A Day In The Studio.

At lunch last week with some old work friends we talked about whether social media marketing actually generates sales or is more a brand awareness activity?

Their businesses are B2B so therefore online channels such as LinkedIn; their own websites; industry portals and other SEO strategies are more relevant than say consumer online channels such as Facebook.

Like most businesses they are trying to refine their niche offering and determine the most effective way to connect and engage with potential new customers.

At the top of their marketing funnel they are just about to do some PR activity and one thing we agreed on was the need for professional portrait photos to be included, you see, a key point to understand is that there’s also competition for PR, that is, Editor attention – your article has to connect with their readers and a good photo can get help get attention and make life easier for the Editor.  

Creative Concept

We’ve a couple of different shots to do – some standard portraits and then some creative advertising shots. The big difference between these types is lighting setup and the subsequent effect of lighting on post production processing needs.

From a creative perspective the composite type images are inspired by Dave Hill‘s outstanding work.  I love these images – they tell a story and push the whole digital photography thing to a new level (beyond the Instagram filter mindset).  Mastering these techniques, or a least having some of the skill set, should help evolve my own client service offering.  There’s a whole discussion on long tail learning investment which I’ll have to write about later.  

Note: I’ve found great YouTube photo manipulation technique tutorials by Andrei Oprinca from PSDbox 

Two days later the studio is booked, well actually just one of the rooms at the local Sailing Club where I will setup all my gear for the day.  (I like my setup to be portable so that I can shoot anywhere around the country quickly)

Shoot day 

8AM – setup takes about an hour before our talent arrives – green screen; I’m testing some constant LED lights; my strobes and assortment of diffusers; cameras and computers. 

I’m going to shoot some of the portraits against green screen which will then be used to create composite images – this is where you combine photos that otherwise would be very difficult, if not impossible to shoot.  The main reason for shooting this way is that we want to create something unique for the advertising shots and also, it’s been impossible to get all the Directors in the same place in such a short time.  

Corporate PortraitPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia
Note: We shoot on green (or blue) background as the green is not found in skin tones and therefore the most easiest to key out or extract the image from.

For the standard portraits then you want to do most of the lighting variations in the studio (reducing post processing) whereas the composite shots you want to shoot very flat lighting and add the lighting (shading etc) effects in post production (maximised post production processing).

For standard corporate portrait shots then here are a few tips

  • Who is your audience?  In general your look and wardrobe should mirror your target audience – if your clients are wearing suits and ties – wear a suit and tie – it’s about creating trust.
  • Smile – a 1/2 smile usually works best but again it depends on your audience – I don’t want to see someone in banking laughing with my money – it’s about establishing a connection. 
  • Sadly no to black and whites – this is not a Adore Noir 1950’s Hollywood film set (I love shooting these type of shots but they’re not for corporate profiles)
  • Shoot shoulders up and closer – the eyes are the most important.
  • Uncomplicated backgrounds – it’s about reducing distractions.
  • Keep photo effects to a minimum.  This means keeping it as real as possible.  By all means remove that pimple but let’s leave the heavy skin softening and glow effects for the glamour shots.

Next well look at the composite shots.


A Photographers Music Video – ‘For Me’ (Original) – Elyse McLennan



From your smartphone, digital camera, to your new DSRL, nearly every new camera today has the ability to shoot video but, just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should or that the end result  will be any good. Personally I’ve found shooting good video is a lot harder than an Instagram snapshot with a snazzy filter posted to Facebook.  

Following is the process I went through for shooting Elyse’s clip.

Project Background

The other week I received a call asking if I’d be interested in doing some portrait shots for an new young singer songwriter – “sure no problem – that’s what we do” my reply.  And would we also be interested in shooting a music video? – ahhhhh, well that’s a different story.  As I learnt from our recent Tropfest Project there’s so many other elements to video that you don’t have to think about with shooting stills – the most obvious,

  • “time” – instead of trying to capture a single moment in time and deliver an instant, memorable message – you’re actually incorporating time into the viewer experience for the duration of the clip 
  • “sound” – sound is one of the most powerful components to any video – your viewers will tolerate ordinary vision but not poor sound.
  • “skills” –  editing is yet another new skill set to master.

