The 2017 Barron’s Roundtable


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When January rolls around, one constant for the past decade has been the crew from Damn Ugly Photography has gotten to load a couple of thousand pounds of gear into a small room at the Harvard Club to shoot the members of the annual Barron’s Round Table. The basic formula is always the same. We start shooting at 8:00AM as the folks arrive. We have to shoot them separately since we need to be able to move each person around into whatever situations we’ve cooked up…and we have to be completely finished by 10:00AM since that’s when their all-day meeting begins. In that time we have to come up with images that will run on three consecutive covers in January, plus the cover for the mid-year report in June, as well as inside feature photos for all issues. Easy, right?!!

Adrian DeLucca and I wanted this year’s theme centered on the year itself…2017…and we came up with the idea to place the Roundtable members into the year 2017. To do that, I had to come up with the perfect 2017. I always liked the numbers on the Damn Ugly World Headquarters building…


So that seemed like a good place to start. I found similar numbers and went about shooting them…


But the silver seemed too passive…red spray paint was definitely called for…


Numbers…done. Now onto the moving parts. Our setup this year was actually much simpler than previously years. We only had two separate sets, one for the January issues and a second for the midyear.


I had a couple of 2017 ‘cheats’ taped to the gobos on our main set to help me keep track of where to place people…




Everything got dialed in pretty quickly (that ripped seamless in the background is a teaser for the midyear cover, so I can’t say any more about that for a while) and we were ready to get started.


Makeup artist Margina Dennis, Kaz playing digital tech and Adrian looking happy…


Kaz holding up Brian Rogers…



Oscar Schafer shooting Jeff Gundlach…



To get people into the correct positions, we used a few very simple props. Brian had to lean into the ‘1’…


Mario was standing inside the ‘0’…


Abby was holding up the ‘7’…


And Oscar would be laying back into the ‘7’ for the Week 3 cover…


After a few days at the computer, here’s how things turned out…

Week One Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Two Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Three Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally, here are the printed pages…






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…


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…



…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…


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…


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


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…


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



Point up at the graph…uhhhh….hand…..


Here are a few of the raw images…





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…


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

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable


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…


…and the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable


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…


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


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


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…


…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…


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…


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


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


So my raw materials from this part looked like this…




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…


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…




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…


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!


Pullin’ Out The Bull & Bear Costumes For Barron’s


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It’s June, and that means I hafta jump back on the Photoshop Horse and put together another cover story using elements from our January shoot of the Barron’s Roundtable members for the Mid-Year Issue. Adrian Delucca and I thought it might be fun to once again make use of those very expensive Bull and Bear costumes we had made for the 2014 cover, but this time the idea would be to have our mascots walking hand-in-hand down Wall Street. Sounds easy. It isn’t. For a whole mess of reasons, shooting ‘live’ down on Wall Street was never gonna happen. Forget about the expense of shooting this type of thing on location, just try to shoot on Wall Street when there aren’t a million people milling around! No…this was gonna be much more manageable shot in pieces…


First off, we had to shoot a ton of variations of the Bull and Bear in the studio that I could drop into my Wall Street photo. To save a few bucks on models, Adrian and Assistant Photo Editor Jenna Bascom elected to get all sweaty in the mascot suits…




…how about a ‘selfie’?!!


Next, I had to shoot our empty Wall Street scene. Shooting on weekdays were out, since Wall Street folks are already filling up lower Manhattan before the Sun rises, so that meant an early morning weekend shoot. Almost every weekend of March and April was either too damned cold or rainy (or on one Saturday when I arrived at 6:00AM, the street was filled with Jodie Foster, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and about 200 grips setting up a film shoot!), but I finally got off a few frames of a relatively empty street and Stock Exchange building…


Now I had to get rid of any people and other extraneous crap out of the background and stretch it out a bit (and make it square) to fit Barron’s format…


…then throw the buildings a bit out of focus for perspective…


But the early morning grey look wasn’t working, so I sparkled things up a bit…


And it was finally ready for our Bull and Bear…


Throw in some final color & contrast adjustments, a few shadows and more Photoshop magic…and voila!!!



