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Thread: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

  1. #1
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    This needs an introductory explanation.

    Yesterday I spent a few hours on the beach known as West Sands at St Andrews (if you've ever seen the movie Chariots of Fire then that's the beach they ran along).

    Anyway, I just wanted to play with the Sigma 120-400 F4.5-5.6 APO DG OS mounted on board.

    Well, I got talking to a young guy who runs an adventure activity company. He had a group of people on the beach landyachting. I asked if I could walk in amongst them on the designated stretch of beach they were using. Then I started to think, let's play this as if I was doing a commercial shoot. Could I produce images that someone might want to use for promotional reasons?

    So, it turned into a sort of practice session for me, just to see what I could produce.

    I've looked some websites and I think my efforts fall woefully short. These are the set that I kept out of an awful lot more that were shot. And what's wrong with them? Well, for example, I have more back of heads than happy smiling faces having great fun. They are not 'exciting' or dynamic. They're a bit boring.

    I wanted to try and get some 'This is us on the beach with St Andrews behind', type shots.

    But I'd welcome your thoughts. And remember, this is specifically a commercial shoot. Would you let your client use these in their online and hard copy publications? The name of the company is Blown Away

    All were taken with the Sigma at various settings.

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required


    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required
    Last edited by Donald; 12th March 2012 at 04:10 PM.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Donald: I am going to put my Canadian penny's worth in. I noticed that all you shoots are to windward, could some of them be taken to the leeward side. The company name also appears at the bottom of the sail, tho small, so a tight shot of the driver and the boom would give you the company name and the web site along with the person's face. I think you were looking to get the vertical name of the company in you shots. In a lot of sailing shots you never see all the mast and sail that is why a lot of ads are on the boom and that is in most shoots. Check out a Sharon Green photographer, she is probaility the best at shooting sailing. I have shot a couple of sail boats for people I know, I did them down low near the waterline as that is where the action is, same thing here, down where the wheel meets the sand with a slight upward angle, I think would work here. Well that is my penny's worth.

    Cheers

    Allan

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Hi Donald,

    Looks like a great and fun opportunity here.

    For something like this and the scenario you have set for yourself I think your Dutch Angle shots work best for adding that feeling of excitement. And this is what I would have assumed the Client is looking for. Excitement and fun to promote them and the sport. Especially #4. Very nice one, that. Always good to get plenty of the Client logo involved.

    A couple of things come to mind.

    You mentioned it yourself. If I were going to submit these to a client, I would have put that 400 to work and got some up-close & personal face shots while they were underway to go with these. Probably tried to get some pans showing some motion. If they are wearing the Client logo on the helmets, then a tight shot featuring the logo with maybe just the eyes of the wearer (wearing some cool shades, of course) might work.

    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Maybe try to get some different POV’s going on. In my opinion this, as much as anything, will give you that extra “oomph” you are looking for. One that I might have liked to try would be getting down (maybe laying down) in the sand and having one of these things come blazing by me and trying to shoot upwards a bit. Maybe coach one of the pilots a little and see if you could get one or two to give you some facial expressions. Next time maybe think about bringing a stepladder and grab some shots downward as one of these things come ripping by. As one passes, have your lovely and charming assistant toss a bucket of sand at the rear wheels to add some drama.

    And maybe some detail shots of the actual vehicles/sails.

    When I’m doing something like this and I have no specific instructions, I like to try to give as many options as I can possibly dream up and shoot the soup out of it with the camera on burst. You never know what the Client is going to like if they don’t tell you and who knows? Maybe you would sell more shots!

    Of course, if this were truly your Client, you would be able to have some creative leeway as to what you could do rather than just as a kind of “walk-on-try-to-stay-out-of-the-way-and-not-get-killed” gig. Plus you could have talked to them to try to get an idea of what, exactly, they were looking for with these photos and how they were going to use them.

    PS. Kind of different seeing you in color!

