Wedding at Santana Row (part 2)
Commercial Photography Blog by Photographer of the Year Award Recipient, Michael Soo.
Product photography, fashion, food and wedding.
San Francisco Bay Area, California, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Singapore.
Willie works mere minutes away from me in the big Apple HQ in Cupertino. This will give you a preequisite knowledge of where I shot Willie & Pattry's rings... But that's not what I'm going to write about. Rather, it comes as a great pleasure to have Willie & Pattry be the first wedding clients to grace my new website, Wedding Impress. From now forth, all my clients will have their space for their friends and families to view their Engagement images, Wedding Album, provide Testimonials, etc. Ok, Ok, enough of my shameless plugs. I do have to say that Willie is a heckavu cool guy. I had a load of fun shooting their engagement shoot at the Palace of Fine Art in San Francisco. The fun part isn't just taking shots where every single one of the usual photographers has burrowed their tripods. Rather, the fun arises where we took numerous shots that no other photographers has ventured to take. That, in my opinion is the fun. BTW Willie, despite protests from beautiful Pattry, I do think you look hellavu cool in your shades. ;-) - Michael Soo
Everyone meets someone unique every once in a while... Meeting someone who perservere through life's trials of fire and rise again from the ashes, that's definitely inner strength unseen. Stacy and Harold are two such persons. Wife of two months to Army Sgt Adam W. Estep, Stacy went through the worst type of pain that I can only claim to fathom. But time heals and despite not seeing Stacy going through the pain she went through for the past years (and will probably continue to face), it is my greatest honor and privilege to see her rise from the ashes. Her new mate, almost a common man, but one that possesses healing energy of a water dragon of sorts. Definitely one of the biggest heart a creature could claim to own, a kind soul and a being of true love; he managed to coax and soothe her from her burning cinders. Wings torn, golden feathers in soot, she rise again, slowly but surely. I watched in tears, my heart trembled. I am sadden by their circumstance but I envy their bond. These two mythical beings join into a harmonious cry. Such roaring silence of rebirth. For this is truly, life's greatest trials. Stacy and Harold, you both have opened my heart. My warmest wishes to you both. May life open doors in every direction as you move into your new life together. Wedding Album shot at Hakone Garden in Saratoga and Maggiano's in Santana Row - Michael Soo
Making food photography look better than before using natural AND artificial lighting! I hope you didn't blink. This is the last shot of the day where the baker made an amazingly beautiful wedding cake in less than 2 hours!!! We were using the stone background when the setting sun started shining it's warm golden light onto the wall (top right), casting the shadow of the structure 50 feet above. It lasted mere minutes. I whipped out my 35mm lens to include more background in the shot, change the 5 lights setup in 2 minutes (if you've done wedding or engagement photography, that'll improve your reflexes and thinking speed. Anything "wedding" has to be done in lightning speed, both physically and mentally. The lighting on the cake itself was controlled to show the depth of a white cake that still has texture within itself. The light behind the cake was carefully metered to be subtle and to accent the background, lighting what was supposed to be dark. Its dual purpose is to light up the "La" in "La Baguette" as well. Now, it glows a halo around the cake. Nice! Just what I needed. Within 2 minutes, all the lights were setup to show the white cake on white tablecloth nicely while the composition is surrounded by darker shadows (except the La Baguette paint). Perfect. I took 4-5 shots and the light that hit the wall was there no more. Could I recreate it? Of course! How much would it cost me to recreate a cookied shot like that using the best equipment? $10,000. (A high end Fresnel light + powerpack + a nice tall lightstand + a cookie board) Uh, any cheaper way? $3000. (A fresnel light modifier, the light of course, a tall light stand and a cardboard) Still expensive? $300. (Two really tall light stand, a cardboard and a light source but you need to do it at night. How much would it cost to do it with nature's help? Priceless! - MS
