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Wrangling the Cast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” for a Portrait

Wrangling the Cast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” for a Portrait

This Friday marks another major event in the intergalactic battle between good and evil with the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It is the eighth episode of the 40-year Star Wars saga. To stoke anticipation and ticket sales, the cast has been speed dating with the media. The New York Times got 30 minutes last week.

“We thought that meant 30 minutes for my picture,” says celebrity photographer Jesse Dittmar, who was hired by Times photo editor Jolie Ruben to shoot a group portrait of the cast. “But it meant 30 minutes to interview 11 people and take a picture.

“I ended up with two minutes to shoot the group of 11 egos, six of whom were palpably unhelpful, while a peanut gallery of 40 PR reps, individual hair, make-up, and stylists were trying to get their say,” says Dittmar (in the blue shirt, talking to actor Domhnall Gleeson in the BTS photo below).

Planning was key. “I knew there would be elements out of my control,” he says, reeling off the list of unknowns: what the actors would be wearing, what moods they would be in, who else would in the room causing distractions.

Dittmar focused on the things he could control: the set, the lighting, the positioning of the subjects, and the color palette. He researched the actors to get a sense of their personalities, as well as their heights, which he needed to know to plan their positioning. The shoot was to take place at the the Echo Park room in LA’s Intercontinental Hotel. To see the room in advance, Dittmar had to call the hotel and pretend he was interested in renting a conference room. “They showed me the [Echo Park] room and it was gross,” he says.

He rented a 20-foot foldable backdrop, some wooden flooring, and lights, including two Elinchrom octabanks, which served as the primary lights; and 2 Photek softlighters, for additional light on the actors at the extreme ends of the group. Dittmar notes that he invested a significant amount of his own money in travel, assistants and rentals. “Having this in my portfolio is worth so much more than [The Times] was paying me,” he says. “I have an important picture of an important cultural event forever.”

He spent six hours setting up: three hours building the set the night before, and three hours the following morning working on composition and lighting, using his crew as stand-ins for the actors. When the writer finished interviewing, Dittmar actually had 10 minutes with the cast. But getting them into position took eight of those minutes, he says.

Some of the actors didn’t want to stand or sit where Dittmar wanted them to. “You’re trying to charm them into doing what you want,” he says. But that doesn’t always work. “The number one thing is being assertive and confident in what you want to have happen [and] a decisive back-up plan. When someone says, ‘I don’t want to stand there,’ you go, OK, how about here? You pivot, because you don’t have time to argue.”

When he started shooting, his primary concern was getting everyone to look at the camera. “You have to speak loudly, clearly, and decisively. You’re snapping your fingers, saying ‘Hey guys, look at me,’ because when subjects aren’t entirely comfortable, by default you look at the people you are comfortable with”—their handlers, standing behind Dittmar—“to see their reaction,” the photographer says. (Unlike magazine clients, The Times doesn’t allow compositing, so it is critical to get at least one frame with everyone looking at the camera, and nobody blinking.)

To get everyone’s attention, Dittmar used the same technique as he did when shooting the cast of Downton Abbey (read more about that here). One of his tricks is to call on individual actors by name, and ask them to make small adjustments in the positions of their feet, shoulders, or hands. “Make sure you have everyone’s name memorized. That makes a big difference,” Dittmar says. To be able to call on the least-famous actor on the set by name, he says, signals to the entire cast “that you’ve done your homework, and you have a confidence that people respect.”

He says there were four people standing over him “whose sole job was to get the actors out of the room,” so there was no time for indecision. “You’re acting on your instincts and preparation.” Using a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70 lens, Dittmar shot a total of 42 frames. The Times published the portrait on December 8.

Speculation has ensued on Twitter about the pronounced gap that Dittmar left between the actors in the middle of the portrait. “There was some hypothesizing that I left that space for Carrie Fisher,” Dittmar says. Fisher, who has played Princess Leia in every Star Wars movie, died last December.

