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…


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…



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




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

Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli


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

Frankie Valli

Behind The Scenes For American Lawyer


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Maggie Soladay, Photo Editor at American Lawyer, recently had us shoot the cover feature for their annual Associates Survey. The cover image had to convey the rather subtle idea that female associates gave their firms lower marks than the male associates did in many areas on the survey. Here’s a little taste of how it went…

For the cover, I wanted to use a color that immediately grabbed the reader’s attention and Art Director Morris Stubbs was on board, especially after seeing what I did with Bill O’Reilly a few months ago…so we pulled out the orange seamless and went to work.



As you can see in the lighting diagram, I kept things fairly simple, but I wanted to light our models (Jo Quiles and Johnny Tyrone) with two separate main lights…20″ Profoto Beauty dishes with 25 degree grids…in such a way to add to the drama. The male associate had to be in a hero light…something that would make him more prominent in the photo, while the female associate was lit slightly from below to give off a more menacing vibe. Not exactly ‘monster lighting’, but just enough to not come off as a wash of soft light. Other than the dish reflectors, I added a ringlight with the soft reflector to give a sheen to their suits.

American Lawyer - Associates

Then we backed up the orange set with a similar look on blue…

American Lawyer - Associates

Next, we moved on to the inside look…

American Lawyer - Associates


To illustrate the idea of a law associate moving out of the shadows and stepping into the spotlight, I literally pulled out my modified Desisti spotlight for the task…



I positioned the Desisti directly behind and above my camera and cut the light with two cards on either side that gave me a exact slash of light I wanted. A little pop from the ringlight filled in the shadows just enough without throwing a ringlight-effect shadow…

American Lawyer - Associates

The resulting image opened the story…


…and all was right with the World…

American Lawyer - Associates

Do People REALLY Buy Broncolor?!!


So this morning, Broncolor just sent me an email titled, “10 Things You Should Know About the Broncolor Move 1200L Outdoor Para Kit”, and I hafta say, I’ve been fascinated with this spendy bit of kit since they announced it last year, so I wasted a little time and clicked the link. Here’s what you get:

The Super-Dooper-Fast Move 1200 L power pack…


One MobiLED lamphead…


A Para 88 reflector with mounting adaptor…


And a nifty Outdoor Trolley Backpack…


…but after reading the 10 things Broncolor feels we need to know about this light, I came up with the only thing I needed to know…THE DAMN THING COSTS OVER $10 GRAND!!!!!

Actually, to be fair to Broncolor, it’s only $9,354.10…but toss in the tax in New York, and that’ll set you back $10160.89, and that is a stunning amount of cash for a battery powered light and an umbrella!!!

But before you all pile on to tell me how great the thing is and how fast it’s flash duration might be and how it has NO competition out there (How about an Einstein, a PLM and a Vagabond for about $800 bucks?!!), believe me, I know it’s kinda cool, but $10 Grand worth of cool?!!

I dunno…unless I had a winning Powerball ticket in my pocket, it simply seems like a tremendous mis-allocation of funds to me…

Making Sun Where There Was None

Connie Brown

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

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


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


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


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

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

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

Connie Brown

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






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


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 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


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 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…