For the cover images, besides the portraits we did for the Chess theme, we quickly shot a few individual portraits of each Roundtable member on a neutral seamless…



…a quick Photo-Bomb…


The idea was to insert them into Financial District street scenes…here are a few of the results…

Mario Gabelli:




Marc Faber:



Bill Gross:


Bill Gross - Barron's Roundtable

…and the final cover…


And we’ll do it all again next January!

Playing High-Stakes Chess With The Smartest Guys In The Room


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When January rolls around, one thing you can always count on is that I’ll be packing up 1000 pounds of gear and heading to The Harvard Club to shoot the Barron’s Roundtable. This year, Adrian Delucca and I worked up a few ideas based on the game of Chess. Here were Adrian’s chicken scratches that led to our cover shootā€¦


This year we would be publishing three covers in January, and the usual mid-year cover in June, so we had to set up three different lighting setups in the very tight quarters of the Presidents Room at the Harvard Clubā€¦

The main setup for the Week One cover and openerā€¦


ā€¦the Chess Table set for the Week Two & Three coversā€¦


ā€¦and third area for the mid-year portraitsā€¦



As usual, we would start shooting the ten Roundtable members separately as they began arriving at 8:00AM, and we had to be finished everything when the meeting beganā€¦at 10:00AM! That meant we had to shoot each person in enough different situations for three covers and three openers as well as individual portraits of each for the midyear issueā€¦all in two hours. And we also had to convey exactly what we needed each person to do since they wouldn’t be posing with anyone but themselves and everything would be put together in post! They’re given no advance warning of what we’ve cooked up for them until they arrive.

That kinda thing is hard enough to pull off when you’re dealing with professional models, but when you’ve only got 5 or 6 minutes with a financial expert, getting him to instantly channel his inner actor is a wee bit harderā€¦









With our Roundtable members safely in the bag, now I got to spend the next three days locked in front of my computer. I had already spent a day shooting a Chess Board & Pieces for our base cover imageā€¦


Now came adding the human chess piecesā€¦




And after a considerable amount of Photoshop work, the final cover image looked like thisā€¦



Next up was the opening imageā€¦





And the final imageā€¦



Finally, I had to put together two different chess playing situationsā€¦from two different anglesā€¦for the Week Two and Week Three issues. This was our high-angle test shot (you can see the low angle tripod at the bottom of the frame)ā€¦


What would be so easy if we could just shoot it as one photo becomes a very complicated puzzle when you hafta shoot everyone separately while trying to keep track of who you’ve already shot and in what positionā€¦





These are the two final imagesā€¦




Now on to the low angleā€¦










Manā€¦am I ever tiredā€¦ā€¦.

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 photosā€¦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 placeā€¦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 notā€¦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 portraitsā€¦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 usā€¦

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 Clubā€¦




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.


But I’m getting ahead of myselfā€¦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 Pamplonaā€¦running with the Bullsā€¦





ā€¦then in post, I would hafta do a bit of magic with a cobblestone street and a toy bull I shot earlierā€¦




ā€¦which eventually turned into thisā€¦

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable


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 statueā€¦


ā€¦then I took some outside shots of the Federal Reserve Buildingā€¦


ā€¦and combined the two images with those cobblestones againā€¦



Now we had to get some reaction shots of the Roundtable membersā€¦



Oscar Schafer and Mario Gabelli are probably hoping they won’t have to ride the sawhorseā€¦







ā€¦and finally, many, many Photoshop hours laterā€¦

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable


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







And here are the final imagesā€¦

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable



The 2013 Barron's Roundtable



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 soā€¦we had some real puzzles made by!


