investment banker struggling to sell off pieces of the bankrupt Enron…he figured, “Wouldn’t it make sense if there was an organized marketplace, like eBay, where illiquid assets could be bought and sold?”. To me it all sounded ridiculously dry and boring. So much so that when I went up to scout the place I really wasn’t expecting any of the craziness that would follow…..

First off, the offices were painted in super-bright primary colors…

And unlike most financial offices, everybody was happy and seemingly loved their jobs!

…people sat on big inflated rubber balls…

…they wrote all over the walls…

…and played ping pong and air hockey to relax and had toys and games everywhere! Including this inspiring throwback to my youth…the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

This ain’t your father’s stock exchange! And we were gonna have some fun!

We decided to use the bright colored walls of the reception area for the cover shot of Barry. Here’s what things looked like before we set up the lights…

And here’s what 6 lights and 5 Profoto packs will do to reality…

Next we went to work on that lime-green wall…

Which resulted in the opening spread for the story…

With Barry’s part of the shoot done, we moved on to the Green Lantern T-shirt wearin’ Chief Strategy Officer, Jeremy Smith, paired with the Uber-Traditional, buttoned-down Managing Director, Kevin O’Connor, over a nice round of Robot Boxing!

And the last shot of the day would be of Adam Oliveri, their Managing Director of Private Company Markets…

But we weren’t done yet. A few days later, Manuela called and said that the story would now include a sidebar on the venture capitalist who got SecondMarket off the ground…Lawrence Lenihan, the CEO and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital. While I was looking around for places to shoot him, I kinda barged in on lunch…..

…but it resulted in this rather tasty portrait…

But I really wanted to come away with a second shot, and the reception area had a nice feel to it…

…so after a bit of furniture moving, we did this…

And finally, to bring this endless story to a close, here’s 7 seconds of cell-phone video Manuela caught of me shooting Barry for the cover…

Damn Ugly Around The Blogoshere…

As I said in the SOTD below, it was a busy month for Damn Ugly. We’ve been getting a lotta notices all over the interwebs, so I thought I would share some of those mentions with the rest of you…

Profoto saw that PopPhoto piece on me and finally realized that since 98% of my Artificial Portraits feature one or more of their products, that just maybe they should jump on the bandwagon…..

ProFoto Blog: Brad Trent’s Unconventional Executive Portraits

Nothing To Nobody, the Australian online digital magazine for people with style, taste and intelligence, did an interview with me for their latest issue. I wish I could show you how groovy it is, but unlike most of the internet, they want you to pay to play…but don’t be a cheap bastard……it’s only 2 bucks!!!

Nothing to Nobody – Issue Three

Alan Dunlop, a photographer in Glasgow, put Damn Ugly in his list of the top five photo blog recommendations for January…..

Alan’s Diary – Top Five Photo Blog Recommendations For January 2011

Photography consultant, writer, event producer and educator Louisa Curtis featured me on her monthly Chatterblog, a roundup of cool photo-related stuff she stumbled upon…..

Louisa Curtis – February ChatterBulletin

The Curious Brain is a mashup of design curiosities, photography, illustration, social media, advertising, video, animation and found images that included some of my portraits…..

The Curious Brain – Brad Trent

And finally, Finnish photographer Klaus Elfving got so inspired after reading a little off-the-cuff tutorial I did on the Strobist Group on Flickr that he decided to mimic the lighting himself…..

Klaus Elfving Photography – Studio Friday I

Inspiring & Undeniably Good…

…Well, thank you very much!!!

Damn Ugly was featured this week on both culturedrop.com and sneezr.ca and I must say, while I’m extremely flattered by the opinions others have of me, all of this attention is gonna force me to get up off the couch and do something to prove them right!

Jenan Mujkic runs Sneezr.ca and he stumbled across my work late last year. One of the things he does is an ‘interview-via-email’ that usually asks a single, open-ended question. For me, he actually had two questions and you can read the interview here:

How to be undeniably good. How to be like Brad.