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Hi Donald, having read Allan's feedback it made me realize what didn't feel quite right about these images. I guessing that you were standing while shooting. I like Allen's suggestion of a much lower camera angle, just inches off the sand perhaps? Then, with a landyatch coming at you (as in shot #2) and a sharper background (as in shot #8) but with the lower angle would put the landyatch vertically closer to the background. Perhaps a longer lens could bring the landyatch and background little closer togeather (front to back). If the winds are gusty enough or you can get them to turn sharply enough in the right location, you might be able to get the added action of having one wheel off the ground by a couple of inches? As Allen suggests, if you can get closer in on the faces, the experssions could add quite a bit to the excitement.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Thank you, guys, for the enormously constructive comments & criticism. I hope that other people will benefit from reading your comments as well. They've been a real education.

    What you've said has been eye-opening in terms of providing insight into the relatively simple things we can think about to turn the very mundane into something much more professional looking.

    And from all that you said, the issue of thinking about it is they key. That's what makes the difference. That and a dose of talent. And, in respect of this subject, I don't claim that talent. I don't wish to assume that even if I had done lots of thinking, I would then have automatically produced professional quality images. But I would have been a lot closer to doing so.

    The primary lesson from this is that you just cannot walk into a situation with which you are not familiar and shoot professional images. You have to do your planning. And that involves thinking about the shots your going to go for. And that, in turn, involves at least a basic understanding of the subject matter. 30 seconds before I started shooting I knew absolutely nothing about landyachting. That's not a good basis on which to start trying to make images that showcases landyachting.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    My only comment would be to ditch the ones that are taken from the rear. Most of the things we normally focus on in a photo are not there. A suggestion is to treat the shots as environmental portraits. Face on with only enough background to add something to the photo. 4 and 5 would have been improved had the riders been coming at you instead of moving away. As this was an adventure tour I personally wouldn't get too close however a professional photo shoot would also include professional riders. Ones you can trust to repeat tasks following instructions on what you want them do and at the same time do it at full speed only inches from your face. Perhaps setting up a time with the tour leaders (assuming they were locals) who you could assume were more competent in exchange for prints might get you some closer shots. Also consider time of day for direction and quality of light. Lessons you learn with this could be transferred to other moving subjects as well. If you continue, please keep us up to date on your progress.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Forgetting the technical aspects of achieving sharply focused shots of moving subjects, Donald. For me, they are just too sombre for promotional use.

    That requires bright 'cheerful' light with plenty of sunshine. The only shots with a bit of blue sky are from the rear. But 'correct conditions' and perfect photo angles are a bit difficult to order in advance.

    I just wonder if a bit of high speed fill flash might lighten the faces a bit, if you could get closer with a smaller lens.

    Technically OK and these shots faithfully captured the actual scene. But an 'idealised' perfect scene is what would be required for promotional work.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    For me, they are just too sombre for promotional use.
    I am now bitterly regretting having enthusiastically agreed with the young man whom I met that I would advise him of the Flickr link to these images. I now feel like a very old, 'traditional', boring person in the face of his high-energy, youthful approach to life. These images really are awful. If and when he sees them, he'll be thinking, 'Oh, gawd!

    Because Geoff has got it absolutely right. Andrew is also right in his note that what needs to be in the images is not there.

    I hope others will learn as much from this as I have. It just shows us the value of spreading our skill base. Because we might be very competent in one area, but completely naive in another. And that's the difference between me, an enthusiastic amateur, and someone who has to make their living through producing the goods on a day-to-day basis.
    Last edited by Donald; 12th March 2012 at 10:01 PM.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Donald, color, people?
    I'm very confused.
    Has someone hacked Donald's account????

    I don't have anything to add to what has already been said. Front lit drivers with huge smiles would make a great difference. Also, if there were any shots with sand kicking around, that would be awesome too, maybe a tire off the ground? Summer weather would be good too - jackets aren't very SEXY - the drivers look cold.

