advertising photography our way: concept, build, and shoot!

In todays highly competitive field of advertising photography, a portfolio with a clearly defined style, mood and color palette is more important that ever before. This year we made the decision to select a style, define the brands and advertising agencies that we want to work with. We’re developing a portfolio that gives us the best chance at getting on the radar of our target clients. After much discussion, the glaring style that everyone in the company (all three of us) enjoys shooting the most, is humorous portraits and narrative driven scenes. We’ve outlined and are in the planning stages of creating an aggressive list of 20+ images in 2014. This is the first of the bunch.


The process begins with the ideation phase. Ideation is a fancy word for sitting around and making stuff up. Once we’ve developed a list of potential images, we develop a priority list and create a shoot schedule. With the schedule in-hand, we assign responsibilities for story board creation, location scouting, talent acquisition, set design, wardrobe, hair and make-up, photography and lighting schematics, etc. etc. etc. Some of our final projects look nothing like the initial vision but most are realized as originally conceived.

For this project; Cory had the idea of creating a reverse fantasy for middle aged men. In this case, we played with the cliché vision of a middle aged man laying in bed, dreaming of two young beautiful women engaged in a pillow fight on his bed. Our initial thought was to simply flip the narrative. After a few takes, we discovered that no circumstance exists where the men would playfully fight with pillows in the company of a beautiful young lady. We asked them to really go after each other and this scenario made more sense to everyone on set. It was still missing something. We pulled a down pillow apart (FYI-a down pillow holds aprox. 5 billion feathers that take one month to remove from a studio) and asked 3 people to throw the feathers at the set while a 4th person pointed a leaf-blower at the bed.

We’re happy with the image, it was fun to shoot and we think it’s pretty funny….


Behind The Scenes of the Fried Photo shoot!

We wrapped this one up a couple weeks ago.  It features a long-time subject of our, Good Time Laurie.  Laurie is a friend & a heck of a good sport.  She let us rub bacon grease on her toes to entice my dog, Maybe, to lick em clean.  Here’s the shot:

older lady relaxes in the sand with her dog and a drink

Here’s a peak behind the curtain of what goes on in studio during one of our conceptual shoots.  This short behind the scenes video features our production designer, Aaron Rathbone and our makeup artist, Jen Ray.  Have a look!

Using the 8 Second Window

kids playing

With a love for coming-of-age Americana, we decided that we want the genre represented in our portfolio.  With visions of Steven Spielberg films (his early stuff, not Schindler’s list or the Transformers,) “stand by me” or Norman Rockwell paintings in our heads, we set out to create one image.

We scheduled a small group of first graders.  We found a location.  We created storyboards.  Our assistant scoured used-goods stores for wardrobe and props.  Everyone showed up on time.  Our vision would surely be represented on this day.  We picked our spot, set up lighting and started placing our subjects in place.  Little Sally understood our direction, Ethan got it too.  It took a little longer for Colin and the others to catch on but they did.  We’re ready to go, right?  No, just as the last three understood their roles, we turned around to find that Sally and Ethan were 100 yards away playing in a stream.

After an hour of frustration, Cory decided to Google “attention span of a 5 year old.”  A: 8 seconds.  With this new found knowledge, we decided to do two things.  We worked within the 8 second time frame for each shot and we offered chocolate chip cookies as reward for paying attention. The cookies are like currency to them.

We didn’t get the portfolio image we had in mind but we’ve learned how to control 5 year olds on set and they had a blast once we learned their language.

We’ll be attempting this again next month with agency models.  We’re told they can hang in there for an entire 30 seconds.

boy in costume playing banditolittle kid cowboy with a rifle and a mustache

Every Shoot Leads to Something

In early 2012 we were contacted by a young actor out of NYC named Ashley.  He just finished shooting his first feature film.  His agent told him to “find a photographer and pay for images to promote yourself.”  Ashley didn’t want typical head shots, he wanted stylized imagery to set himself apart. He liked our work and contacted us with a proposition.  He wouldn’t get paid for his acting work until the following year but he had enough money to buy a ticket to LA (where we are) and pay for the shoot expenses.  When he got his next movie, he would fly us to Japan and pay our full rate to shoot him there.  We’ve heard this story 1,000 times before. These jobs never lead to any real money and it some cases, the people we’ve helped have actually hired other photographers when they could afford to pay.

As much as it discouraged us when we first started, we’ve come to realize that if we get one good shot from a pro bone job, it’ll come around to good paying work someday.  We look at free shoots as a way to try new things without worrying if the client likes it.  We usually get the expenses paid, so it’s like someone is paying us to add to our portfolio.  In the case of Ashley, we liked one of the images enough add it to our web site.

In January of 2014, almost two full years after photographing Ashley, our theory proved true.  A large advertising agency contacted us to bid on a national advertising campaign.  During the initial meeting with the creative, to explain the exact style of imagery they’re looking for, they opened our web site and pointed to the photo of Ashley.

When we’re not getting paid to shoot, we’re shooting because we know it all comes around.

poppy portrait of actor


Thanks Ashley.

Action Shots in Glamis

Check it out:  pics from Glamis!  Glamis, if you don’t know, is a tiny town on the edge of the Imperial Sand Dunes Rec Area in the very Southeast corner of California.  It’s as close to lawless as you can get – mile after mile of rolling dunes (some 200 feet high) with only a few lonely rangers on patrol.  It’s an offroad Mecca and, coincidentally, a place where several people are killed each year by reckless adventurous riders.

We long ago retired from riding & this was our first time out in the sand sans motorcycles.  This time, we rolled with our cameras, a couple lights, and some new Pocket Wizards, intent on putting the hypersync capabilities of the transmitters & lights to the test in the blazing mid-day sun.

After a bit of fiddling, we got everything dialed in & got the riders rolling.  First stop was a high dune face with a nice sloping edge to one side & a sheer drop-off on the other.  We posted up a few feet from the lip & instructed the riders to simply rip around us in circles, coming as close to the top edge as they could & laying their bikes down into the turn.

motorcycle rider takes a sharp turn in sand

we grabbed this frame at f5 & 1/1250th.  Just fast enough to mostly freeze the action while still leaving a sense of motion & excitement to the frame.

The turn was brutal & the rider was ejected from his bike about 1/2 a second after we caught this frame.  Here’s what the rest of his ride looked like (low res / unedited):

glamis bike wipeout

rider wipes out in the sand at glamis

Moving deeper into the dunes, the guys found a pretty sweet jump & kept hitting it over & over.

Ryan McIntyre whips a dune in glamis

I know this looks like a composite but, trust me, it’s not.  This is retired pro Enduro racer Ryan McIntyre LAUNCHING this jump for the camera.  He’s probably clearing around 120 feet here.  The dude can fly.

The day went on & we shot many frames before the sun began to set.  Afterward, we went back to camp, cracked a few beers, and threw some steaks on the grill.  We had an awesome time out there & can’t wait to get back to grab some more.

motocross-rider-on-dunes-at-glamis-sunset - web1280-70

til next time!