CultureDrop is a online magazine documenting the latest in culture, technology design and fashion, and their feature on me is here:

Inspiring People: Brad Trent

Damn Ugly Is Number One ?!!

Yesterday, David HobbyThe Strobist…dropped his annual list of Favorite Posts from the past year and the big news that knocked Mr. Damn Ugly on his ass was that the interview David did with me back in May…* Cue the Celestial Harps & Trumpets *…was his Number One Post of the Year!

The Strobist Top Posts, Ranked by Clicks

Now David predicted that this news would lead to me getting a big head…and he was right! I mean, by his own count 2,469,886 different photographers visited Strobist from 218 different countries and territories. That all added up for a total of 20,531,296 onsite page views, with another 12MM via RSS….my hat size is growing exponentially!!! Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll be able to live with my own fame…..

Damn Ugly thanks David and all of his readers at Strobist for the honor. I plan to live up to all the duties and obligations that come with such a title and look forward to my reign at the top of the Strobist hit-count heap in the coming year!

You Can Shoot Here, Or You Can Shoot There…

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I know how much some of you like seeing the behind-the-scenes stuff on my shoots, so as my tour of the Nation’s boardrooms and office spaces progresses, I offer to you my recent session with Gordon Fowler, the President and Chief Investment Officer of Glenmede. What follows is part lighting tutorial, part manipulating reality, but mostly it shows what can be done when you only have ten minutes to photograph a high profile subject and still come away with unexpected, arresting images.

On the location scout I did a couple of days before the shoot I was presented with two things. First, Gordon was extremely busy and wasn’t going to be able to devote a lot of time to a photo session, and second, there were really only two areas that would work as possible locations…

The ‘Art Wall’…

…and the ‘Wood Wall’…

The two spots were literally side-by-side, so by setting up both shots beforehand it would make it easier on Gordon’s time limitations…

We began with the portrait in front of the ‘Art Wall’…

It’s pretty obvious that I changed the overall look and feel by adding some moody blue drama to the scene, but the shot was actually pretty easy to light. Gordon was lit by a fresnel spot (with a full CTO gel) that was almost directly overhead and a second light with a 7″-40 degree grid skimming the wall behind him. The final light was a ringlight (with a full CTB gel) filling in the overall scene. After five minutes of Gordon in the chair, we went around the corner to the wood-paneled wall…

For this shot I wanted to keep things simple and just focus on his expressions, so I kept the lighting pretty open with a gridded beauty dish up high above his face, a couple of skim lights on either side of him and another ringlight adding not only fill, but a nice reflection highlight on the wood that separated him from the background. But the real beauty of the shot was the unexpected caught moment of him just enjoying his coffee and having a laugh before we actually got under way. I finished things off with that tight portrait at the top of the page, but the magazine went straight to Gordon and his coffee cup…

Two setups…ten minutes total shoot time…done!

Fun At The Fair!

Yesterday I channeled my inner farmer and hit the Harwinton County Fair, complete with ox-pulls, carnival rides, corn dogs and a whole mess of chickens and horses and cows and bunnies! My iPhone (set to ‘Hipstamatic’, of course!) has recorded some choice bits for you to enjoy…

Killer Attack Rooster…

Very Friendly Horse…

Sleepy Bunny…

Tiny Donkey…

Girls Sitting With Cows…

Terrifying Rides…

Whac-A-Mole…

Dead Guys…

…And The Best Damned Potatoes You’ve Ever Seen!!!

Now I know that still pictures hardly do justice to a good carnival ride, but if you watch this video long enough, it might generate enough vertigo to make you sick….

Do you feel like judging a few chickens?!!

Not a fan of chickens? Then how about braving the crowds to look at the prize-winning bunnies?!!

And if all that wasn’t enough fun for ya, The Flying Wallendas were even on hand cheating death for the 7,496th time!!!

Don Draper Wins A Clio? Big Deal…I’ve Got A Clio!!!

