Director Ramin Bahrani For Variety

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Director Ramin Bahrani just remade the classic Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451, for HBO…and I got the call from Jennifer Dorn at Variety to shoot him for this weeks issue. Kaz and I packed up the bus and headed downtown to HBO in midtown and here’s how things turned out…

First, we set up my favorite cement wall drop from Gravity Backdrops for kind of a raw look…

Pretty simple lighting setup…just an 8″ fresnel spot with a couple of 5′ umbrellas for a soft wall of fill…

…for a natural sunlight look…

But when Ramin arrived and we saw him dressed all in black, we decided to to crush the shadows and darken things for a more menacing overall appearance…

On the other side of the room we dropped a medium grey seamless…

Once again, a little more contrast and a bit less shadow detail helped a lot…

But the Black & White set the mood…

Here is the finished story in Variety

Joseph Altuzarra For the Wall Street Journal

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I haven’t done a real how-to blog post in a while, but the shoot we did last week of Hot fashion designer of the moment, Joseph Altuzarra, for the Wall Street Journal ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature sort of lent itself to that sort of thing. Both portraits we did look ridiculously simple, but it’s the little details that go into shoots like this where I get asked the most amount of questions. Questions about my lighting choices, color balance and post processing. I kinda take all this stuff for granted, but I’ll pull back the curtain and try to break them down for you…

The inspiration for our first portrait sort of hit me right away when I checked out Joseph’s showroom and saw these two mannequins…

I was immediately struck by both the starkness of their design and the beautiful way the soft light from a wall of windows in the studio wrapped around the faces against the white walls. But as beautiful as Joseph’s designs were, I sort of want to simplify things even more…and that meant getting rid of the clothes…

We positioned the mannequins in the largest open space in the showroom…

…and to mimic that soft wall of light from the windows, I decided to light the set with two 65″ white umbrellas plugged into 2000 w/s Elinchrom packs, set up 90 degrees to the camera (and almost 20 feet from the subject) for a split-light effect…

This was our first test shot (with Robert standing in for Joseph) just using the two umbrellas…

Honestly, for a first test it was very nice. It fit the ‘Weekend Confidential’ requirements of being graphic and powerful, while also immediately telling the story. This was exactly how I wanted to portray Joseph. But technically it just a little too soft, flat and monochromatic for my liking. Those two umbrellas essentially made one big, even light source, but although Joseph and the mannequins would be exposed properly, the brightness of white mannequins was too much. I needed to bring up the light on the subject without affecting the mannequin’s light. So I added a 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish on a Profoto Acute 1200 pack, with a 30 degree grid, for just a little more light at the center of the scene…

As you see in the lighting diagram, by positioning the Beauty Dish in front of the umbrellas and feathering it so that it hits my subject but stays off the mannequins, it brings up the light on the subject just enough to separate him from the rest of the set. But I also wanted to shift the overall color palate because ‘normal’ just wasn’t cutting it! Since I always shoot tethered to Capture One Pro with the Hasselblad/Leaf back, I have a lot of options when it comes to selecting ICC input profiles. Leaf has always had the best designed input profiles that allow me to do what I did next. I switched from the basic ‘LF3 Portrait 5’ profile (very neutral, very normal) to my favorite profile…’LF3 Portrait Warm 5′. Warm 5 heightens the contrast and saturates colors, and because of that, our next test looked like this…

The new input profile allowed me to lower my white balance from 5100K down to 4150K which gave me a cool, blue overall look, but the skin tones remained pleasant without me having to add a warming gel to the Beauty Dish. Next, using the Capture One ‘Color Editor’ control panel, I was able to further adjust the blue and cyan channels to make them even more saturated, and also was able to improve on the skin tone in the red and yellow channels. Now it’s certainly possible to do this kind of thing in post using Photoshop, but with the Leaf input profiles and adjustment panels, I’m not only able to see the effect as I’m shooting, but it cuts down on my post processing a ton! You can also see how the addition of the Beauty Dish brings up the light on my subject so that he stands out better.