Commercial and Advertising Photoshoots projects with models is my favourite photography work. I really enjoy organizing the whole package. From contacting models, working with the client, to pulling the whole project together. This isn't easy especially if the client is on a budget and the models are freelancers. The reason is because they tend to either lack experience, can't pose or are not as professional. However, once in a while, you do get some models who are good. I've shot Ashton (shown here on the right) a few times before and she is very professional, beautiful and poses well. Here, she is backlighted with a blue-green gel that enhances the imagery with a beautiful aura of "intelligence" if you will. Lighting is very important. When the space for the shoot is large, the lights will need to be ultra powerful. You'll need at least a 1200 True Ws lights, preferably, something even more powerful, such as a 2400 True Ws lights. This is due to the inverse square law for light where the light falloff is rapid. If you are using medium or large format, your light usage will be even worse. Just be sure not to break the circuits too often. ;-) On top of that, your lighting pack needs to be flexible enough to go into low power without changing its light temperature as much. I know for a fact (Yep, I personally tested them) that just about all monoblocks lights have a horrible shift of color temperature (300 to over 1,000 Kelvins) between max and min power. You probably don't care about such shifts if you are doing casual fun photography but it can be incredibly frustrating if you care a lot about the colors, for fashion or product photography. Imagine shooting a white product on white background and you see a yellow-orange tint on one side of the product and bluish cast on the other. Yuck! Back to the point, lower power is needed to enable shots such as those on the left where the screen of the monitor's glow is important to be captured while you still want some lights to illuminate the background and fill the shadows. - MS
I've been desperately shopping for a new beauty dish (that comes with a better semi-opaque center) for a while now. You see, the beauty dish that I have been using for a while (made by Paul Buff = $120) has a opaque center that causes light to not pass through very well. So, the reflections from it looks like a donut. Ok, you must think I'm a madman to spend hundreds, just to show a non-donut shape light on the reflections of my models' eyes? Unfortunately, the laws of diminishing returns has caught up to me. Granted, I can spare my wallet a lot of money to construct a round center that is semi opaque and slap it onto my beauty dish. But I guess time is money and hence, I don't have the time to do that type of construction. Plus, I'm lazy. Go figure. My final excuse is that I'm slowly converting my gears to Profoto, it's a good idea to start swapping out the previous products. Ok, also, you can get a nice grid to go with this one. Which is fantastic. Just what I need, really. ;-) I was looking intently at the 33" Euro Mola. They are really, really nice but are ultra big, heavy and it costs a lot of moolas. Maybe when I have more moolahs, I'll buy that mola. In the middle of the shoot, Jade stopped by to pick up my still_wonderful_beauty_dish and got a bit disgusted with how I sell a perfectly good equipment and got a new one that look just about the same. Damn you, Jade. I still got your extra $3!!! Buahahaha! I invited the whole football team to my residence for this shoot. Since a beauty shoot doesn't take that much space, I had everyone occupy my dining and kitchen area and have the shoot done in the living room. it was heckavu fun. The usual suspects arrived, Janice and Mikel. We even have Van from Ocean Blue Videography of San Jose to help with with my idea of videotaping the shoot for a possible instructional video! The gorgeous and amazing models are none other than Tiffany, Sharin, Brittany and Mary. Test my stamina, baby! I used 5 lights for this shoot instead of my usual 1-2 lights. LOL. Some people think that more lights = better pictures. Is it true? No comment from me on this subject. So, let's move on. Janice did makeup, Mikel did hair, I focused on the shoot. It was like a production line but we were just happily chatting along. It was casual, smooth and I had a blast. I gotto tell ya. The models _really_ worked it. Tiffany got her hair in her eyes the whole time while Mikel had too much fun with the blower. Sharin's skin is omfg, flawless. Brittany pull amazing poses out of thin air while using a toothpick to keep her eyelids open due to the ultra heavy makeup. Mary, she shot with us more than we shot her! It's a complete teamwork that would not have worked if one of us are missing. I would do it again in a heartbeat. For dinner, I got a large spinach artichoke, a large BBQ Chicken & a small sweet pig pizzas from BJ's Brewery for dinner and we're at it again non-stop till midnight. We managed to stay alert enough to capture this shot of Mary looking disgusted at us while we prop her. Hahaha! I love it!!! Love it!!!!
