Turning The Barron’s Roundtable Into ‘The Minority Report’

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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In the last episode of ‘Damn Ugly Photography’, we took a look at the first week of the 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Shoot…but now I’m gonna show you how I convinced our nine financial professionals to act as stand-ins for Tom Cruise in his movie, ‘The Minority Report’. You remember…this one…

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Adrian Delucca and I had been tossing ideas around for months on how to make this work. I had to generate the floating graphs and other graphics that would be ‘moved around’, and we also had to come up with the perfect background images to position the people against…

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…but probably the hardest thing would be how we could quickly get each Roundtable member to understand exactly what the final image would be and how to get them into position. Remember…I have less than ten minutes with each person and I had to shoot two other setups besides this one! I figured the smartest way around this would be to show them a pretty detailed mockup of our cover ideas with one of my assistants standing in, so on our setup day, I had Robert work his magic…

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The lighting was super-simple…just a single Profoto 3′ RFI Octa bank way up high on a boom…and a couple of medium strip skim lights with blue gels to mimic the lighting from the background…

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And the night before the shoot, I quickly Photoshopped this together…

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Showing each person the print before we got started proved to be the exact thing they needed to illustrate what we wanted them to do…

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Now we just had to get them to do their best impression of Marcel Marceau without feeling too self conscious…

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Point up at the graph…uhhhh….hand…..

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Here are a few of the raw images…

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And now comes the fun part…editing through the 1000 images I took to find the few I can use that will actually look like everyone was in the same place at the same time. Then, floating all the graphs in place while remembering I had to save lotsa room for cover headlines. Here’s how the Week Two cover came together…

First, the background image…made a bit fuzzier for perspective…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now, add the people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Then, the basic graphs…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I had to add in some shadows, haloes and color shifts to the graphs so they looked like the were actually floating in space…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next I pasted in a few techie-looking graphics and charts…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

I decided to tone down the blue of the background cuz it as taking away from the overall dark mood I was aiming for…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally I increased the contrast, desaturated the skin tones and added a glow around the fingertips…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Our final cover…

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Using the same steps, I worked up another image for the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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The Week Three images came together pretty much the same…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

For the final steps, I messed with the focus on the background cuz it was drawing attention away from the foreground and shifted the overall blue cast more towards cyan/green…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Here’s the Week Three cover…

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…and the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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Now if all that Photoshop geek talk hasn’t put you to sleep and you’re hankerin’ for more, you can watch the layers progressions on both cover images in these two YouTube videos…and then I promise, no more Roundtable talk for a while…..

Week Two Cover Layers:

Week Three Cover Layers:

The 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Extravaganza – Part One

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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As anyone who has visited Damn Ugly Photography on a regular basis knows, the first week of January is when we decamp for the warm embrace of the Harvard Club to shoot the annual Barron’s Roundtable. This year was no different, and apart from there being a few familiar Roundtable members missing and replaced with a couple of new guys, the formula remains the same. We have two hours to shoot each of the nine Roundtable members…separately since they all arrive at staggered times…with the objective being that we need enough varied poses to fabricate four individual covers (three in January and one more for the mid-year report in June) as well as four feature photos to open the story with each week. We start at around 8:00AM and have to be totally done by the time the meeting begins at 10:00. If the thought of shooting nine people for four covers and four openers in two hours isn’t daunting enough, we also have to get each Roundtable member to wrap their head our concepts for the covers immediately…and remember…these aren’t models. They’re financial professionals. Trying to get them to understand the varied poses I need so that I can manufacture a cover where they all look like they’re relating to each other is harder than any of the technical tricks we work on!

So here is how the shoot for the first week’s cover went…

Our Week One cover and opener revolved around this image of a World Map…

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Using some old images of the Roundtable members from a previous shoot, I put together this comp…

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…so when people arrived, I could quickly show them a visual representation of what we were going to do…

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As usual, we have to set up multiple lighting sets for our different poses in a very small room…this time we had three individual sets…

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…everything is in the same place…hair & makeup, three sets and a very small area where people can hang out until we get them on set…

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For the cover, we wanted everyone to react to the people around them…people who weren’t there when we did the shoot…so Robert got to carry on imaginary conversations to get each persons attention aimed in the right direction…

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We did luck out once when Bill Priest and Brian Rogers overlapped, so we shot them together…

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…but for the most part, they had to wave their hands around like a weatherman in front of a green screen…

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So my raw materials from this part looked like this…

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Now I just had to pick the appropriate images where everyone looked like they were all together at the same time. Here’s how the cover got pieced together…

First, the base background image…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next, the base image is flipped to make the floor, and I also de-focussed it so it looked more like a real reflection…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I could mess with the color & contrast for the combined background…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and add a few people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and the rest follow…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and finally, I added shadows and more color & contrast tweaks…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…which gave us our cover for Week One…

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Now I could move on to the inside feature image. I stated with the same base image layer, but I destaurated the blue cast a bit and lightened the upper area so that we could overlay type onto it easier…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The inside poses needed to be a bit more serious, due to the recent instability of the markets…

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The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The ‘assembled’ group…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…the final image with shadows & color alterations…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and our opening feature image…

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So that was Week One. Tune in again next week to see how Adrian Delucca, Pam Budz and I put together Week Two & Week Three!

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Lord Julian Fellowes, Rock Star

Julian Fellowes

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Ronnie Weil from the Wall Street Journal recently called me up and asked if I wanted to add Julian Fellowes to my Rogues Gallery. The English actor, novelist, film director, screenwriter and member of the House of Lords…so that actually makes him Lord Julian Fellowes…was in town for the Broadway opening of the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ‘School Of Rock”. Lord Fellowes wrote the book for the musical. That’s right…the same guy who won an Oscar for ‘Gosford Park’ and got crazy famous for coming up with ‘Downton Abbey’ was now gonna turn the Jack Black goofball comedy into a Larger than Life Andrew Lloyd Webber musical!