With my prelight & Capture One setup nailed, I think we’re ready to get Joseph on set…

Before we finished, I switched from the 80mm to the 150mm lens that compressed the perspective further and lowered the output on the umbrellas by about half a stop that slightly darkened the mannequins and allowed Joseph to stand out even more…

Next, we had set up a thunder grey backdrop for some seamless portraits…

It doesn’t get any simpler than this…one big, soft light source (a 47″ Rime Lite Grand Box) placed on a boom stand about 2.5 feet above his head. No fill, no tricks. Here’s how it looked on Robert…

Again, that first test shot looks pretty good, but we can still improve on it with a few easy adjustments. All we had to do was lower the white balance from 4650K down to 4150K, tweak the Levels and Curves a bit, add a little shadow detail and pull in a bit of vignetting on the corners and we were ready to go…

Finally, here is the story as it appeared in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal ‘Review’ Section

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

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I’m not sure at this point if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Misty Copeland. Besides making history as the only African American soloist dancing with the American Ballet Theatre, her best-selling autobiography, ‘Life In Motion’, dancing onstage with Prince, appearing in ads for Under Armour, Dr. Pepper, Coach, The Corcoran Group and T-Mobile, and her numerous features in magazines like The New Yorker, Vogue, Elle and New York Magazine, the 32 year-old ballerina is possibly the most visible face in the dance World since Baryshnikov. And my buddy Rob Smith asked me to put her on the cover of Arrive. Here’s the behind-the-scenes from our day at Bathhouse Studios

Since we knew we would have relatively limited time with Misty, Rob and I had worked up our ideas for the shoot early on. The story was about mentors, and we would be photographing Misty with Raven Wilkinson, the first black woman to dance full-time in a major ballet company, including Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the Dutch National Ballet, and the New York City Opera Ballet. We had to get enough for our cover, a few opening shots, a portrait of Misty and Raven together and anything else we could fit in! But shooting at the Bathhouse meant we would have lotsa space to set up everything beforehand cuz the studio is so beautifully huge!

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Our setup on the cyc…and that marvelously high ceiling…

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Kaz and I setting up the two-shot of Misty and Raven…

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Robert and Julien sitting in for our cover…

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Julien taking flight…

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My stylist Karen Sherwood laying out the wardrobe…

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Misty arrived just as we were about finished with our setup and went into hair & makeup right away…

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…but shortly afterwards, our little dancers from the ABT School showed up…

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and they quickly put on a little show for Misty…

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Julien grabbed Misty to test the lighting on our first setup…

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…and so started our shooting day…

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Here is the final portrait of Raven and Misty…

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Next, we moved onto the cyc for our opening photo of Misty with the Dance School students…

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Misty approves…

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…and the resulting photograph…

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Now I wanted to do a series of solo shots of Misty in different positions. The idea was that I would assemble these solo images into one unified ‘group’ photograph…

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And the final ‘group’ shot…

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Before I took Misty off the cyc, I pulled out my vintage stools for one more idea…

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Best shot of those two stools I’ve ever taken…

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Oh yeah…I nearly forgot…CBS sent over Anthony Mason and a film crew to document our little shoot for CBS Sunday Morning

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Now where was I…oh right…the final shot would be of Misty and Raven together for our cover. We re-purposed that ballet barre from the shot with the kids, and set up a very simple situation with a big, soft Octalite…Misty in her costume as her mentor looked on…

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Our cover image…

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Here’s how everything looked in ‘Arrive’…

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Joking Around With Seth Meyers

Seth Meyers

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I’ve had a pretty good run of celebrity shoots lately…Frankie Valli, Ricky Gervais, Tony Bennett, Spike Lee, Willem Dafoe…and I’m trying my best to catch up on the behind-the-scenes on most of them. This shoot with Seth Meyers was actually shot back in February, but it just published a few weeks ago in the latest issue of Amtrak’s ‘Arrive’ magazine. Rob Smith…Arrive’s Art director and one of my oldest friends…had a few thoughts on what he wanted to do with the shoot, and I had a couple of ideas as well, so we drove out to Queens where all the prop warehouses have moved to see if anything got us going…