The most fun in any photoshoot is when you get to collaborate with the best talents the industry has to offer. Here, in this shoot, we have:
"I'll help hold your reflector" is what a fellow photographer will nudge into my ribs when they see my modeling portfolio work. They are interested to work with gorgeous models but has nothing in his portfolio...yet. It's a catch-22. You can't attract a 8/10 model to work with you if you don't have images of other 8/10 models in your portfolio and you can't have a portfolio full of 8/10 models if you never work with a 8/10 model! So, how do you go from point A (zero portfolio, zero interest) to point B (beautiful models calling you to have you shoot them, and PAY YOU $550 while you're having your fun)?!?! I suppose everything comes at a price. You can of course start by investing a lot of time working with the 5/10 models. It will take you some time and if you're lucky and have the charming personality of car salesman, you may coerce a 8/10 to work with you. The alternative, is to find a good model photography workshop that you can get get some immediate air time with great models in a nice friendly location. They'll even sign your model release form while rubbing shoulders with you, handing off more of their friends to you. While you are at it, you do also get to learn about lighting, how to work with models, communications, workflow, tips and tricks that you can't learn anywhere else. It's no secret that I'm trying to put workshops together and one may think this is a shameless plug. The truth is, this really isn't my main line of work where I'll make my millions. I love teaching, I love sharing and I love shooting models. And if I can get paid while doing what I'm passionate about, I'll be in heaven. Workshop info provided here, http://www.soophotography.com/workshop/ These shots are done at Libby's dad's 300+ acre ranch in the east bay, a location that I'm contemplating on doing the model shoot workshop. There are full of wonderful spots, props and rustic background that will fill your portfolio to the brime with amazing landscape (location work) and model work in one. On top of that, it's private and is only a mere 1.5 hrs away from most bay area cities. When is the model photography workshop? It's still undecided. I'll let it swirl in my head a bit longer. Email me if you are interested. msoo (at) soophotography (dot) com Of course, here is a thread to the SooCool Forum with all the images from that day. - MS
A world without good foods is chaos. That's the motto of Good Foods, a major nuts supplier to Trader Joe's. I had the help of the wonderful Randy Mon, food stylist on these. We averaged one image per hour, meticulously arranging the nuts based on composition of color, angle, shape, quality and texture. The food photography & lighting are creatively setup with only two lights. Who needs more when we can add, shape and remove the photons to whatever direction, quality and quantity that I desire. ;-) The image on the right (to be used as their brochure cover) is carefully taken with a tilt-shift lens, manual focused with the help of an angle finder C. Only the two middle bowls that are not on the same focus plane, are in focus. This is to create an artistic look that that leaves the front and back bowl out of focus, melting into the foreground/background. Good Foods is owned by Sara Tidhar, the owner and a great chef. Her dreams are beyond imagination and she plans to takeover the world using her political prowess in her fast expanding nut industry. Yee Haw! She found me via Tom Lauck of Creative Ops, a local eMarketing company. "I absolutely love your cupcake image with the little girl", she said. I guess what completely convinced her to use me are really the images I did for Monterey Bay Spice Company that packages & supplies tea Peet's Coffee & Tea. I have strong confidence in her success in the near future. This woman has the drive and marketing brains to go with it. She was telling us the story of her son and daughter, helping her pack 160,000 packages and labels for delivery when they first started out. Gawd! I genuinely feel that she is heading towards a great path in her life with all the resources she needs to make it prosperous. God speed, Sara!
Normally, I would collaborate with the model or with the model's parents (under 18 years old models) for modeling comp card (also known as composite cards or zed cards) creation. Planning tend to start weeks in advanced so that we're certain what to expect, the styles, market segment to go after as well as the environment.
This shoot unfortunately was postponed twice due to bad weather and family emergencies. So, the proper planning was shorter than average. I spent only 2 hours on this shoot (unlike other modeling shoots for model's portfolio that can span 3-5 hours).
A 7 year old model tend to not have the attention span to work for long period of times for a shoot. Going beyond 2 hours tend to wear them out fast. It is also crucial for the Ad agencies to see environmental shots where the model has an action oriented image where she is reading or playing.Agencies and Art Directors often like to see the models' versatility.
