ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Archive for October, 2013

Anatomy of a Shoot – Royal Bank of Scotland

We were recently commissioned to photograph a subject in the south of Ireland for RBS, by one of its London agencies. It was to be a cool environmental portrait of the subject and her fishing boat that she and her husband own. Of course time was of the essence since she also has a day job at the Guinness brewery.
We set up a time, between her dropping her children off to school and her work, as well as a location in and around the dock area where her fishing boat is moored. Since it was such a short notice, from the time I got the call from the agency to the shoot date, I didn’t have time to do a location scout. We would normally visit the location and take some wide overall images as well as some photos of how the subject and environment might interact and what simple props might be there. Today we would be winging it.
So with a shoot like this where we have very little prep or little time to shoot, I start by literally running around the location to get a sense of scale, angles, perspectives and any unique attributes. Here we have a normal looking fishing harbour, with boats docked; no one was heading out to sea yet but there were some nets piled up further down from the boat. I normally get my assistant to sit in for the subject to get an idea for body position and expression but today I got Richard to stand behind the camera and take a few of me instead.
I knew what I was looking for (that pre-visualization class in college always pays off) and how I wanted the subject to “come off being natural”. Here is the shot of me in the pose.

Rob as subject, slightly too bright and too much DOF

We have lit it with a Profoto 600B and a Magnum reflector. To over power the ambient we needed to crank the power up but obviously by doing that we are stuck with all this depth of field from using a small aperture to compensate. If we were shooting with a leaf shutter lens we would be able to play with the shutter speeds more and decrease the amount of ambient in the scene but since we are on a focal plane shuttered Canon we are locked in at 1/125-1/160th of a second, not really ideal for syncro sun or over powering the sun. So to take down the background a bit more, I put a 3 stop ND filter on the lens to take the light down and really focus your eye in on the subject; this is 9:30am and the sun is pretty high in the sky already.

Sharon as subject with better “mood”

I like this one of Sharon better than mine, the ambient is down those few stops and really makes the subject pop. If I was to use this as a final edit I would either take out the front light on the boat or crop it out and remove the distracting name on the side of the hull too.

We always need to do options for clients, unless otherwise instructed and this was no different. Since I was art directing myself, I wanted to really make the viewer feel like they knew Sharon and could relate; I needed a more intimate scenario. I did four more set ups but here are two of my favourites.

If you have seen some of my other work, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the square crop. A good square crop, some key colours and if you’re lucky a little bit of “graphicness” and you’ll make your job easier when it comes time to editing your picks. Further down the docks I found a steel cage container full of fishing nets, I had my graphic element. Sharon is wearing her bright yellow and blue Van Halen bib overalls and boots, so this all made it easy build the next photo. I attempted a few different focal lengths, angles and poses.

Different angles and poses

In the end I really liked the square on, square crop with a relaxed inviting pose.

RAW photo

And after a little post processing and some finessing, this is what we achieved.

After post

The last scenario I’ll show you involved having Sharon sitting, surrounded by nets. This one again is lit with just a Magnum reflector on a Profoto 600B. For this set up we just went syncro sun or just slightly over bringing the background down maybe half a stop. The Magnum reflector is great on location, helping to push the “little” Profoto 600B’s output into territory that its bigger brother the ProB 1200’s output would get you
I like the leading lines, the texture, the colours and her warm smile and natural pose. I think the orange life preserver compliments the cool colours and helps draw your eye into the frame.

Sharon amongst the nets


Model test – Stuart

Been keeping busy with things around Lucy’s Trust and work these past few months. Before I post something from the advertising world, I figured I’d post a quick test we shot with Stuart. We are in the middle of vying for a pretty big catalogue shoot coming up and we’re looking for a late 30’s, or 40 mature guy.
Stuart came forward a few weeks ago so we quickly did a test in between shoots. We went up to Black Mountain overlooking Belfast and couldn’t have shot on a more drizzling day (you can actually see the rain in some of the shots). The fog was very heavy when we first turned up but we proceeded on, and sure enough it started to lift and give us some beautiful soft light.


It was a good quick shoot and the walk back to the cars was right on time as the skies started to open even more and pour down.