Since Seth was the Head Writer at SNL, we both stopped when we came across these old desks and typewriters…

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Next, we brainstormed a few shots based on the idea that Seth was not only moving from Saturday Night Live to the Late Night program, but when the story was scheduled to run Seth was supposed to be taking the show on the road. Moving his stuff in a little red wagon just made sense…

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With the van full of dusty old props, we headed down to Bathhouse Studios…truly one of the nicest places you can shoot at in all Manhattan…and got to work…

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Unlike the low-key shoot with Willem Dafoe last week, this time the studio was filled with multiple stylists, make-up and hair people, and more NBC publicists than I’ve ever seen gathered in one place!

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And I know it might not look like much in these BTS photos…but dropping Seth into that precisely focussed spot of light against the cyc background created just the right amount of drama…it was all about Seth going out on his own…

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Here are some of the final selects…

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Seth Meyers

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Now where did we put that red wagon…

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By the way…for all you lighting geeks out there…I am seriously loving the Rime Lite deep octas…as long as you know a bit about lighting, they’ll give you everything you expect out of a Broncolor Para, but for less than one-tenth the price!

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Seth Meyers

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And since a lot of people figured that Seth taking on Late Night was a bit of a leap…

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…I thought having him stepping into the unknown kind of worked the metaphor nicely…

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Seth Meyers

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Next, we moved on to our cover setup…

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Seth Meyers

…which gave us both our cover and a pulled-back shot for the table of contents page…

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Seth Meyers

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Seth Meyers

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So thanks to the huge team it took to pull this off and make things come off so smoothly, but especially thanks to Seth for giving up his time and being such a good sport!

Seth Meyers

Rick Masters + Jesus + Sgt. Elias = Willem Dafoe

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As a young photographer, I had this very dreamy, romanticized idea of what it must be like to shoot celebrities. One of my early photography idols was Bert Stern, and I just figured every shoot with a celebrity might end up like his famous session with Marilyn Monroe where they locked themselves in a suite at the Bel-Air Hotel for three days with a case of ’53 Dom Perignon, a couple of cameras and a few props, and emerged totally spent but with a collection of amazing photographs. But I moved to New York a couple of decades later…just about the time when shoots like that were becoming increasingly controlled by managers, publicists, agents and the studio P/R machine. Ideas had to be pre-approved and even then it didn’t mean you would get to do them. And three days? More like five minutes after your writer got to ask his five questions, thank you very much! But if you’re smart you learn how to work the angles, you keep a few tricks up your sleeve when you don’t have the cooperation you had hoped for, and occasionally, you get lucky…

Ronnie Weil called me at 5:00PM on a Thursday and asked if I would be available the next morning to shoot Willem Dafoe for the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Weekend Confidential’ section. His new film, “A Most Wanted Man”, was coming out in a week and they were given a last-minute opportunity interview him. Now I don’t know about you, but there are very few actors that I can remember from the first moment I saw them on screen, and Willem Dafoe is one of them. His performance as the slick criminal Rick Masters in “To Live and Die in L.A.” burned into my brain. I immediately knew this was a seriously great actor. So yes…of course…just tell me where and when and I’ll be there with a big grin on my face…

The Journal likes the portraits for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ section to be all about the personality, and not prop or location-driven, and so we typically keep things very simple…seamless backdrops or locations that don’t distract from the subject. And it’s not a fashion show, either. What you bring with you is what we shoot. Willem arrived…early, I might add…alone and ready to go. He was wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and a wonderfully disarming smile. After a few minutes of me heaping gobs of fanboy praise on him and a little light grooming, we were ready to go…

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(Groomer Amy Komorowski)