After all, modeling is a form of acting. Who wouldn't hire an active looking model when the product that goes with the model is an active wear or even an music player?Creating comp cards for modeling use isn't rocket science, or is it? Is it really just taking lots of pictures and slapping them together as a card, then print as many as you can to send to Ad Agencies, Producers and Art Directors. hoping, just hoping to get a break. We're in the realm of statistics here, right? The more you send, the better chance of getting a call back.
The market estimate survey shows that the chance to get a call back is 0.5% for the average model. So, in order to get 5 phone calls, you will need to send out 1000 cards! Realize that not all 5 calls will work out either. Now, 1000 cards isn't cheap. Neither is the price of stamps nor the time it take to fill them out and send them off. So, wouldn't you be better served to increase that chance by improving the statistics? How do we go about doing that?!Before we even start, here are the things you should NOT do as they will decrease the statistics even lower than the market estimate of 0.5%
Doing all of the above will get you to the 0.5% acceptance ratio. We are getting somewhere, aren't we? What if I tell you that you can triple or quadrupling that percentage? It takes time to create a WOW comp card.
Modeling isn't always about how beautiful you are or how sexy you look. Rather, it's your style and look that will fit the requirement, might that be a need for an athletic sportsman or a grumpy woman with an intriguing frown. Plan to collaborate with your photographer. It takes two hands to clap and only by working together, can this be achieved.Here's the final Comp Card. - Michael Soo Soo Photography
By now, you probably think I'm a nutty professional photographer, dipping my toes into such a wide variety of subjects, from product photography to food photography to fashion photography to glamour photography to landscape photography and fine art photography to gosh, portrait photography, wedding photography and what else, commercial photography. On top of all that, I'm also well versed with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Website Design!!. Still think I'm sane?! I think not. While 90% of professional photographers out there strive to specialize in one field of photography, I spread my wings and claim strength in all. Is my brain really that slow? Contrary to what you might think, I have good explanations on what I've done thus far.
However, in spite of the above, most clients tend to think of a photographer is best when he or she is specialized. Just think, a bride probably will be more apt to choose a photographer who is specialized in weddings versus one who does everything. How do you, as a photographer prove otherwise? Show them your portfolio. The images needs to speak and they will, if you are good.
Remember the wonderful images from the Modeling Portfolio Blog - Photoshoot with the Best, back in November 11th, 2006? Well, here it is again! Bigger, better and more wonderful models from the far reaches of San Francisco Bay Area, reaching as far as Los Banos, California in the south; to Stockton, way off in the East Bay; and Oakland, up north. Congregating in our usual studio for our 3rd Modeling Portfolio shoot. Back with us this round are Paul and Ken (our wonderful guest photographer). We started as early as 2pm, jammed the studio with music, crackers, cheese, water, soda, lingeries piled up the height of Mt Fuji, and of course, shoes. We started our setup, the weather outside threatening rain but it looks somewhat clear for now so I had lights setup outside for the first shoot with Tiffany and Danielle. Unfortunately for me, Maysa, one of our wonderful models can only stay till 5pm. After she shot with Paul and Ken, I didn't get any leftover time to shoot with her. Major sigh. Danielle (shown on the right) and Tiffany (shown on the very top of this entry) drove all the way down from the East Bay. Danielle is really pretty and has one of the sweetest personalities I know. Apparently, her parents seem real modernized and have accounts on myspace. Tiffany has great modeling skills and knows how to pose. She swings from one pose to another with ease. Both are fantastic! I lighted most of those shots with Tiffany and Danielle using a flash outside the window. Soon after, rain started pouring down by the bucket. I then realized that my flash unit is still outside. Almost destroying or worse, electrocuting myself, I moved the entire flash unit back indoors totally drenched. Stupid way to possibly zap the session away. Ouch. Just about that time, Jessica started prancing around me. I grabbed her right away to do image composites!!! Yeah baby, composites? What the hell are composites, you ask?! Let me first tell you what they are NOT.
