Base Camp X: Portrait Photography With Axes

Graeme Cameron

Sleep is one necessity that evades me. When I have too many thoughts running through my mind at hyper-speed I cannot dare to hope that rest will come easily; hence, why photography is an ideal passion for the bleary-eyed craftsman. Now that it is 2am I have just finished the processing of three more images from last night’s session with Graeme Cameron. In lieu of continuing to talk about the products and the personal interaction, I thought the next step might be to write about the next step of portraiture: processing images to match a client’s possible usage. I should also note that I may well become “that guy who shoots pictures of people with axes.”

When a client knows he will turn the session into a series of five prints or a family photo album, a book of CD cover or even a Facebook photo, then processing is more clear on my end. At the same time, there is less possibility for experimentation and an examination of the process limits. In Graeme’s case, he only knew that these images might be used as graphic assets for the company – in turn that means that my focus has to be on producing a wide variety of possible shots for a disc that he can turn to whenever he might be asked for an image.

For the first image, I wanted to burn my rambling mind out by creating a unique composite from a shot that I knew needed to be a close-cut extraction when I captured it. The background I shot on in the condo was not wide enough to avoid clutter [the problem of not renting a studio in the Distillery District], but that gives me the chance to become creative. After talking with Graeme, the idea of building a type of antithetical  “pin-up” card on the ace of spades was a necessity. Using various graphic assets I had, I constructed the first image in tonight’s blog. On one hand, the portrait is obviously a composite which may not appeal to purists, but on the other hand…I absolutely love this type of composite for standing out in the world of standard shots.

Graeme Cameron

The second processing work came with the initial test shot using the Canon 50mm f.1.2 lens. I love to hate and hate to love this lens. It is good for one thing…this shot. The bokeh is gorgeous and it brings out a person’s soul in a way that only this lens can; for $1700 it should be brilliant at one thing, at least. A client should always, always walk away with at least one photograph like this in black and white. The headshot should be clean, classic and uncluttered. Even if Graeme is not thrilled with this shot off the bat, I can guarantee that it will end up being a “legacy” photograph that he will always appreciate for the rest of his life.

Graeme Cameron

The final shot is a bit further back and in colour. Taken with the Linhof 4×5 that is from the 1960s via the digital adapter, this photograph feels modern and clean, but the tilt and shift movements create a unique blur that softens the overall effect of the image. What I love about this style of photograph is that it could be dropped into any magazine on the planet without a concern whether it matched the “look” and style. It is Wired, it is Monocle and it could be Business Weekly. 

So far that is five completely different photographs from the session. I might have been hyperbolic with asserting that I had a dozen shots last night, but there is at least another set to come. Generally, I aim for six different photographs is a 3-5 hour session with one that a client adores. At the $500 I usually charge for a session like this, that is actually a pretty good deal. Yes, you can go to Will-Mart and get 10 portraits for $12.99, but they will look awful and be taken by a 17 year old with on-camera flash. I do not do smiles and “say whiskey”; I do not flatter clients and clap my hands when the session finishes. When it matters…and frankly, should it not always matter…the money spent on a professional photographer is exponentially worth it. Maybe the big difference is that I care about what the final outcome is; I want my work to be the one image a person can look at in 10 to 20 years and say “Damn, I looked good.” Ideally, however, I want my work to be the one image that his children will say “Daddy was so cool…I want to be just like him.”



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