Asked if the speculation was correct, Dittmar said: “I’m not saying. I think it’s a great theory, and I’m going to let it sit.”

Related:

How I Got That Shot: A Downton Abbey Group Portrait, In Camera

How Chris Patey Composes and Directs Dynamic Group Portraits

Lighting Group Portraits: Chris Patey Shares His Techniques

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Wrangling the Cast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” for a Portrait

How to Find Your Flow in Street Photography

How to Find Your Flow in Street Photography

Street photographer Damon Pablo Escudero ventures out into the streets of New York to shoot for days and weeks on end. And sometimes, he says, “I’m shooting 50 rolls [of film] a week and it’s all terrible.” We asked him the obvious question: When it’s not flowing, what do you do? Here’s his reply:

“I often get a lot of junk and that is just what happens in street photography. So you keep shooting. One or two times I’ve been really scolded, and it just shakes you and you can’t even get back into a flow. Those days I just go home and think, well, those pictures weren’t meant for me today.

“Sometimes, to build confidence, I go to places where lots of other photographers are, which are places I usually completely avoid. The Easter Parade is a great example, because everybody there is OK with you taking their picture. And then as you get your flow, peel away from that, and carry that confidence to more isolated environments and that usually works.

“I also suggest that people shoot film. With digital, you’re constantly looking [at what you’ve shot]. With film, you are constantly hunting because you don’t have a chance to look at anything until you’ve developed the roll. So that was one thing that sort of always kept me going.”

See: What’s Your Niche? Street Photographer Damon Pablo Escudero

Related:
Dotan Sugay’s Advice for Shooting Street Photography
The Heart of Jamel Shabazz:Making the World a Better Place Through Photography
How Not to Shoot Paris Like a Tourist
PDN Video: Jay Maisel on How to Be a Better Street Photographer

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How to Find Your Flow in Street Photography

DIY Photography Gifts That Are Sure to Delight

DIY Photography Gifts That Are Sure to Delight

‘Tis the season for waiting impatiently for UPS to deliver your Amazon packages while the clock ticks ever closer to your gift exchange.

Fortunately, you don’t have to put your faith in the vagaries of logistics to create the perfect gift, all you need is your images, some hot glue, pliers and a bit of patience. The Cooperative of Photography has pulled together a series of fun do it yourself photo gifts that let you share your gift for photography with friends and family.

Enjoy.

By the way, if you do want to put your faith in Amazon, check out our 2017 Photo Gift Guide, produced in conjunction with DP Review.

Via: ISO 1200

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DIY Photography Gifts That Are Sure to Delight

Léonard Pongo Wins $5000 Visura Grant for Work on Congo

Léonard Pongo Wins 00 Visura Grant for Work on Congo

Léonard Pongo has won the 2017 Visura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project, for his long-term project “The Uncanny,” about daily life in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pongo, a member of Noor who was named a PDN’s 30 photographer in 2016, will receive a $5000 cash prize and a 90-minute consultation with editor and curator Scott Thode.

Juan Arredondo was named the finalist for this year’s grant. His project “Everybody Needs a Good Neighbor” looks at the challenges facing former child soldiers in Colombia.

Visura hosts portfolios, builds websites and “connects professional individuals and organizations worldwide in the photography, film, and media industry.” The jury for this year’s grant was Gina Martin of National Geographic; Myles Little, former photo editor at TIME; Yukiko Yamagata of Open Society Foundations; Michael D. Davis of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University; and freelance photo editor and curator Monica Allende.
The jurors chose 20 honorable mentions. The list of honorable mentions and their personal projects can be found on the Visura website.

Previous winners of Visura grants include Justin Maxon and Jared Moosy; and Souvid Datta, whose honors (including PDN’s 30) were withdrawn after he admitted to plagiarizing work by other photographers.