ar·che·type (är'kĭ-tīp') –noun 1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype. This is my venture into the deeper trenches of art. "Art of Photography", if you will. This shoot took place in my studio and only took a mere 3 hours to cumulate a large number of top keepers, as high as 20-30 !!! As some of you may be aware, I keep a really high standard for my images and to obtain such a high percentage of keepers require many things, two of which are a fantastic model and the other, a critical eye. A critical eye will tell you if the skin is discolored, overly smoothened in photoshop or when an image is oversharpened, badly composed, etc. It will also tell you how to make an excellent image into a inconceivable one. But that's not all. There are a heap of other things to consider too, like taking your shower regularly so that the models won't faint at the mere smell of you and be sure to buy relevant books such as the "Photography for Dummies" guidebook before an important photo session. For our shoot, you are looking at Iona Lynn, a professional figure model. Iona could pull more poses out of her behind than I can count the number of grains of rice in my bowl during dinner. Let me tell ya, I eat lots of rice; though I am...trying to cut down on the carb. :-( For this blog, I'm gonna stop being a chatterbox and let the images do the talking. Exhibition of Archetype - Michael Soo
Paul and I decided to do a 2nd mega photoshoot, this time with 4 models, 3 photographers (Paul, myself and a guest photographer) and 1 videographer (Bryan Chang). We were graced by the presence of 4 models from across the bay, Nicole, Celeste, Melina and Angelina. Each bring a very different and unique set of talents into the shoot. It's really amazing because most Art Directors will think of a particular concepts and there will only be ONE model out of hundreds that can fit that role. Same case in this shoot as I have concepts rolled up in my head weeks before the shoot. Along with the concepts, ideas on who can fit the roles has already been stamped and cleared. In effect, I was the Art Director, the Photographer and at some point, a really bad stylist and awful make-up artist, all rolled into one. For a larger shoot, this will not be ideal, obviously. Wearing multiple hats will help ensure that I can jump into a role when the need arises. One of my objective of this shoot is to help "pave a pathway", if you will, for these new models-to-be, into the world of commercial modeling. I'm hoping to help create a starting point with at least 1 out of 5 shots that they can use for their comp card, should they choose to do so. The other part of this shoot, done most gracefully by Paul are glamour shots for the girls. Paul has a style in photography that few has managed to achieve, much less, duplicate. It is no secret that many photographers tried to have him divulge his techniques. However, it's my belief that if it isn't their style to begin with, it will never be their style to end with. Paul, if you're reading this, you can share your techniques with me. I'll keep it a secret. ;-) We also had Bryan videotape an hour worth of fun. The video footage is amazingly well done (thanks to Paul and...me, haha!) and if you have not watched it, it can be found in youtube as well as MySpace. Do NOT miss it. It's good clean fun and if Nicole can have her way, she'll dance her way through the entire shoot. ;-) Nicole on the right was fooling around when I shot this. What she does not realize, most of the time is that she has the innate ability to extend her character across the room when she is relaxed. That's her personality and her great selling point in a portfolio. Nicole rocks. I keep telling her that and it may diluted the effects. Bah, who cares. Nicole Rocks! I do have to admit that the best shot that I did that day is actually a ultra hot glamour shot for Celeste. If you want to see that image, you'll have to talk to Celeste. ;-) But let's push glamour aside for a minute and talk about modeling portfolio. What do the commercial agencies really want? Modeling is really about acting and if you send them a comp card with 5 images of identical expression, it'll get them uninterested really fast. You need to prove that you have the ability to be an actor(ess) in a different scene, different products and different use case. I first took Celeste to the fireplace for my first session of the day. Celeste took a bit of time to warm up but when she did, she really glowed with her full ability to showcase herself. She is also a bit more seasoned as a model as she has done work with a few other photographers. I really wanted to showcase her "wild side" and she has the body to show off. We did my best glamour shot that day and right after, this shot on the left. Her hair flying sideways looked incredibly dynamic. In addition to that, Jorge's wonderful makeup on