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Simple Improvements #013 – Observe A Pro

Observing another photographer is a great way to learn a few things. This past weekend I was able to do just that during a magazine photo shoot at a friends house. There were a few things that I took notice of and I thought I would talk about that during today’s Simple Improvements post.

The photo shoot was for an upcoming issue of a local magazine which is going to feature Tom Thibeault of Adirondack Appliance and his awesome BBQ equipment. A photographer was there to capture Tom preparing some of his BBQ favorites… Pulled Pork, Ribs, Beer Can Chicken and a beautifully roasted turkey. I was fortunate enough to be invited over to enjoy the food after he was done preparing it and the photographer was done capturing what he needed for the magazine. This was a great opportunity for me to observe a real pro at work and maybe pick up a few things.

First thing I did was introduce myself and I explained what I do for a living, which is graphic design under my own business Prepressology. We had a little small talk and then the photographer went right to work. I watched closely but I made sure to stay clearly out of the way. The last thing I wanted to do was be in the way or slow him down. He was shooting the live action of preparing and cooking the food, as well as setting up food for good captures. A few times he called on me to give him a hand lifting a grill lid or moving items out of the way that he didn’t want in the shot. It’s important to be willing to help out the pro, especially if you are watching him or her. It’s really a minor trade off for what you might catch.

As well as watching with your eyes for how he is positioning his camera or the subject, listen to the pro for what instructions he might be giving the person involved because a lot of times they will briefly explain why they might be doing something. For example during the hamburger shoot on the beautiful EVO America Grill, the photographer explained to Tom why he was shooting on a particular side and how he was using a reflector to help light up the smoke. All little things items that are going to be in the back of my mind the next time I decide to give some grilling shots a try.

Adirondack Appliance BBQ Photo Shoot

Taken with iPhone 3GS and Camera+

After the photographer was done with his shoot, Tom and I had the chance to chat with him for a bit. He shared a few of his photos with us and even took the time to explain how and why he brackets his shots (Pete and I will cover this in a podcast soon). I was able to ask a few questions but I was careful not to be annoying or seem like I was badgering him for information. The key is to be curious and work the questions casually into conversation. Being patient and waiting for the right opportunity to ask.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to watch a local pro photographer, especially a food photographer work a photo shoot. If you get the chance to do the same I highly recommend it but remember to introduce yourself, be polite and be vigilant about staying out of the way. Most photographers are eager to share and will be happy to talk with you, just as long as you respect what they are doing. After all they are paid to be there and it’s their job to capture the best photos they can during that time.

The Author of this post is Jake Van Ness

Jake is a Graphic Designer and Design Consultant at Prepressology, as well as an avid photographer living in the beautiful Adirondacks of Upstate New York. Learning in the trenches with fellow photographers trying to capture the most compelling photos.

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