I put my still-life photographer cap on and shot the assembled puzzlesā€¦

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable




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


R.I.P. Alan Abelson

Alan Abelson & Brad Trent

Me and Alan at the 2008 Roundtable

Alan Abelson, the veteran financial journalist and longtime writer of the “Up and Down Wall Street” column in Barron’s Magazine, died last Thursday. The former Editor of Barron’s was a regular member of the panel who quizzed the Roundtable members each year about their predictions on the coming years financial markets, and as many of you probably know, I’ve shot that Roundtable issue for the past seven years. Alan was well-known as being a thorn in the side of Wall Street for his fearless style of journalism. Ben Stein, the writer, actor, economist, and humorist who was a longtime friend of Alan’s, wrote in the American Spectatorā€¦

“ā€¦His columns were dour, hilarious, insightful. He never bought into the prevailing ā€œwisdomā€ of Wall Street. It was all about hucksterism and self-promotion. He realized that from the first day until the last. He could and would deflate any balloon, from the dirigibles of the Fed to the smaller ones of hedge funds. There is no one like him now. The rest of us are just ordinary people. He was Superman.”

Goodbye Superman.

Cooking With Cash For The Barron’s Roundtable


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Here’s a quick follow-up to what we did with that $30 Grand in cash I needed as a prop for the Week Two and Week Three group shots of this years Barron’s Roundtable shoot. Once again, our object was to shoot as many different single images of each Roundtable member playing around the cooking theme so that we could later assemble them into our little stories. Since the theme played on the idea of cooking up a recipe for the perfect economy, cash…lotsa cash…was required as our main ingredient!





And here’s how the final pages looked…



Behind The Scenes At The Most Expensive Barronā€™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


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…


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…


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…



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…


Oscar Schafer…




Brian Rogers…


Fred Hickey…


Abby Joseph Cohen…


Scott Black…


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…


…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


This stuff never gets old!


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…

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…

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.


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!

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barronā€™s Roundtable PART THREE

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The year is half over and that means The Mid-Year Roundtable issue of Barron’s has hit the stands. I’ve already spilled the beans on some of some of what went down at the Harvard Club that cold day in January in PART ONE and PART TWO, and now comes the final story of how we shot the ten members of the Roundtable separately and put ’em all together into a cover, an inside opener and individual portraits that would accompany each of their stock picks.

Adrian DeLucca and I figured we would hammer home the Global theme we started in the January issue by shooting each person against a section of a World map and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to squeeze a few Artificial Portraits in at the same time. I photographed a giant map I picked up from IKEA and then printed it out in ten 40″ x 50″ sections that would serve as a backdrop for each individual portrait…..

Since we had precious little time to waste the day of the shoot, I decided to ‘map out’ who would be in front of which section ahead of time…..

I kept the lighting pretty simple…just a gridded 20″ Profoto beauty dish way up high on a boom and an on-camera ringlight…..

Because we were jumping between the two sets, I gave myself a few cheaters to remind me what my settings should be…..

Oh yeah…just about forgot…I added an over the shoulder fill in the form of an open-face Octalite…..

…all of which gave us ten images that I had to re-assemble into a map of the World…..

…which looked like this on the cover…..

…with a variation for the inside opener…..

But while I was shooting the images for the cover, I also had to come away with some individual portraits that were a bit different and that’s where the Artificial Portraits came in…..

…and these shots were peppered throughout the article…..

And another year of the Roundtable was in the can! So until next January, Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca, Art Director Pam Budz and yours truly wish you well!

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barronā€™s Roundtable PART TWO

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I could have subtitled this post “How To Make 10 People Appear Out Of Thin Air” cuz that’s kinda what we had to do with the inside shots for this years Barron’s Roundtable issue. It took a little arm-twisting, but I convinced Adrian that after all these years of assembling individual portraits of the Roundtable members into our fanciful group shots, this would be a perfect time to pull away the curtain…up to a point…and show a bit of the behind-the-scenes magic and Photoshoppery that is involved in making ten people look like they were actually in the same room at the same time. My idea was to do a pulled-back view of the cover image showing the lights, assistants and set dressing, as well as having some fun with the MacBeth color-checker while we were at it, much like what I do in the Light Test galleries on my website. But the truth was that we would still be tricking the viewer into thinking they were seeing a real look at the set, when in fact the entire shot was created in Photoshop!