Related articles
Justin Maxon and Jared Moossy Win $5K Visura Multimedia Grant

Leonard Pongo: PDN’s 30 2016

 

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Léonard Pongo Wins 00 Visura Grant for Work on Congo

Frances F. Denny’s Top Five Rules for Launching Your Career

Frances F. Denny’s Top Five Rules for Launching Your Career

Brooklyn-based photographer Frances F. Denny launched her multi-track career in fine-art, editorial and commercial work in 2015. Her clients include Chipotle Mexican Grill, online fashion retailer MM.LaFleur, The New Yorker, Cherry Bombe, Elle, Architectural Digest, and others. Last year she formed Dafne, a creative partnership with art director Catherine Duffy that produces campaigns for and brand launches for commercial clients. Here’s her advice for aspiring photographers:

1. Take any job that comes along, within reason. Just say yes to the job, and figure out how to shoot it later.

2. Go to as many shoots as possible, and observe. You’ll learn a lot.

3. Be good at pleasing clients. Write short, polite emails. Have clever ideas, and get ahead of problems, by anticipating them and coming up with solutions.

4. Outsource the things you need help with. You can’t do everything.

5. Never work for free. People will often ask you to work for free. I turn them down politely. [Doing that] is beneficial to you, and the rest of us who trying to make a living as photographers.

See: How Frances F. Denny Made the Jump from Assistant to Fine-Art and Ad Photographer

Related:

9 Tips for Getting Hired (and Re-Hired) as a Photographer’s Assistant
How Kat Borchart Built a Career in Fashion and Beauty Photography
Tara Donnes Tips for Launching a Food, Travel and Lifestyle Photo Career

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Frances F. Denny’s Top Five Rules for Launching Your Career

Second Model Accuses Bruce Weber of Sexual Harassment

Second Model Accuses Bruce Weber of Sexual Harassment

Days after a model filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against photographer Bruce Weber, a second model has stepped forward with sex harassment accusations against the photographer, according to a USA Today report.

Model Jason Boyce filed a lawsuit against Weber last week, claiming he was sexually harassed by the photographer at a 2014 photo shoot.

Yesterday, model Mark Ricketson held a press conference and described how Weber made him feel “ashamed and embarrassed” at a 2005 casting call in Weber’s office. Ricketson said Weber told him at that shoot that he “looked tense,” then guided the model’s hand “lower and lower” toward Ricketson’s genitals. Ricketson’s account of Weber’s actions was similar to that of Boyce.

Ricketson cannot sue for sexual harassment because the incident happened too long ago. But he has offered to testify in Boyce’s case as a corroborating witness, according to a Huffington Post report.

Related Articles

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Photographers, Men in Authority, and Sexual Harassment

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Second Model Accuses Bruce Weber of Sexual Harassment

Tuesday Tip: How to Make Video That Doesn’t Suck

Tuesday Tip: How to Make Video That Doesn’t Suck

Good video is built on strong narrative, not just interesting visuals, says director, editor and video instructor Bob Sacha. “People say, ‘How do you shoot great video?’ That’s easy. The question is: How do you tell a great video story?” His first advice to those learning to shoot video is to forget about shooting B-roll. “I call it bullshit roll: It’s just random shit,” he says. And looking for B-roll, he claims, “can make you a lazy shooter.” Good directors look instead for shots that make interesting sequences, he explains. Those sequences comprise tight, medium and wide shots from different angles, of a particular action as it progresses. “What you’re looking for is the completed action,” such as a person walking into a room and sitting down in a chair, Sacha says. “A series of sequences becomes a scene,” and a series of scenes make up a film’s overall narrative.

To help his students remember to break down a single action into multiple shots at different angles, Sacha often quotes production studio Still Motion’s 3-over-1 rule: Every time you think you have a shot of a particular action, you have to get at least two more shots from different angles and distances. Or start by shooting closeups on faces, hands and other details, then go for wider shots and then look for something creative or interesting, Sacha says.