Willem Dafoe was made to be photographed. He has one of the most expressive faces in the business…whether he’s playing a silent film Vampire (Max Schreck in “Shadow of the Vampire”), a Viet Nam-era Marine (Sergeant Elias in “Platoon”), a cartoon character arch-villain (the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man”) or Jesus Christ himself (“The Last Temptation of Christ”)…and I wanted my portraits of him had to capture the depth he conveys through the characters he portrays. I had a few ideas I wanted to try…and we were told Willem would give us about an hour…so here is how it went…

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I started this first setup as a 3/4 body shot, but allowed myself to move in and out as his poses and mood changed…

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William Dafoe

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Then we sat down and came in for a tight series of darker, more intimate portraits…

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William Dafoe

Now, I was already thrilled with what we had done and that Willem had given us so much time, but I kind of liked the white brick wall in the studio, so I asked him for a few more minutes to put up a fresnel spotlight and play around with the shadows…

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William Dafoe

William Dafoe

In the end, the Journal chose one of my favorites for the article…

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…and once again, I find myself surprised at how lucky I am to be able to do what I do…

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Going Ninja With The Impractical Jokers For The Cover Of Resource Magazine

Impractical Jokers

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I had the privilege to be asked by Alexandra Niki and Aurelie Jezequel…the team behind Resource Magazine…to photograph their very first ‘Celebrity’ cover, featuring Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Joseph “Joe” Gatto and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano, better known as The Tenderloins, but who are also the stars of truTV’s The Impractical Jokers. The Jokers…in case you didn’t know…is a practical-joke reality show where the four guys coerce one another into doing public pranks while being filmed by hidden cameras. For the cover theme, Alex and Aurelie wanted to use Sun-tzu’s, “The Art Of War” for our inspiration, with the Jokers dressed as Ninja Warriors, and I was happy to pull it all together…

Aside from using a ridiculously expensive Broncolor Para 220 as a main light, the cover setup was pretty simple…

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Alex and Aurelie wanted a very high contrast, red & black look for the shot, and I had an idea for the cover that was centered around the original Charlie’s Angels logo…

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Not quite…

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Closer…

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Bingo!

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…and the final cover image…

Impractical Jokers

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Next, for the opener to the story, we wanted to do a ‘reveal’ where they tore off their Black Ninja Suits to show their Black Hipster Suits underneath…

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And after a bit of Photoshoppery…

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Now came some ‘Hidden Camera’ goofs, with each of the guys hamming it up with a few not-so-hidden camera props…

“Q” the Ping Pong Pro…

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Murr and his Monkey…

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Joe the Big Gulp Cowboy…

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And Sal with a drippy ice cream cone and ‘Battle’, the GoPro-enabled Chihuahua…

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We finished things off with a few more hidden camera pranks, with the guys in their signature suits…

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Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

And finally, here’s a little behind-the-scenes video shot by Resource’s Adam Sherwin that wraps up the day nicely…

Oh yeah…Alex wanted to play Ninja, too!

Impractical Jokers

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…

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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…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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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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Ricky Gervais & Kermit’s Evil Twin for the London Sunday Times Magazine

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

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Ricky Gervais. In New York. For the London Sunday Times Magazine. And it was one of the most fun shoots of my entire career.

Adam Hearn is the photo editor of the London Sunday Times Culture Magazine and some of the other folks I work for at the Times recommended he give me a call next time he had a shoot on this side of the Atlantic. I am so happy he did, cuz not only am I a BIG fan of Ricky, but I had just lost out on a shoot with him for another client only a week before Adam called. The story was tied to his new film, “Muppets Most Wanted”, and would feature the other star of the movie, Constantine the Frog, the world’s “Number One” criminal and a doppelgänger of Kermit the Frog. Adam kept it fairly open-ended as to what we could do…he just needed fun interaction between Ricky and Constantine for the cover and left the rest up to me. With that in mind, I went on a mad tear of propping…

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…dragged my crew down to Industria on a Saturday morning and let Mr. Gervais and Mr. Frog do all the heavy lifting. Here’s how it went…

Ricky and I talk to Matt Vogel…the Muppeteer behind Constantine…about a few ideas…

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…and even before we start, the fun begins…

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Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of how you photograph a Man and his Muppet…

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One of the best things about the whole day was having Ricky’s input as we went along. He came up with so many great ideas of what would look good, that I just had to keep my finger on the shutter and wait for things to happen!