You’ll remember from Part One that we shot everybody separately on the black velvet set…..

…but those shots weren’t wide enough for me to insert all ten people, so we cleared the set, widened the black velvet and shot a blank canvas for me to assemble the group shot with…

Unfortunately, even that area wasn’t wide enough, so I had to stretch it even further in Photoshop into this…

You’ll notice that besides making the velvet area wider, I also corrected the lens distortion by straightening the verticals and I also added a few A-Clamps to the crossbar holding the velvet. Now I could get to work filling in the lighting. I added a second hairlight boom, and three beauty dishes on the bottom of the frame…

…and then cloned in the posing table and some sandbags, four times…..

…which got us to the point where I could start adding bodies!

…and then get the whole gang together…

Now by this time, I had worked up a pretty complex file with more than 30 layers…

There were more than 25 image layers alone, with things like hands, shadows, tabletops, light booms, and various body parts overlapping and blending into one another…trust me, it’s a lot to keep track of!

Click for Full-Size

But after all the cloning and cropping and positioning and blending and color-correcting, this was the final image…..

…and here is how it looked in Barron’s…

Now I figure after all that, y’all should have the basics down for how to fake a big group, so I won’t bore you with another step-by-step breakdown of the two additional shots I put together for the following two shots, but here’s what we did for week two and week three of the Roundtable Reports…

Week Two:

Week Three:

So there you have it…for now! Remember, I still have the two situations we did for the Mid-Year cover to talk about, but not until June when it gets published!

OK…OK…there is this…….

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART ONE

Click on any image for Full-Size

For the fifth year in a row, I got to photograph the ten investment professionals who make up the Barron’s Roundtable to illustrate the two cover stories the magazine runs on their predictions for the World financial markets. And just as we do every year, photo editor Adrian DeLucca and I brainstormed over fine wines and French food to come up with the best way to use the extremely limited time we are given to shoot everybody for the minimum of four separate uses the magazine has. In the roughly two hours we’re alloted (we have to shoot everybody before their day-long meeting begins) we have to come up with two covers…one for January and one for the mid-year June issue…as well as double-page opening shots for both issues, and still try to get individual photos of each person that can be used in stand-alone stories. That’s ten people…two hours……four different shots!

Since I can’t talk about anything we shot for the June Mid-Year cover until it is published, you’ll all just hafta make due with half of the story until then, but here’s the story on how the January cover went down…..

Since the Roundtable members generally talk about Global financial markets, Adrian and I thought to shoot a cover image where the Roundtable members would be sitting…somewhat God-like…at a round table that was actually the Earth, but because the focus of their discussions typically center on how things will effect the North American markets, we decided it was best to concentrate on the North American continent. The first thing I had to do was come up with a globe map that was both graphic and a quick read and something I could easily morph into a table top. A bit of Googling came up with this…

…and with a bit of Photoshoppery I was able to turn it into this…

That gave me the basic shape I needed to determine the camera height & angle so that I could make a cover mockup…

Because each person was to be shot separately and combined in post into the final group shot around the table, I needed a posing table that would give me the proper curve for them to lean into so that when I positioned each person, they would be sitting or standing at the correct angle and my Photoshop blending at our gigantic Earth Table wouldn’t look fake. For the posing stand, I simply cut a curved piece of plywood, painted it blue to match the color of the globe image and screwed it into some apple boxes. Once the basic physics of what angle and height to shoot the cover was planned out, we were ready to get down to business. Since we were scheduled to begin at 8:00AM Monday morning, we spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon setting up…

Just as last year, The Roundtable meeting was taking place at The Harvard Club, so our ‘studio’ was a room with walls covered in portraits of dead, rich white guys staring down at us. They were apparently ex-Presidents of Harvard, which is probably why they called it the Presidents Room. We quickly set up out cover set…a black velvet backdrop, the blue plywood posing table, and a pretty simple lighting setup of a 20″ Profoto White Beauty Dish main light, a second Profoto Beauty Dish as a blue moon-glowy hairlight (but this one is a Silver dish with a 20 degree grid and 2 Full Blue (CTB) filters attached) and a 4′ x 6′ Chimera for an overall fill behind the camera position…

