Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cultural moments and iconic faces

The primary players, as Juan Diego, Mary(Guadalupe),
and Friar, giving a sense of the time of the event in the
1500's but with a hint of modernity in the corner.
      Last December, my most active NGO client, Catholic Relief Services asked me to spend a couple days recording Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities at a church in Rio Rico, just ten miles from the border with Mexico.

      Their goal was to improve their coverage of hispanic/latino issues and culture and have a more diverse collection of appropriate images when discussing various matters in their blogs, news pages and other collateral materials.

Final costume adjustments.
      It was a bit of a different approach from the start, as we covered a two-day event and took a glimpse at events surrounding the presentations rather than photographing particular relief and development projects.

      While a major goal of this project was to document the unfolding of a religious and cultural event, we were also searching for moments, faces. It got me thinking about Richard Avedon's iconic use of plain backgrounds throughout his life, to create images that were more about the faces than anything else.

      It led to a couple of opportunities to try something new to my NGO-style of work. Although I like to use environments for my portrait background, I wondered if this idea could fit with CRS' needs. Try new things to figure out if they fit.

"Juan Diego"
      After a some discussion with my photo director at CRS, about the possibilities that may present, we realized that creating some golden hour portraits of the young actors in the re-enactment of the story of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, while using the nearby mountains and dusty unpaved parking lot of a very poor church, and the very last hour of sunlight of the day as the only light source, I just might create that sense of place and time that could be just what we need for this story. A simple set of images that create some cultural representation while giving a sense of place and even, for a moment, blurring the line of the time of then and now.

      Of course, I covered the events themselves with the thoroughness that I try to bring to all of my work (I'll sleep when I get home!), but the portraits added an interesting additional dimension to the package.

Reenactment, Juan Diego walks a path from his village.
In the reenactment, Mary appears to Juan Diego.
Aztec dance celebration begins.
      The second night, during a mass which followed the re-enactment, a group of Aztec dancers performed in celebration as well. Their positioning in the very small church with poor lighting presented a variety of challenges. Additionally,  the group spent a great deal of their performance with their backs to the congregation, symbolically performing for the Virgin Mary who was represented by a statue set near the altar.

      Once they completed their performance, I felt there might be an opportunity to deepen my coverage of the group, deciding to borrow that page from Avedon's book and photograph some of the dancers on a simple background,  if I could find a space in the banquet hall next door amid the expanse of tables that had been set up for a post-Mass meal.

   We carved out a little corner of the hall, moving a table to the side to clear a space, and, using a simple set-up of two camera strobes, one bouncing off the white sidewall and ceiling and one providing a wash on the background wall to eliminate back shadows, we made a series of simple portraits showing young faces and the vibrant, feathered costumes of the traditional dancers.

      The experiment was a great success, with some simple beautiful images thate were well received in all of the departments at CRS who would need the images to communicate their messages. An experiment, the simple idea provided some bonus depth to a collection from only two days of intense shooting.  

Giving out roses to all for the ladies in attendance.
Young Aztec Dancers

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Strengthen your brand with professional photographs

       As human beings, and we are all fascinated by photographs.

       It’s not a surprise, we all carry cameras in our phones, take pictures of EVERYTHING.

       In business, photographs are an integral part of our marketing message.
Photographs attract attention. 

Phoenix Group Metals
       Customers want to see what your product, service or process looks like, they want to see what you do and that you and your people are real. Photographs are a powerful part of the message that helps define the perception of your business.

       But here’s the rub, customers are more likely to respond positively to well-crafted, “readable” photographs that harness the psychology of effective composition.

Timney Triggers

       Well-made photographs tell your story clearly, quickly and dynamically. Well-composed photographs command attention, emotionally inspiring potential clients and appealing to viewers on a psychological level.

       While displaying your products, services and people in action, well-made photographs convey your credibility as a viable and professional company with whom they want to work.

       You are the Real Thing!

       As your reputation as a company grows, those photographs, just like iconic logos, become a part of your company’s identity. When consumers think of you, they think of those photographs. 
Guidance Aviation
       "Okay, you got me, I need photographs. 

       Do I really need to hire a professional?"

       Of course I am going to say a most emphatic YES! But, as a professional, what else would I say? 

       Like any field, a professional brings experience, creativity and a deep understanding of the conceptual and technical nuances of the field.

All photography is psychological

       At it’s foundation, visual psychology forms the concrete of a photograph’s concepts of composition. Everything from rule of thirds, to readability, are based in how human beings perceive and respond to two dimensional images. These concepts harness our human preferences of odd numbers, asymmetry, color, strategically-placed, well-executed light, eye movement and many others to create compelling photographs.

       A professional photographer spends a career honing that understanding, becoming more and more adept in creating images that inspire, inform and even influence potential clients’ perceptions of a company. 

Brighton Automotive
       In addition, photographers strive to create understandable, “readable” images. The ease by which one may “read” the image, influences a viewer’s positive or negative reaction to an image, and to the presenting business. 

       Poor composition, and technical misfires create visual noise that obscures key elements in the image, interfering with readability. As human beings notice this, often on a subconscious level, viewers become uncomfortable inside the image.

       At the very least, an uncomfortable viewer turns away, turns the page and ignores the message, at the worst, the viewer’s discomfort actually results in a negative impression of your brand.


       Well-crafted photographs are readable, technically clean and compositionally interesting. They reach off the page and seize a viewer’s attention.

Law Enforcement Specialists
       Well-crafted images communicate clearly, create connections with their viewers and often inspire an emotional response whether that is empathy, excitement, concern or a general wave of “this is a great company” feelings.

       While becoming an integral part of a company’s brand identity, well-made photographs convey quality, professionalism, effectiveness while increasing the performance of the message!

Guidance Aviation