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Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Then Ricky suggested they each pose with sunglasses…

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…and our cover was in the bag!

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After a quick background & wardrobe change, the two A-Listers were suddenly at each others throats…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…but a left-cross from the Frog ended that argument…

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…and gave us the opener to the story!

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I also wanted to to shoot Ricky, sans Frog, but had picked up a few Froggy bits and pieces to stick with the theme, including a t-shirt with strategically-placed eyeballs…

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…and a very special pair of Kermit Adidas that Ricky put to good use…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

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Finally, I wanted to cool things down a bit, so I had Ricky get into his trademark black…and accessorized him with some very blingy fuzzy Frog Slippers…

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Ricky Gervais

Then we both kicked back and enjoyed a Green Drink…

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And yes…that is a Karl Pilkington t-shirt. I told you I was a big fan!

Easy As 1, 2, 3…

LEWIS & KAREN ALTFEST -  ALTFEST PERSONAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT

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When people ask me what it’s like to do what I do, more often than not they think the life of a photographer is some kind of a Holy Grail job and how great it must be to rub elbows and frolic among the people I get to (briefly) hang with. I try my best to convince them that it ain’t all Roses & Butterflies, but most have a hard time believing me. Which brings us to todays little waste of time. This isn’t gonna be glamourous. There will be no talk of Rock Stars or Celebrities or Fabulous locations. The following is a pretty honest representation of what an average shoot for your typical business magazine is like. It’s all about photographing real people in real situations in very little time and still coming away with interesting images. To the best of our knowledge, no one was harmed in the making of this post…

Scott Valenzano sent us to Park Avenue to shoot a cover for Financial Planning with the Altfest’s…Lewis & Karen, who run Altfest Personal Wealth Management…as our subjects du jour. And as is often the case, we had to alter the reality of the location just a touch to get things to look good. Here’s a little rundown…

The Altfest offices aren’t that large, but within minutes of my arrival I knew where we were gonna shoot the cover shot…

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I figured that if we backlit the frosted glass wall and used just the right wide angle lens, that grid pattern would make for a nice, graphic background. But that big wall of glass took a lotta light before it blew out nicely!

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You can see that we used four heads just to cover the frosted glass, and another big umbrella to fill in the background on the far right side. With all that light bouncing around, all we need up front was the Mini-Octa bank positioned high and to the right and we were good to go…

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LEWIS & KAREN ALTFEST -  ALTFEST PERSONAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT

With the cover in the bag, we very quickly moved to shot number two…on the other side of that glass wall…

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The classic sofa was a perfect posing bench for the couple and it would be relatively simple to relight the scene using the lighting from the first shot. The four background lights were now placed on the other side of the glass and the Mini-Octa would again be our main light, but we added a ringlight for fill…

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LEWIS & KAREN ALTFEST -  ALTFEST PERSONAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT

Finally, we decided to move in a totally different direction and pulled out the Canon to do an almost-available light portrait in Lewis’s office…

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With large windows on two sides streaming in all that light you might think we wouldn’t have to add anything, but the bright backlight was just too much to overcome without looking like a blown-out fashion shoot. My DIY Ghetto-Flo Lights would be just the right thing for the task…

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With one light each aimed at Lewis and Karen and another two positioned off to the far left to act as a kicker that mimicked the window light, we were able to bring the ambient light down just enough to get the subjects to pop and also white-balance the ambient light down to a nice, cool blue cast…

LEWIS & KAREN ALTFEST -  ALTFEST PERSONAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT

Three shots in about an hour…like I said…easy as 1, 2, 3…!