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    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    It just shows us the value of spreading our skill base. Because we might be very competent in one area, but completely naive in another.
    I can certainly relate to this with the exception of considering myself competent in any area. This is one of the main reasons I decided to acquire some lighting and see if I could have any success with shooting portraits and working with my own lighting scenarios. It just seemed to me that if I were going to pursue photography at an (hopefully) elevated level, this is something that I would absolutely have to come to terms with.

    It never comes easy for me and one thing I can count on is that there will always be plenty of failures. With the exception of trying to learn from my many mistakes, I try not to take them or myself too seriously. That road leads me nowhere. Not to fail means not to try and that is simply unacceptable. But it is always fun. Otherwise I just wouldn’t do it.

    I could never put it as succinctly and eloquently as you, Donald, and I thank you for reminding me (again) of this.

    Sooo,

    Before one of the most talented photographers and teachers I have ever seen throws himself under the bus, I wonder if he might give us the benefit of saying what he might do differently for his next landyacht shoot?

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Donald, color, people?
    I'm very confused.
    Has someone hacked Donald's account????
    Hey! I'm very proud of his efforts! You don't grow if you don't venture outside of your comfort zone. Rock on, Donald!

    Quote of the moment: A smooth sea, a skillful mariner, never made.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Before one of the most talented photographers and teachers I have ever seen throws himself under the bus, I wonder if he might give us the benefit of saying what he might do differently for his next landyacht shoot?
    Thanks for the compliment.

    I think all the answers are encapsulated in the responses above:
    • Plan the shoot
    • Shooting angles - Length of lens. Go wide angle and not just telephoto. Get low.
    • Warm weather. They do all look frozen.
    • Plan the shoot
    • Show faces, not the back of heads
    • Go in close - don't always need all the big lettering of the name
    • Get happy people
    • Don't just turn up and try it. Set it up. Talk to the people beforehand.
    • Plan the shoot. Know what shots you want
    • Get the flash on there and do fill flash
    • etc
    • etc
    • etc.
    • Plan the shoot


    In my own defence, none of this was planned. I was just out for a stroll on the beach and came across these guys. But it's still annoying and embarrassing to try something and get it so wrong. But, as we say, that's what learning is about. And that's why I put it up here so that others as well as me, might learn from it. This is the class called, 'How not to do it'.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    But, Donald, impromptu shoots like this are always worth a go. Sometimes everything does come together and there is a happy outcome for everybody.

    Nowadays, I always say something like 'IF anything is usable I will let you know'. That way I can blame the weather conditions for when I get the camera settings totally wrong. As discussed on another post.

    And as an example, I keep shooting the local gig rowing teams as they row pass the fish quay; but, although I managed a couple of reasonable shots last year, I just can't find the right mix so far this season.

  14. #14

    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Donald the only thing I would add is the motion, slow down the shutter speed and capture the motion, or work it in post... BTW I enjoyed the images, snagged two to demonstrate the feeling of speed:
    First attempt, added some extra vibrance and played with the channels to give the sunny day feel then dropped in a motion blur along the angle the landyacht is moving:
    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required
    Second attempt, same process with the vib/sat and channels, but used 2 layers one with the back ground of the land yacht erased, one with the back ground erased, added motion blur to the back ground:
    Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Not exactly stellar editing on my part but it was a challenge to get the look right. It does get a bit more tedious in post processing to acheive the motion look. But it is possible.

    IMO
    Ryo

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryogenetic View Post
    Donald the only thing I would add is the motion, slow down the shutter speed and capture the motion, or work it in post...
    Good grief, what a difference. Thanks Ryo. Just shows what can be achieved with the right sort of vision as to what the image can look like.

    Geoff - You are, of course, right. We musn't limit ourselves and we must remain prepared to to grab the impromptu opportunity adn see what happens.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    I suspect that this is a given but........
    The one thing missing from your list is 'What does the client want from the images?'. That would dictate how you planned the shoot, what kit you needed etc.