OK…so on Sunday night, just as ‘Mad Men’ was lassoing its third consecutive Emmy for Best Dramatic Series, I was over on AMC watching that nights episode where our hero, Don Draper, wins his first Clio Award (and the apparent pain & suffering that comes with the honor). Well, maybe pain & suffering is a bit strong, since as Don does a victory lap around a bar with his trophy, all the gals in attendance are clamoring to spend the night with him! And that’s when it hit me…wait a second…..I have a Clio, and the damned thing has never managed to get me the ladies like it did for Don!!! I kinda think I got a raw deal…….or maybe I just need a tailored suit, a high & tight haircut, and a skinny tie!

I Shoot Kaz…Kaz Shoots Me…..

A few weeks ago, the folks at Resource Magazine got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in contributing to a photo essay they’re doing on Photographers and their Assistants. The idea is for me to shoot a portrait of my assistant and then have the assistant shoot me. I thought it sounded like an OK way to spend a day, so on one of the hottest days of the year, Kaz and I trucked a few hundred pounds of gear up to the roof and I did one of my Artificial Portraits of him, then we went back to the air-conditioned comfort of my apartment where he did a particularly scary shot of me…

The story will be in the Fall issue which comes out in early October…I’ll let y’all know when it drops!

How’d You Do That?!!

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Ever since I posted THIS Song of the Day last week, I’ve been getting e-mails from photo geeks around the World asking me about the shot of Kate Tucker in that field. I’ve had more theories tossed my way than I ever could have imagined, from the type of lighting…did I use an HMI spotlight or studio strobes or small, battery-powered flash units…to whether or not Kate was even in the field…a lot of you actually are convinced she was shot in the studio and stripped into a stock field shot! All of this speculation knocked me out, especially since the truth is that it was a kind of a throwaway that neither Kate or I thought was working, so we bailed on it and moved on to another idea after only five or six frames!

So…for your photo-geeky viewing enjoyment…here’s a breakdown of the shot and the post-processing steps involved in making it look the way it does…

We shot this on the Hasselblad H1 with the Leaf Aptus 75 back which gave us this very normal, if a little flat, RAW file. To keep the lighting dramatic, the only light I used is that Profoto beauty dish (with a grid) you see above her head. It was powered by a Profoto 7B at about half power which nicely darkened the mid-day ambient light down to mimic twilight…

Next, I had to do a bit of cosmetic retouching and obviously the light boom and sandbag had to go, but since I grey-balanced the shot heavy on the blue side, I had to bring back the vivid red of the dress and yellow tone of the guitar. I also lowered the contrast and added a bit of shadow detail using the ‘Shadow/Highlights’ adjustment because I knew that a few steps down the line I would be amping up the levels and contrast a lot…

Now came some color correction. Leaf RAW files are inherently flat and need a lotta help to get the kind of color I like in my final images, and in this case, because of that very blue white-balance I did, I inserted a Color Adjustment Layer and added 20 Red to the shadows and 20 Cyan to the highlights…

…then I added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and really increased the Blue and Cyan levels…

Next, I pumped up the contrast in the Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers…

…and the contrast went up even more when I duplicated the image layer, converted it to ‘Soft Light’ and applied a healthy dose of the High Pass filter set at a radius of 150 pixels…

With the higher contrast, the High Pass layer added a lot of drama, but I still felt I had to draw more attention to Kate, so in a final step I created a new Overlay Layer (filled with 50% grey) and I ‘burned’ down the horizon line, the grass on either side of her and a bit of the sky, then I dodged the grass directly around her to make more of a spotlight effect…

That’s it…a simple photo in only seven steps!!! And here are all of those steps…side-by-side…one final time…

Song of the Day

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
Babelonia


DOWNLOAD: Babelonia

We’re gonna do a musical about-face from last weeks ‘The Muscle & Charm’ with a leak off of the new album from School Of Seven Bells, due out next month. I love this Brooklyn-based trio and their psycho-hypnotic swirl of mesmerizing vocals, vibrant melodies and rhythmic noise. I was tossing out cuts from Alpinisms last year as fast as I could get them and I’m looking forward to hearing what the new record has to offer. On ‘Babelonia’, I’m instantly taken by the familiar Cocteau Twins-like chanting from twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and carried along by Ben Curtis’ shoegazey wall of of chugging percussion, layered guitars and electro-atmospheric noise. Disconnect From Desire is set to drop July 13th, but in the meantime you can check SVIIB out on their MySpace Page

