Commissioning photography: comparing apples..

Comparing apples - copyright 2013 Scott Brooks | Imagennix

Photographs often are commodities…

As a former management consultant, I participated in countless competitive bids over the course of 25 years. The norm in our business was to submit a proposal in response to a detailed RFP (request for proposals) that set out the client’s requirements, timing and expected deliverables. These projects spanned many months and often were at the core of company strategy, so there was a lot of attention paid to every detail.

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The value of a plan: how a detailed photography plan saved my bacon

Wedding promotion photo for W Hotel Hong Kong..Model: Phuong Rouzaire.Makeup Artist: Rhine Wong.Hair Stylist: Tim Wong.Photographer: Imagennix | Scott Brooks.Location: Wet Deck (Scott Brooks)

Fashion wedding promo for W Hong Kong – In mid-February the marketing team at W Hong Kong asked whether I could produce a series of images showcasing the hotel’s facilities, for use in an in-house sales application that would be shown to prospective wedding clients. “Holy crap!,” I said to myself. What an opportunity. Complicating the request was that the only window available for photography was the 4th and 5th of March while the images were needed by the 12th, so they could be used at a wedding expo in the middle of the month. “Sure,” I said out loud, “That won’t be a problem…”

Despite their busy schedules, the hotel’s event and marketing teams worked with me for the next two weeks to select models, book hair and makeup artists, source wardrobe, spec floral arrangements, scout nine locations, approve a shooting plan and reserve rooms and venues, to make “sure” they would be available. The line from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” provides a fitting description for the two days of photography: “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.”

From emergency hospital visits of key team members in the days leading up to the shoot, to unexpected late-morning swimmers, a wedding party that chose to shoot all of their group portraits in the middle of one of our locations, and a last-minute doubling in the size of an important corporate event, conditions were ripe for a disastrous shoot. If we hadn’t planned down to 30-minute increments, with a detailed shooting plan covering almost 30 scenes across our 9 locations, the project probably would have fallen apart. On the back of a tight plan and the event team’s advance briefing of key hotel staff, we were able to adjust our schedule and complete 85% of the planned shoot within the available shooting window. Disaster averted and a client who was happy to get their finished images in time for the wedding expo. More images are in the gallery Lifestyle.

Flat light

Powder Blue

I love light. Even flat light on a hazy day is beautiful.

The IFC2 curtain wall reflects the flat light of another hazy day in Hong Kong, resulting in an interesting, monochrommatic effect that seems to flatten the subtle articulation of the building facade.

As the gondola slowly moved into position, the cloud cover was shifting and it looked like I wasn’t going to get the shot that I wanted. I actually put my camera away, but just before the gondola drew level with the division in the exhaust manifolds, the clouds moved in again, to give a relatively flat light on the east face, while the sun hit the south face making a nice highlight.

This was even better than I imagined and I would have missed it if I hadn’t looked back just one more time.

Find something interesting to photograph

Poached Salmon deconstructed

Poached Salmon deconstructed

While the lighting in this image is very simple – a gridded softbox on the left, to pick up the texture of the salmon and celeriac, and a white reflector on the right – the chef’s presentation turned this into one of my favorite photos.

To add some variety to a restaurant promotion shoot, I asked the chef to plate one of his dishes directly onto the table. He suggested a piece of slate that he had on hand and WOWED me with this presentation. Then, while I was shooting, he spritzed the dish with an atomizer to give it a clean, fresh feel.

It was awfully hard to keep myself from sampling…

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Kagoshima food promotion

Kagoshima food promotion at Nobu

Have you ever found yourself photographing something and no matter what you do it just doesn’t look right?

A little while ago I was getting ready for a shoot, to make images for a Kagoshima food promotion at one of our city’s award-winning Japanese restaurants. The client wanted something more than the standard ‘window light with reflector’ shot. So, in anticipation of the shoot, I eagerly tested a range of lighting setups over several evenings using fruit and vegetables from the local market…

…and the results were awful.

One-light, multiple lights, back lit, lit from overhead… all my attempts were successful in making the food look pretty unappealing. I like to think that I’m competent with off-camera and studio lighting, and I’ve photographed plenty of food before, so this was really getting under my skin. Come the day of the shoot, I was nervous about making more crappy images in front of the sushi chef, the restaurant’s executive chef and the director of marketing. They would have to organize a re-shoot, and I could pretty much kiss any future work goodbye.

Sometimes good light and technique isn’t enough – you still need a great subject. Lucky for me this was one of those times. The chefs prepared amazing dishes, and styled the raw ingredients so beautifully, that I think I could have photographed them with a flashlight and they would have looked delicious!

Kagoshima food promotion

Kagoshima food promotion at Nobu