How many decent studio portraits can you possibly shoot in one hour?

How many decent studio portraits can you possibly shoot in one hour? Last November I shot 50 portraits of 109 subjects in 126 minutes, and I think that’s the limit for the quality I can still be happy with.

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During the 2016 Stand Up for Heroes event for the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York I thought I would challenge myself again with shooting 50 portraits within 2 hours.  As a portrait photographer I usually plan for an hour, photographing one single subject. Photographing 50 in two hours creates several challenges. 

The technical part of photography has to become completely secondary during the shoot. There is just no time to think about light and composition, or to think about technicalities such as shutter speed, light output, aperture, ISO, etc. …. 

Everything needs to be planned ahead, including how the post-processing is going to be done. Plus I need backup equipment in case something breaks down, because there is just no room for an impromptu plan B.

The 2:30 minutes per session I spend with building a rapport with my subjects and directing them. 150 seconds to make people feel at ease in front of the camera, to build some form of trust, to have them open up, so I am not ending up with the dreaded deer-in-headlights-expression, and to make it a positive experience for the subject. 

If there is only such little time for each session, I find it more beneficial not to have my face behind the camera looking through the viewfinder. To check, if the equipment still does what it is supposed to do, I use a monitor tethered to my camera, which I keep in my peripheral view. During the shoot I want to be able to spend as much time as possible to interact with my subjects, which would be limited, if I am behind the camera. The shutter release is being pressed via a wireless remote control. As long as the equipment does what it is supposed to do, there is no need for me to have to touch the camera. The camera becomes completely irrelevant at that point, my work is all about the subject during the shoot.

In order to do this we needed a pretty large crew

  • we had 10 hair stylists
  • 10 make up artists
  • 4 men’s groomers
  • 3 assistants to manage the flow

Some other facts:

  • first to last image = 126 minutes
  • about 18 images per portrait session
  • around 150 seconds for each portrait session 
  • there were 42 groups of 2,
  • 2 groups of 8,
  • 1 group of 4,
  • 5 service dogs, 
  • and I snuck into 2 portraits
  • all in all 104 people photographed in 126 minutes, boom!

Equipment:

  • Nikon D800
  • F7.1
  • 1/160
  • ISO 320 to keep the recycle time of the strobe manageable 
  • Nikon 24-120mm F4 @ 31mm
  • Flashpoint StreakLight 360 
  • Photek Softlighter II 60 inch
  • CamRanger to connect wireless to iPad
  • Yongnuo RF-360 to trigger the D800 remotely

One pre-requisite here was also that the equipment had to be kept down to a minimum due to logistics. 

SRS

Case Study: Interior Design / Hotel Photography - Images that sell

Good images are necessary in order to sell. All advertisers and photographers firmly believe that. But how much do they sell? That’s exactly where the guesswork often starts.

Usually interior design / architectural photographers take a lot of pictures, do their post-production magic and then deliver them. End of show. Maybe the client gives you some “ooh” and “aah”, but that’s probably as much feedback as you are going to get. For the past 4 months I have been working with a boutique hotel - maleconhouse.com - on Vieques, a small island off the Puerto Rican coast, in the Caribbean, on a complete re-branding project. It included new corporate design, website audit, new website, new mission, new social media outreach, new templates for collateral material and for all of that we needed A LOT of new photographs.  It ended up to be around 60 images to tell the story for publicity and advertising of the hotel and another 250 for social media purposes. 

The hotel had been in the market for over 6 years and recently changed ownership. The new management had a clear vision of where they wanted to go, and we went to work.

As photographers we usually do not get much insight into the direct effect images can have, but when you also get to work on the marketing, like in this project, you need to have access to detailed information to see what is working, and what is not. 

Below is a before and after screenshot of the hotel website. From old fashioned confusing design to a new fresh flat design that uses negative space, puts emphasis on images and is designed with mobile users in mind. 

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Organic search increased over the first two months after launch of the new website by 180% and social media clicks increased by 250%.  

It is hard to say which role the images alone play compared to updated SEO and more efficient coding. But when we looked at the results on 3rd party platforms, where ONLY the images were changed, like Expedia and TripAdvisor, we got a better idea of the effect the images had.

At the end of November 2016 new images of the boutique hotel Malecón House were uploaded to TripAdvisor and the views grew in December and January by over 50%. It is quite a substantial increase for an already established hotel. But does this increase in views translate into more bookings? It does!  During the same period booking revenue increased by 32% compared to the previous year. Photographs do sell.

Follow me on Instagram at @stefan_radtke or contact me via email at studio@stefanradtke.com, if you want to know more about how the right kind of images can improve your business.  

New BEFORE and AFTER page

A lot of my time I spent not behind the camera but in front of the computer screen editing images and doing post-production. I thought I would share some of my before & after images.

The "Before"  is the one photograph right out of the camera that serves as the base for the final image. "After" shows the final image after post-production, which is different in complexity for each image and can include color correction, cleaning up (cloning), straightening, changing skies, adding elements or exposures from other photographs, etc... The changes are often totally subjective and based on personal taste. There is no real right or wrong.

Just move the handle in the middle of the image to see the before and after effect and head on over the the BEFORE & AFTER page to see more of my post-production work.

before after

 

 

BRAND STORIES

BRAND STORIES

IAC Apps, a NY tech company, came to me with an interesting challenge to help them communicate their "internal" brand story. They make desktop, browser, and mobile applications for a better internet. Human capital, diversity and community play an essential role in IAC Apps corporate culture. So, instead of photographing executives and employees in front of a solid colored background we decided to photograph everybody within a unique setting inside the companies offices in New York City and Yonkers, NY. 

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SHOOTING INTERIOR DESIGN FOR CONTESTS

SHOOTING INTERIOR DESIGN FOR CONTESTS

Recently I shot an interior design project by Mara Solow Interior Design, which then was submitted to Westchester Home Magazine for its coveted annual design awards competition. And guess what, Mara won for her spectacular bathroom design of a residence in Armonk, NY. Love when that happens.

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