“The Anatomy of a Photo Shoot”

The assignment  required me to fly out of Denver at around 1:00 pm, land in LAX at 2:40 pm grab my gear at baggage claim,  jump into a car service and make like a bat  out of you know what and head to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to shoot the exterior of the New Marimekko Flagship store at dusk which was at roughly 5:15pm. This part of the assignment required that I deliver two hero images of the exterior of the store to the Marketing Director of Marimekko so she could meet her deadline for the press release that was to hit the streets in Finland by 5:pm their time that afternoon. As I have to explain quite frequently to friends as well as clients,  “though we shoot digital now and don’t need to send film to the lab to be processed the images still don’t magically come out of the camera looking polished.” There is some post work (digital darkroom) that needs to be done such as, layering, checking for dust, color correcting and sharpening. Having a tight deadline and being on the road I obviously didn’t have my work station with me. Could I have pulled off the adjustments on my laptop you ask? Yes, probably, but the process would have been slow and painful. My next option was to rent a work station in a studio. I had done this once before in Manhattan last Fall, strangely enough for this same client whose deadline was similar to this one. The only problem was that I needed only two images processed so the hassle of renting the studio space and workstation didn’t sit well with me. Now being a resourceful person and someone who thinks on his feet I had just remembered a conversation that I had a few days earlier with my good buddy, fellow graduate of Brooks Institute and top-notch Architectural Photographer Chipper Hatter. Chipper was getting ready to go in for surgery on his knee that he tweaked from surfing. How he finds time to surf being a self-employed photographer with a family of four I have no idea, but that is a story we will delve into in the future. Anyhow I called old Chipper up and told him my dilemma and being the great person he is, he said” sure no problem, I will process the images for you and make your deadline. I will be just sitting around with my knee elevated and sucking down vicodin”. This was a huge relief for me and would actually help me sleep that night, I did wonder what the vicodin might do to his performance on my images though, but beggars can’t be choosers.. My only concern was and as Chipper brought up lets hope he makes it out of the surgery alive. if not I would be back to square one. So the plan was that I would shoot the exteriors  run back to my hotel to upload the images to Chipper via “We Transfer”. He would then do his magic on the images and then upload them back to me which I would then email over to the Marketing Director by 10:00pm that evening, way under the deadline. I could see myself rubbing elbows with the rich and famous at the Sunset Tower Bar sipping a nice cold beer smug in my feeling of what a great job Chipper and I had done.

Well that was the plan at least. Flashback to the Denver Airport when I am getting ready to board my plane to LA when my phone rings and who other than the Marketing Director is on the other end and sounds like she is in a frantic high-speed car chase tells me that the awnings for the front of the store wouldn’t be arriving until 10:00 pm that night and wouldn’t be installed until 5:00 am in the morning and that we would have to postpone tonight’s shoot and shoot in the morning and now she would need the images turned around by 9:00am. The images wouldn’t need to be perfect she said and we could do the dusk shots the following night when we shoot the interiors. I told her have no fear we will make it work. “It always works out”. I said lets just shoot the dusk shots in the morning. Having scouted the location the week prior I knew the sun came up behind the store front and not on it so lighting in the morning would be horrible. By shooting dusk I knew we would have a better chance of making a nice shot at that time of the day and as I told the Marketing Director I wouldn’t feel good about giving here a mediocre image. So the deadline and stakes just got higher. My next call was to my good old wounded buddy to tell him the bad news, but he didn’t answer his phone. I assumed he was passed out from the vicodin and drooling on himself in a deep slumber. I thought it best to let him sleep and would break the bad news to him later that evening from the hotel lobby bar.

When we arrived at the location at 5:00 am the next morning the first thing that came to mind was that this was such a better time of day to shoot the exterior of the store because the streets were pretty much deserted and void of any foot traffic (keep in mind this is one of the  busiest and most expensive places in the world to shop). The second thing that came to my mind was what the hell are painters doing painting the front of the store in the dark. If you look up top to the two images you can see the painters on the left side of the building. There were also men in front of the store blasting the sidewalk with a power washer. In a cool calm manner as I always have I began yelling at the top of my voice for everyone to clear out expecting the cops to show up at any minute at my ranting. As this circus act is playing out  the sun is rapidly rising in the sky. After a few more yells and hand waving I was able to capture the image above and the one below before the ambient light washed everything out.It was about 6:45 am by the time I downloaded the images to my laptop and started up loading the images to Chipper. Thankfully the store had just setup its wi-fi, the only problem was that it was slower than Christmas. I up loaded one image at a time so Chipper could at least get started on one of the images while the other one was uploading. At around 8:45am the Marketing Director asked where the images were and that she needed them in fifteen minutes for the deadline in Finland. Taking a deep breath I told her it was not going to be a problem. I then grabbed my cell and walked into the alley outback  and called Chipper thinking he had passed out from the pain in his knee from the surgery. I could picture him slumped over his work station with drool coming out of his mouth and seeping into his keyboard. I was wrong though, he answered and told me the images were on their way. Back inside the building I checked my inbox and there were the images. I then  showed them to the Marketing Director who immediately  said  “I LOVE THEM!” The time was 8:58am……..

In all seriousness this shoot is a perfect example of how I must think on my feet as a photographer and work within deadlines that seem if not unimaginable but impossible. I feel confident in saying that this plays a big part in why my clients hire me. A big shout out goes to Chipper Hatter who without his skills and desire to help me out in a pinch this shoot would not have turned out the way it did. He did a beautiful job on the images and I cannot thank him enough. If you get a chance check out his work www.chipperhatter.com he is an amazing photographer and a great friend to say the least.

Until next time!

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About James Ray Spahn Photographer
James Ray Spahn is an award winning architectural, interior, lifestyle and resort photographer. He shoots for architects, interior designers, developers, manufacturers, shelter magazines and resorts. www.jamesrayspahn.com

One Response to “The Anatomy of a Photo Shoot”

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