    Cheers for now

    Gary

  17. #17

    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    bah, arrived too late and all the good advise is already taken so I will just agree with all the above, especially the bit about getting down low. Makes a huge difference in sports. Alternatively if there is something large climb on that and shoot downwards - that can be interesting too.

    One other thing I will say is that, while planning can be good, it isn't essential and can inhibit people by making them feel self concious (unless you are paying commercial models to perform for you). You will actually find that unplanned shoot work very well once you have a little more practice and remember that sometimes it is better not to press the shutter.

    First time I shot my friends Uni rugby team I ended up with hundreds of shots of the back of people or people who were too far away. Doesn't matter how exciting the action if you can't see it clearly so I learned to stop shooting when it wasn't worthwhile and concentrated on shooting when it was.

    Lastly, learn your sport. I knew (know) nothing about Rugby but quickly learned when the best photo ops are going to be. If there is a line out where do you position yourself to get the best shot. Ditto when the ball comes out of a scrum etc. In the case of landyachting is there a point on the beach where they all turn (and wheels may come up off the sand). Also where would you need to position yourself to get good light on their faces etc. A little time spent standing and watching will pay dividends when you start shooting.

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Hi Donald,
    It is funny, I was going to post a thread very similar to this one. In fact, a friend of mine has designed and produced a new kind of sailing boat. Up to now he has the fist few prototypes and he is promoting his boat in the “sailing world”. It’s planned to open a stand in Rome’s and Genova’s world wide sailing and yachting shows. See him on 2bFast website. www.2bfast.it
    He asked me to capture the photo for his promotional activities. We do a couple of photo sessions, and a third is planned for next week-end.

    In my humble opinion and little experience, I would say that at the top of the list of things required for this kind of work there are:
    - a good knowledge of the subject (in this case the sport), to understand what are the most important moments, actions… for the players and viewers (i.e. the shot on goal in football) and to understand which are the well executed actions, movements… I mean, you have to understand when a pirouette is well executed in a photo of a dance show, if you want that the dancer will buy your photo.
    - The knowledge of the purpose of the photo. In my experience, I have had to produce different kind of pictures: 1st kind - some pictures for the company’s website, company’s stands at events etc. : in these there are many pictures of details, as logos, details of the boat that make it new and different from others, pictures of the team and the single members. 2nd kind – pictures for sailing reviews and other promoting media : some previews of this boat have been published on 3 different Italian Sailing magazines (and an other is for April) with some of my pictures. Publishers wanted pictures of the whole boat and sails “in action”, with sails well blown by wind and in a situation that well represent its typical use. They weren’t much interested on pictures of details, and the logo was present in the title.
    - A picture captivating for people sometimes is a bad picture for a photographer. Special effects ( strong HDR, motion blur, strong saturation, not leveled horizon…) capture the eyes of viewer and help to memorize the picture and so, the subject

    now I have to go,
    See you soon
    Hope this can help
    Ciao
    Nicola

  19. #19
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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    Donald, I looked at these shots and wondered about how the vehicle and driver (rider?) could be isolated even more that you have done...

    I wonder if there is a lifeguard tower in that area from which you could get a shot from a higher level pointing down somewhat.

    This would not only isolate the subject against the sand somewhat but might (IMO) compress the sail and driver. That way, you would not need an image so tall to cover both sail and driver.

    I am not sure I made the above statement clear. As an example, look at a pencil at eye level and then look at the same pencil holding it at chest level. I think that might illustrate what I am talking about...

    Then again, you could always go up on a parasail and shoot the vehicles from above (LOL)
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 16th March 2012 at 01:29 AM.

  20. #20

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    Re: Getting Commercial - Straight Talking Critques Required

    But we have all overlooked the obvious answer to these shots.

    Put Donald onto one of these carts, then he can easily shoot other drivers as he overtakes them.

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