So, with some initial hesitiation I said “yes”, my belief being that if you’re not constantly challenging your own status quo; learning and doing something new, then you submit to letting life happen to you instead of making it happen (if that makes sense?).

The Fundamental Sound

As mentioned earlier “sound” is very important.  I’m very fortunate with this project that Elyse can sing (her music teacher is our Rachael – the singer in our Maxy band); the song is good (IMHO) and that the production quality from local music producer Derek from Quarterpipe Records is fantastic.   

The first thing I do with the soundtrack is add a slate click track to the beginning of the song which we’ll play for every video take and use to sync the clips via my iPhone and a portable battery powered speaker.  In hindsight I should have then coverted this music track into to a video slate for visual time sync as well – ie for cases where I couldn’t hear Elyse singing along – (long shots or the waves crashing on the beach).

Story lines

Music videos are different than advertising and short films in that you’re not really trying to tell a story – usually the more abstract the better.  That doesn’t mean you just film random shots for 3 minutes either.  This clip is a bit like a show reel – what I wanted to show was Elyse, how beautiful she is and that she also plays guitar.  The target audience are potential fans and music A&R Managers.


Canon 5D MkIII; $150 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8; my favorite Canon EF 24-105 L IS USM; 2 x 450mm LED lights and a couple of LED spots; Iphone and little audio docking station; a flecky.

I’ve also equipped my camera with a Kinotehnik LCD viewfinder – it’s practically impossible to shoot video on a DSLR without one of these. 

The shoot – Saturday 9th March 

The alarm rings at 4:30AM and take the dog for a walk to check the weather.  Thankfully the weather bureaus forecast of rain looks like it’s wrong.   At 5AM I text Karin – Elyse’s mum, to confirm our shoot is on and organise to meet at the local Sailing Club at 6AM.

6AM – it’s still dark, sunrise is not due to 6:45AM.  I’ve decided to shoot our first takes in Foodies – my favourite local coffee shop.  Owner Mat didn’t see my message from the previous night but he’s cool – it gives the locals and staff something different to talk about.

Our plan of attack is to have three locations over the next three hours – the coffee shop; the beach and some local forest – wrapping up at 9AM.

  • The first thing we do is set up our scene and lighting – a simple three point lighting setup
  • Next is a white balance using my X-rite colour checker passport.
  • The camera is then manual white balanced for “better”/ correct colour correction.
  • Shoot a colour card image of the X-rite for referene and later grading.
  • Shoot our clips – without guitar; close ups; wide angles; with guitar.  10 takes later and everyone is the cafe knows the song!

7AM – the sun has just broken through the morning clouds so we speed off to our second location on the beach.  Again – white balance; set the camera to custom white balance – shoot a colour card image for reference.  Just as we’re ready to shoot the cloud comes over.  I decide to just keep shooting and see if I can fix later.  There’s a lot of movement in theses shots and a steady cam unit would be very advantageous.

8AM – we wrap on the beach and head up to the trees.   I switch to the $150 50mm lens for some very shallow shots – for online video you just don’t need expensive glass.

9AM – we wrap – next stage editing



Import all the clips into Adobe Premiere CS6

The next thing I do is watch each take and take down a note of bits I like and don’t like.

In the source panel switch to audio track view and mark the clapper point for each of the clips.

Using the mark point I sync all the clips into a multi-camera track.  The latest version of Premiers CS6 allows unlimited camera tracks – the limitation here your computers capabilities.  I’m running a Quad Core with 16Gb of RAM and a Nvidia Quadro FX3800 and it’s really struggling with 9 tracks of 1080p HD video.  I drop play back to 1/4 resolution and this helps.

On the multi camera sequence and colour correct each of the clips. 

After about twelve hours of editing I’ve finished the rough edit.  The next step is adding warp stabliser to some of the clips to try and smooth some of the shots out.  This process can take 10 – 20 minutes just to analyse 10 seconds of video.

The next step was to then look at transitions and then finally rendering out for distribution – in this case Youtube – which took about 3 hours to render (258mb file) then another couple to upload.

All in all about 15 hours of editing (for a three minute clip)


Rockpool Sunrise – Cronulla



My new Lightcraft polariser and ND500 filter arrived yesterday for my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens (it’s got an 82mm thread) so I was keen to take it for an early morning test run.  For this shot I actually didn’t pull out too much of the reflection.