So what was I gonna do?!!

He’s English…offer him some Tea!!!

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And it’s a Rock & Roll musical, so I gotta get a guitar. I shot Gabrielle Sterbenz right after she picked up her shiny, white Stratocaster and I knew it would be the perfect prop for a fine English gentleman in a bespoke suit…

Gabrielle Sterbenz

Now I just had to get prepared. Lord Fellowes would have very little time once he got to the studio. He was coming from a morning TV appearance and had an interview immediately afterwards. So Matt and I set up a couple of tastily lit portrait situations…

Julian Fellowes

Julian Fellowes

As good as Matt looked, Julian just added a bit more panache…

Julian Fellowes

And to my surprise, he took to the guitar idea immediately…

Julian Fellowes

Next we moved over to the full-length seamless…

Julian Fellowes

…but now we added the Tea Cup with Gabby’s Strat…

Julian Fellowes

And our job was complete!

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Thank you, Lord Fellowes…I can hardly wait to see ‘School Of Rock’…and for the final season of Downton!

Julian Fellowes

Patti Smith

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Patti Smith.

That’s all Rob Smith…the Art Director of Arrive Magazine…said when he called me a few months back.

Patti. Motherfucking. Smith.

I said “Yes!” before he even had time to get another word out. Are you kidding? Of course I wanna shoot Patti Smith! Besides adding to my current string of portraits of iconic women…Judy Collins, Gloria Steinem, Misty Copeland…Patti is someone I have always been fascinated by, and having the opportunity to shoot her would be a dream! The shoot would be tied in with the release of her new book, M Train. But then Rob had more to add…

No Hair and Makeup…

No Styling…

We’d get half an hour from the time she arrived at the studio…not a second more.

Fine..done…it would be a challenge, but I didn’t care…let’s get on with it!

I originally booked a studio in Long Island City because it had lots of character…but a week later Patti’s publicist nixed it saying Patti didn’t want to cross the river. She said Patti lived in the West Village and that she liked shooting at Industria. OK…less character, but if it makes Patti happy, we’ll book Industria. So more than a month goes by and it’s now about a week before the shoot date and I call the publicist and ask if we’re still on track to shoot and if we can confirm the studio…“Sure…we’re all set!”, she says…and I confirm Industria. But then a few days later…only three days before our shoot…she calls back to say that Patti now doesn’t want to shoot in a studio…she wants to do the shoot at Penn Station! She apparently had written a lot of her book while riding the Acela train and liked the metaphor of shooting at Penn Station since we were shooting for Amtrak’s magazine. But besides the fact that canceling Industria meant we would lose about $2 Grand…exactly how were we gonna shoot in the departure lounge of the busiest train station in America on three days notice?!! Without getting into detail, I’m just gonna fast-forward past the conference calls, begging and hand-wringing that ensued,  and say that somehow we were given permission. And so on an extremely hot August afternoon, myself and my crew took over Penn Station…

Patti wanted the Departure Board…she gets the Departure Board…

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…but even though I lost my studio aspect of the shoot, I figured we could still set up a smallish backdrop off to the side…

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The two areas were only a few feet apart, but the Penn Station folks were still kinda freaked out when they saw the size of our setup!

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But I didn’t care…I was shooting Patti Smith, dammit!

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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Now let’s move over to that backdrop…

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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And then…just as we were pretty much finished…something truly magical happened…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Those kids sticking their heads around the corner might be the best happy accident I’ve ever photographed.

For one final setup, I pulled back the curtain to show the overall set and exactly where our little popup studio was…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Here’s how everything looked in ‘Arrive’…

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So even though we were thrown more curveballs than I had seen in a year, everything worked out in the end…

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The APA Image Maker Lecture Series Is Gonna Be Damn Ugly

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Hey kids…this coming Monday, November 9th…Mr. Damn Ugly will be taking over the Apple Store in SoHo (103 Prince Street at Greene Street) as the next speaker in the APA Image Maker Lecture Series. I’ll be dropping plenty of bon mots about what actually happens on my shoots, complete with lots of behind-the-scenes juice and info on the post-processing that goes into making my final images.

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Check out the APA NY Facebook Events Page where you can sign up if you wanna go…and it’s 100% free! And as an added incentive, they tell me there’s gonna be a post-Image Makers Talk Networking Happy Hour hosted by the folks at APA NY.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

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Over the years, my association with the Wall Street Journal has allowed me to photograph quite a few truly amazing personalities…Tony Bennett, Judy Collins, Penn Jillette and Willem Dafoe…just to name a few, and the string continues with my recent shoot with writer, journalist, activist and all-round cool lady, Gloria Steinem. The Journal’s ‘Mansion’ section was profiling her about the release of her book…‘My Life On The Road’…where among other things, she recalls her early life crisscrossing the country in her family’s Airstream. When I arrived, I found a pre-release copy next to her bed…complete with an editing pen…

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This was my second time photographing Gloria…the first being for BusinessWeek back in 2001…

Gloria Steinem

…and just as back then, my assigning Photo Editor was Ronnie Weil, who came along on the shoot and got to act as Gloria’s stand in…

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Where else to start but in Gloria’s bedroom?!!

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…which gave us the photo that opened the story…

Gloria Steinem Gloria Steinem

For our second portrait, we turned to her living room, where the years she spent in India shows through in her decorating style…

Gloria Steinem

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Another iconic day…thanks to Ronnie…

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…and of course, thanks to Ms. Steinem…

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