“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams
Friday 09th December 2016
Recently I got to work with Sheffield musician Danny Maddocks creating a new portrait for his PR & advertising. We’ve worked together before making an atmospheric head shot but this time Danny had the idea of actually eating his dinner off his guitar, which I liked straight away because of its quirkiness & originality. I imagined a simple shot showing the close relationship between a musician and his guitar. But, with limited time and no studio booked we had to work in Danny’s home, a 200 year old cottage – not exactly photoshoot friendly with its low ceilings and compact rooms! I knew from the outset that the success of this image would rely heavily on post processing and editing so my main concerns were nailing the lighting and composition on the day.
We agreed that although quirky we didn’t want the image to be ‘comedy’, this wouldn’t be on brand for Danny or his music. So the tone would be quiet and still, using muted colours to add a further sense of calm & intimacy. I wanted to shoot with a window for the softness of light that would generate, balancing this with a softened beauty dish for directional light to create a strong form with deep shadows. The layout also has to be editorial in style leaving a good chunk of space above Danny making the image usable in poster format without cropping. So, during the hour long shoot, we experimented with different poses and expressions and compostions until we felt we had enough to work with, packed up and headed back to the studio with the RAW files.
The editing comprised of a 2 stage process starting in Adobe Lightroom to adjust light levels and colour saturation. The next stage was to take the image into Adobe Photoshop for the removal of blemishes and unwanted elements, namely the clunky radiator, the trees outside, the roller blind & pull and the roof beams cluttering the top line of the composition. This can be a painstaking task but digital processing speeds up a system of editing used in dark rooms for over a century. Proof it’s certainly nothing new can be attributed to Ansel Adams (America’s most
celebrated landscape photographer of the last century) with his famous theory of ‘the negative being the score’ and ‘the print the performance’.
My background in design has greatly influenced the way I build an image. Having knowledge of what is possible using editing software gives me the ability to visualize finished images with accuracy, as a shoot is happening, and to shoot only what is necessary to achieve those ends (the added benefit of which is often a more economical use of time, budget and resources for my clients). I’m pleased with this final image and think it works to convey a feeling, a brand, and an idea in simple and direct way. If you didn’t know better you probably would never guess that it had been edited in any way, and that’s a result in my book 🙂
Listen to Danny Maddocks music here.
See more of my portrait work here.