Three Canadians Walk Into A Bar…

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

Even though I’ve lived in New York since 1982, if someone asks me where I’m from I immediately say, “Edmonton!”, so when Terri Belley…the Art Director at Avenue Magazine…asked me to shoot a feature on another ex-Edmontonian, actress Catherine Mary Stewart, I jumped at the chance. I mean, this was the hot chick from “Night of the Comet”, “The Last Starfighter” and who can forget…“Weekend at Bernie’s”!!! And designer Michael Kaye…another native son of Edmonton now calling New York home…was gonna be providing the fashions.

But then reality kicked in. Avenue ain’t Vanity Fair, and as such, the production budget was very tight, so we decided to shoot everything at Michael’s design studio. The only problem, he just moved in and when I went by to take a look at what we might have to work with, the place was still under construction. Even so, there were a few things that caught my eye…

These mirrors…
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A Knoll Egg Chair…
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A wall of dress forms…
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And something all Canucks have on their walls…a really cool mounted head!
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Michael assured me the studio would be completed in time for the shoot, and a few weeks later Kaz and I hauled a thousand pounds of gear uptown and went to work, starting with those mirrors…

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Well, that sucked…gotta get that color balance right…

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Much better. Let’s do it…

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

And here’s how it looked in the magazine…

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Now…the dress forms…

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Way too much ring light and too little drama…gotta bring in the Mini-Octa…

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Perfect!

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So good, it ended up on the cover…

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Michael had a black pony area rug on the floor that I thought would look good from above…

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The high angle was great, but the day bed wasn’t working, so we went with the Egg Chair instead…

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And as the only horizontal I shot all day, it fit right in as the opener for the story…

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Since I had been to the studio on the scout, Michael had added some shelves that showed off his collection of fashion illustrations on either side of the Antelope head. Catherine was going to wear one of his signature Tartan dresses that he designed especially for her, and I originally thought it might look good with a stark ringlight effect…

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But it came off like a Terry Richardson rip-of and was too different from everything else we were doing, so I brought back the drama with a spotlight on her…

Catherine Mary Stewart

Catherine Mary Stewart

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We had already shot a lot, but Michael had one more gown he wanted to include and although we had pretty much shot every angle of his studio, after wracking our brains for one more idea we thought it might be fun to offset the stunning beaded dress against a haphazard pile of chairs…

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Works for me!

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

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After a very long day in a very small studio, we were three very tired Canadians! And the June issue of Avenue magazine is on the stands now!

Catherine Mary Stewart & Michael Kaye

Catherine Mary Stewart

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!

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And here’s how the final pages looked…

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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…

The Doctor Will See You Now – Sanjay Gupta For Prevention Magazine

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It took a while, but my friend Marybeth Dulany finally called me with a gig over at Prevention Magazine. I used to work for Marybeth a lot back in the days of ‘Rosie’ magazine, but once that folded she moved on to ‘Health’ where my particular style wasn’t a good fit. She ended up at Prevention last year and now she had something kinda cool…a profile of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the July issue. The Damn Ugly crew made the trip down to Industria and here’s a bit of our day with the Doctor…

We started with a white setup for some cover stuff. Cate Sheehy was styling…

…and Marni Burton handled makeup…

We even did a bit of off-set/artificial portrait stuff that made it into the story…

I also set up a canvas backdrop that had a nice, terra cotta look to it…

I got to use my new 5-foot PLM umbrella for the first time…what a great light! I was really impressed at the quality of light and how large the coverage was. It was set up about 15 feet away from the subject and kicked out an open, but still contrasty light that gave me a wonderful shadow.

Finally, since it was such a nice day, Marybeth asked if we could do a few outdoor shots, so we fired up a 600-B and hit the street…

Marybeth was very happy…

And here are the final pages…

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…

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…

In the end, GiGi was impressed…

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…