her just spiced it up a big notch. The hardest makeups are the ones that you can't tell there's a makeup but makes the model look incredible at the same time. That's a fact! Keep that in mind for your search for the best makeup artists out there. Jorge did a phenomenal job here. I also found the perfect crop for this hot image. Yup, I'm the Crop King! Melina coyly admitted that she's not the typical glamour girl. However, that's not really an issue here. As I stated earlier, it's really about personalities and how a model can fit into a role and, not the other way round. Her gorgeous blue eyes is the main attraction and rightfully so. I had Bryan and Ken hold her arms while she gave me an intense stare. What came out from it is perfectly slated for this mock ad, Delirium on the right. Angelina has one of the most perfect skin and beautiful face one can lay eyes on. She's a cutie. If there is a commercial for skin products, she is the perfect choice. She only had red lipsticks on at the time. Of course, I could just shoot her plain and she would look incredible. But to give it a unique twist, I had her hold two torn pieces of translum and got the shot on the left. The additional make-up was done by yours truly. ;-) As you can tell, I only smooth out skin when necessary and skin texture can be a great friend and gives an image a real feel to it. For a model to jump into the modeling business, he/she needs to start with CRS (Critically High Standard). What does that mean? You need to be able to impressed the agent with just one glance. One look is all it takes for you to get in. You folks have it easier than actors. Actors sends in one headshot and that's their one chance. Models have a comp card that shows 5 shots. You are as strong as your weakest link and it's true. Your worse + worst image will be branded into the minds of Art Directors, agencies and photographers. This really is a First Impression business. - Michael Soo
Sorting through my mail today, the December issue of Popular Photography & Imaging magazine is here! Opening to page 84, I'm aweing the wonder of the Camera of the Year 2006. The Sony Alpha, sitting proudly on the damp wet moss in the mystic Muir Woods, its bright red emblem eminating from the dark recesses of the rotting trunk of a falling redwood. Golden rays from the sun carressing the foliage of the forest, giving shape to the fog that flows gently above the forest floor. The air is crisp, the wood silent. The shutter is released and flashes of light from the multiple flash units bathe the Alpha and the memory is captured in time, into the 2 pages spread of the magazine before me. It all started in early September when John Owens, the Editor-in-Chief of Popular Photography and Imaging magazine called me on my cell phone asking me to do the 2 pages spread of the "Camera of the Year 2006". I'm all excited since this is the second year I'm helping them shoot a 2-pages spread for the "Camera of the Year" article. Both, very different style than anything they have ever done before. The previous one was shot by the beach, almost submerging the prototype of the Canon EOS 5D in saltwater, literary!! What an adrenaline rush! I came up with 4 concepts for them to choose.
Without hesitation, the devious editors and Art Director had to pick, you-know-what....sigh I'm thinking that I should limit their choices next time. LOL I spent a day or two mapping out different redwood forests in the area. There are a few such as the Big Basin, one by San Mateo, one in Oakland and obviously, the furthest from me, the Muir Woods. Known to have the most mystical look, I picked Muir Woods. I packed up my gear and ready to head out, checking to see if the super-dad of the two Super Mario siblings are interested to join me. Bryan Chang was indeed interested. Thank God too as I ended up with 5 bags of heavy loads, each weighing 30+ lbs easily. If not for Bryan, I woulda died in the woods with the wolves chewing on my delicious femur and the Sony Alpha, fallen to the hands of a thief, or worse, a lawyer.
We dragged the whole 100+ lbs of equipment from the car to the woods, searching desperately for a spot to shoot. We ran down cliffs of torn branches, restricted do-not-enter areas and muddy spots. No fun at all. Finding the right spot require a level placement for the camera, a perfect background with the right number of redwoods, good lighting in the background, correct amount of open space for light to pour through, sufficient working area. God. The list goes on. It was near impossible and definitely extremely frustrating. One really have to be both logical AND artistic to have the eye to find the perfect spot. After searching for a good hour, by sheer luck, I found it. Setting up lights around the area isn't easy either but Bryan definitely made it simple. Thank you, Bryan for the great help!! The rest is history.
- Michael Soo