Damn Ugly Photography Is A Little Less Ugly

After far too many years, we finally decided to put a new coat of paint on the website. Today we flipped the switch on an all-new, HTML-5 based platform…

So drop whatever you’re doing and head on over to The New & Improved Brad Trent Dot Com and check it out! I think you’ll find things much easier to navigate with the grid-pattern thumbnail galleries, it’s far more iPad & mobile phone friendly, and the HTML-5 is a lot ore stable and works one Hell of a lot better than the old Flash site!

But try as I might, some ‘Damn Ugly’ stuff still managed to creep back in…

Bo Dietl Wants Your Vote For Mayor Of New York City!!!

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Bo Dietl wants to be Mayor of New York City, and Ashley Smestad Vélez from the Village Voice sent me up to his office for a look around. Here’s what we found…

Here’s how it looks in today’s Village Voice

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

I Got To Wear Gay Talese’s Hat…

Gay Talese

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Gay Talese. In the Hall of Fame of Great American writers, few are more iconic or more respected than Gay Talese. From his early work as a newspaper reporter to his time during the hey day of Esquire magazine and his long career writing some of the best nonfiction you’ll ever read, this man has seen and done it all…and with more style than you’ll ever have! Laura Baer recently had me shoot him for a feature in New Jersey Monthly…a shoot that ended with me wearing the great man’s hat!

Upon arriving at his townhouse, we immediately noticed the silk-covered settee framed by silk curtains in the front window…

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It didn’t really require much lighting…but I added a 6′ Chimera for an overall soft fill behind the camera, and positioned a gridded 3′ ProFoto RFI directly above the seat for our main light…

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We waited out the harsh sunlight coming through the windows, and when the outside light was just soft enough, things really got interesting…

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The color shift from direct sunlight to open shade…and the blue cast it caused on the drapes…gave us a wonderful, cool mood that played off the warm tones of the settee, curtains and his suit.

Next, we set up a little studio in his back yard for some tighter portraits…

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…which gave us this…

Gay Talese

Here’s how it looked in print…

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Damn Ugly Is Best Of Show

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

The 2016 APA Awards Show winners were just announced, and Mr. Damn Ugly snuck out the back door with the ‘Best of Show’ honors with my portrait of Patti Smith at Penn Station! I am truly humbled and honored with this award, especially after seeing what the competition offered up. You can view the Award Gallery here:

2016 APA Awards Show Winners Gallery

Besides giving my ego a totally unnecessary boost, the Best of Show goody bag includes the following…

• Canon EOS 5Ds Camera
• ThinkTank Airport Roller Derby Case
• Adobe – One Year Creative Cloud Subscription
• Capture One Pro 9 Software
• X–Rite ColorMunki Display
• Cradoc fotosoftware – fotoBiz X program which includes fotoQuote Pro 6

• Agency Access – One Year Agency Access w/12,000 Email Credits
• Found – Basic Portfolio membership for 12 months
• Dripbook – A Premium Account for LIFE including Blog and Social Media feature

• DriveSavers Data Recovery, Inc. – $300 gift certificate
• ImageRights – One year of ImageRights Premier service

 • LiveBooks – Pro Website for Five Years

 • PhotoShelter – Five Year Pro Subscription
• Production Paradise – One Year Directory Listing
• Resource Magazine – One Year Print Subscription
• A & I – Cover & opening two–page spread in 2016 APA Awards book
• Lürzer’s Archive – A 2–page spread for Best of Show & First Place Winners
• Showcased on APA Awards Gallery
• Exclusive: APA Glass Trophy
• 2016 APA Awards Best Of Show Award Banner for website & email signature

My heartfelt thanks go out to Staff & Board of APA for putting together this competition, the judges who thought so highly of my work and the sponsors who donated all that stuff!!!

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Bradley Tusk Hates Bill De Blasio

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Bradley Tusk is a lot of things. He was the Deputy Governor of Illinois, the Communications Director for Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s the driving force behind Uber’s dominance in New York, he’s working to keep online sports betting sites like FanDuel up & running and he was Mike Bloomberg’s campaign manager. But right now, his primary focus is to make sure that current New York Mayor Bill De Blasio never gets a second term. He is aggressively searching for anyone who can defeat De Blasio in the next Democratic primary. And Mr. Horton needed me to capture that bulldog attitude for a feature on Tusk in the Village Voice. Here’s how it went…

Tusk Strategies had just moved into new offices and there wasn’t a whole lot of window dressing to work with…

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…but this looked promising and showed the lean, mean layout of the place…

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…but Kaz and I dropped a seamless for some portraits as well…

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The lighting for the office space shot was super simple…a couple of bare skim lights aimed directly at Tusk with nothing more but whatever ambient light there was floating around. We did white balance the shot extremely cool to keep the mood a little chilly…

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The seamless allowed us a distraction-free setup where I could really focus on Bradley’s expressions…

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Here is how it looked in the Voice…and I can’t thank Ashley Smestad Vélez enough for her amazing layout…great design helps OK photography every time…

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Broad Sword Battles…In Harlem

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A couple of weeks ago Mr. Horton sent Kaz and I up to the New York Historical Fencing Association in East Harlem to shoot some women who like to get their ‘Game Of Thrones’ on by bashing each other in duels using broad swords!

What fun!!!

Here we go…

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Andrew did me proud with a wonderful layout in this week’s Village Voice

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Thanks to Andrew and the Voice for another great opportunity and special thanks to the Women Warriors at the NYHFA…Rebecca Glass, Laura McBride, Tanya Smith and Deena Sadek…who made it look so damned mean!!!

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