AOL Shoot for The Hollywood Reporter

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Through a wonderful bit of logrolling, I recently added The Hollywood Reporter as a new client when Alysia Lew of AOL (who I met on my BusinessWeek shoot of AOL executives last Fall) got me to shoot David Eun, the new president of AOL Media and Studios. Here’s a little of what we did…

Kaz sitting in for the main shot…note the hanging cable from the light we clamped up in the ceiling…

…and the resulting final image…..

A new graffiti mural in the reception area…

…and David getting ready to attack the photographer…..

The original test from the ‘Monster Wall’ shot at the top of this post…

And finally, here’s how the magazine opened the story…..

Stop the $300 Permit Fee !!!

I’m gonna jump on my soapbox and make an appeal to all photographers who live or shoot in New York City. Today is the last day to register with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to speak out at the hearing on June 3rd against charging fees for all still photography permits. Every editorial and advertising photographer uses the type of equipment that under current rules requires a film permit from the city and up until now those seeking a permit simply were required to carry $1,000,000 in liability insurance, but the new proposal is adding a non-refundable $300.00 ‘application’ fee for every time a permit is pulled to shoot! Given the razor-thin profit margins photographers are working with these days and the budget tightening our clients are faced with, a $300.00 permit fee will seriously hamper location shooting in the city.

I will be speaking on behalf of EP, ASMP, APA and NPPA, but the more photographers who get up and let their voices be heard, the better! If you’re available to to go the hearing being held June 3, 2010 at the 125 Worth Street Auditorium, you must register by TODAY…contact Dean McCann of the Mayor’s Office at 212-489-6710 or by e-mail at applicationfee@film.nyc.gov and if you can’t make the hearing, please vote “NO” on this online petition.

Drumroll Please !!!!!

The Redesigned Website Is Up !!!!!
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You’ve probably noticed my participation here at Damn Ugly has been sketchy recently, but after a couple of months of all-night design sessions, resizing images and portfolio editing, my new website is up & running!!!

Brad Trent Photography

This is the third website design I’ve put up and by far the best. Quite honestly, the format of this site is exactly what I would have wanted years ago, but the technology just wasn’t there. Until now I’ve been using a Livebooks design, but this time I worked with Rob Haggart’s web design company, ‘A Photo Folio’ to implement the changes and we went live over the weekend. While everything about the architecture of the site is new, I incorporated a lot of the basic design elements from my previous site in this new project.

The first major change you will see is that I’m no longer hamstrung with a single, small image window…the images are much higher resolution ands now dynamically resize as you change the size of your browser window, or…even better.…you can click the ‘Full-Screen’ button at the lower left of your monitor and view the biggest, sharpest possible images I can offer! Navigating with the Thumbnail view is also much faster since you can see larger thumbnail images and they pop up ten times faster than the Livebooks version ever did. And I really like being able to navigate forwards and back by simply clicking on the left or right of the image…as you roll your mouse over the image, a ‘+’ or ‘-‘ icon appears and you can click and go! You can also access the thumbnails by placing your mouse in the middle of the screen and clicking when the grid icon appears. I don’t even know why I’m explaining this because the site design is so intuitive it just seems natural! But if you have any problems getting around the site, just ask a five year-old…it’s been years since I’ve met a kid who couldn’t figure out the internet!

Finally, having these hi-rez images allowed me to add a couple of galleries that I plan to have a lotta fun with in the future. My ‘Artificial Portraits’ and ‘Light Tests’ will allow me to show more of those behind the scenes moments that normally get archived to a hard drive, but offer insightful looks at the nuts & bolts of my shoots.

So head on over to www.bradtrent.com and tell me what you think!!!

Brad Trent
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