Here’s the subject’s-eye view…

…and you can see we added a fourth light…that head to the right of the camera with a 7″ reflector and a 10 degree grid…it threw a bit more light onto the subjects face, ‘cuz that beauty dish aimed from the ground-up was just a wee bit too monster-lighty. Here are the first tests…

With our basic lighting nailed down and our mockup cover taped to the tripod…

…we were ready for the parade of people that would show up the next morning. Well…as ready as you can possibly be when you have to keep four separate shots in your head where you have to composite ten people into believable groups for the final image! In that two hour shoot window! Anyway…it all came together rather nicely…..

…I’m not kidding…Oscar’s watch is worth $1 million bucks!

Making sure to cover all manner of goofy expressions ‘cuz You never know what you’re gonna hafta do when putting the group shots together…

And in no time…we were done! Now came the assembly. This was the first simple comp I did with people added around our Global Table…

After moving a few people around and swapping in a different pose for Archie MacAllaster on the far left, I erased the plywood posing tables from under their hands and this was the result…

Next came a bit of color and contrast retouching, some tweeking of the levels and curves and dodging the highlights on everyones shoulders so they separated from the background a bit better…

And finally, we added a field of stars…..

…and here is the final cover, complete with the moon that replaced the usual ‘O’ in Barron’s (I can’t remember if that was Adrian’s idea or mine, but it was a nice touch)…..

Next up in Part Two…I’ll break down the assembly and retouching of the Behind-The-Scenes two-page opener for the Roundtable story, including how I managed to convince Adrian that this was a perfect situation to pull out my Artificial Portrait technique, as well and two additional shots we put together for the subsequent two editions of Barron’s.

The Barron’s Roundtable – 2010 Edition

I’ve kinda been neglecting to include any actual photo-related posts lately, but a lot of what I’ve been shooting hasn’t run yet and until it does, it’s gotta stay under wraps, but here is a recent job I did for Barron’s…..

Click on any image for full-size

I’ve been shooting the Barron’s Roundtable cover for a lotta years now, and every year the challenge is to reinvent how to photograph these ten fund managers in new & compelling compositions that will work for the cover, an inside spread, a couple of weeks worth of feature portraits and if that’s not enough, another cover that runs mid-year…all in a little over an hour! The entire production takes a boatload of planning before we even show up at the location…this year’s meeting was at The Harvard Club…but the main trick is keeping to a schedule that will allow us to get all that work done with only seven or eight minutes per person. It’s one thing to make an interesting portrait of a person given those time constraints, but add in all of the different final uses, the fact that most of the images will have to be assembled into group shots in Photoshop and the meeting room we were using as our ‘studio’ was so old that there was only one fifteen-amp electrical circuit for the whole room which meant we had to rent just about every battery-powered strobe in Manhattan to light the two sets, when we’re done it felt like we had gone to war!

Since we always do the actual shoot very early in the morning, before the meeting starts, we always give ourselves a pre-light day, and this was what we came up with for our cover test…..

…then, on a second set, we put this together…

The ‘fun’ part on a shoot like this is always convincing these very buttoned-down investment executives to trust me when I ask them to do whatever it is we’ve cooked up for the cover. This year, the little metaphor we were trying to hammer home was ‘looking around the corner’, so we rigged a few foamcore panels and had each person playing with that idea…..

…Dr. Marc Faber

…Mario Gabelli

…Bill Gross

…and Kelly, touching up Oscar Schafer!

All of which came together inside as this Photoshop-realized group shot…..

With that part done, we quickly moved to the second set for a few tighter portraits which would result in these images that ran in the following weeks……

Barron’s Roundtable Cover


This week’s Edition of Barron’s once again features my shots of the Barron’s Roundtable members…the ten smartest folks in the room when it comes to what’s gonna happen with the world Markets in the months to come……