See Frames Per Second: Tips for Better Video Storytelling

Related:
PhotoPlus Preview: Bob Sacha’s Top 5 Video Production Tips

How Storyboarding Can Make Your Video More Cinematic

 

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Tuesday Tip: How to Make Video That Doesn’t Suck

Composition Tips from Some Great Photographers

Composition Tips from Some Great Photographers

It’s sometimes said that the worst vice is advice, but whoever said that hasn’t spent much time on YouTube, where great advice (and cats) can be had in abundance.

Exhibit A, is Marc Silber’s latest video rounding up photographic composition advice from some of the best photographers in the business. No matter your current skill level, you’ll probably find a useful nugget or two in there.

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Composition Tips from Some Great Photographers

Zanele Muholi Named “Chevalier” of Arts by French Government

Zanele Muholi Named “Chevalier” of Arts by French Government

“Kodwa I, Amsterdam,” 2017. © Zanele Muholi/Courtesy of the artist, Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson, New York

“Kodwa I, Amsterdam,” 2017. © Zanele Muholi/Courtesy of the artist, Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson, New York

France has named South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi a Chevalier d’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), an honor awarded to people in the arts who have contributed to culture in France and the world. Muholi, acclaimed for her portraits of South Africa’s LGBTQ community and her work to combat homophobic violence in her country, was given the honor by Christophe Farnaud, the French ambassador to South Africa, at a ceremony in Pretoria on November 21, according to Yancey Richardson Gallery, which represents her.

“Muholi’s work has raised the subject of LGBTQI rights in South Africa and internationally,” said Farnaud. “It shines a light where there is shadow, it creates a space where there was none.”

Muholi’s series “Faces and Phases” has been published as a book by Aperture and exhibited around the world. In 2002, she co-founded Forum for Empowerment of Women. In 2009, the murder of a lesbian in a township near Johannesburg inspired Muholio to start Inkanyiso, a media collective for black, queer “born frees” (the term for South Africans born after the end of apartheid). Members document their own history through writing, photography and video.

Muholi’s mentor, photographer David Goldblatt, attended the ceremony in Pretoria. He has previously been named a Chevalier and risen to rank of Commandeur. The Order of Arts and Letters was established in 1957 by the French Minister of Culture. Other artists named Chevaliers include photographers Olafur Eliasson and Pablo Bartholomew, writer Alice Munro, movie directors Ang Lee and Tim Burton, actors Cate Blanchette, Jude Law and George Clooney, composer Philip Glass and singer Shakira.

Related Articles
Zanele Muholi’s Visual Activism

Photographer Zanele Muholi on Fighting Homophobic Violence with Portraiture

David Bailey, Zanele Muholi Among Honorees at ICP Infinity Awards 2016

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Zanele Muholi Named “Chevalier” of Arts by French Government

Thursday Tip: Get the Most from Your Shoots with Detailed Written Plans

Thursday Tip: Get the Most from Your Shoots with Detailed Written Plans

To get the most out of every shoot, commercial and editorial photographer Christopher Malcolm says he prepares a detailed written plan for multiple set-ups. The document, which he calls a “pre-shoot,” helps him work as efficiently as possible on location and shoot all the variable he wants to capture.

He lists each of the shots he wants to make, the lighting set-up he wants, and some reference images to show the mood or look he wants. “For most shoots, I’ll tend to walk in with 30 to 40 pages of plans. It’s incredibly specific,” he says. For his personal project called “Warrior Academy,” he wanted to minimize time spent moving lights back and forth. His 100-page pre-shoot plan listed the order in which he would create each shot, and also the variations he would try with each lighting setup. With the document in hand, he says, “if something goes wrong, I have a plan B,” as well as a plan C and a plan D.

See “How I Got That Shot: Shooting with Daylight and Strobes for Fitness Campaigns

Related:
When Clients Want Visual Storytelling
The Big Ask: What Art Buyers Look for in Visual Libraries

 

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Thursday Tip: Get the Most from Your Shoots with Detailed Written Plans