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Whiskey and Burbon - A West Michigan Distillery

Flatlanders is a distillery in Grand Rapids and a great one at that. I was able to photograph them for Rapid Growth Media recently and see their facility. 

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An artist and her style

Recently a close friend of mine, Miranda Sharp, opened up her own gallery called Glitter Milk. I had the pleasure of photographing her in this space for Rapid Growth Media.

One thing I love about Miranda is her style. She has a very particular way she dresses that I’ve never seen anyone else around the West Michigan area dress. 

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Another day at work, always a balancing act.

Another day at work, always a balancing act.

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Everything I need for a mad dash to LA and back again. Oh, and that’s clothes and camera.

Everything I need for a mad dash to LA and back again. Oh, and that’s clothes and camera.

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[Editorial Cover and Spread] Grand Rapids Magazine Couples

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had recently was photographing the cover for the February 2014 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine.

The staff at GRM are absolutely fantastic, not only to work for, but as colleagues and creative collaborators. When they asked me if I could photograph 5 creative couples in Grand Rapids - I was ecstatic. And, I was given the freedom to work with my subjects in a number of different environments.

My project manger and I planned out 5 different shoots in locations centric to each couple.

Process of the Cover Photo

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This photo was shot very carefully, to keep the available light of the theater behind my subjects, and still work flattering lighting on my subjects standing on stage. Since Amy is a dancer and Erin is the husband of a dancer, I was able to drag the shutter more than usual, making this sort of like the old school shoots where people stand very formally for portraits. These two stood very still very well. The main light was an octobox in a boom just above their heads. The power on that light was very low, but it kicked out just enough to create contrast between them and the background of Wealthy Theatre.

More of from the shoot with Amy and Erin

Other Creative Couples Featured in the Magazine Spread

John and Serita

Erin and Aaron

Peter and Jason

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Why Light Matters 101

Light frames our subjects. Light emphasizes our intentions. Light creates a mood to our photographs. 

Light matters.

A photographer cannot take a photograph without considering the lighting whether that decision is consciously or subconsciously made. 

To better explain my point, I’ll use photographs to coincide with my words.

Available Light
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In the above photograph, I chose to use only available light. I wanted to emphasize the size of the windows and the scene outside. The people serving themselves at the buffet acted as secondary subjects to the main intention of the photograph, to build a sense of place and space.

Light off camera
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In this photograph I used a light off camera on  camera left. I wanted to emphasize the amount of glasses that were being shown by the booth at this trade show, and the people interacting with the vendors. 

Two different narratives, with different lighting approaches. Look around you. What kind of light do you work in? What kind of light do you live with?

Tune in next month for more photos and a continuation on Why Light matters. 

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2 Key principles to Successful Environmental Portraits

Creating a meaningful and successful environmental portrait requires us to pay attention to two great details

1) The relationship between the subject and the space around them

2) The lighting to depict the subject and emphasize their environment

To illustrate these two key components, below is a photograph I took recently of Tom Izzo for a USA Today article that just ran this March 2014.

Relationship between subject and environment: 

This was a slightly more complicated shoot since the client wanted a shot of Tom with the arena behind him to establish a sense of place.

Lighting: 

Since we didn’t have the time and the budget to set up lights for the entire arena, we shot so that the arena TV lights would fill in the background, and the used our lights to illuminate the subject. This way Tom is on the court, but still illuminated so that he pulls out of the background. 

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[Commercial Photo Project] Cooley Law School

Back in March of 2013, I had the privilege of being one of the photographers on Cooley Law School’s annual report. We haven’t spent much time sharing the technical side of things, so I’ll let this post go a bit further into what we used and why.

Our equipment we used for the all-day commercial photo shoot

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There’s a lot to work with. We had solid location scouting to work with, so we knew where we would be shooting, and what kind of gear we needed. This is particularly important since we needed to use a generator on one of the locations to run lights and the laptop (for tethering).

Our set up


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All of the pictures needed to fit into a narrative, environmental structure so meet the needs of the law school. The subjects are all people who were present for the founding of the school, and play key roles in it’s continuing operation.

For the above shot, we set up four lamps to light up the entire room including the stairwell. This was to flatter the subject, and also to build some context for where we were shooting.

Finished Product

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Our set up


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This was a really really big room, with lots of reflective surfaces, windows, and really poor ambient light. So we opted to overpower both the windows and the ambient lights, and as with the last photograph, light the entire room. Doing a whole room is more effort that just lighting a single person, but it gives greater flexibility for framing, and this can pay off well with the clients when it comes time to select proofs.

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Finished Product

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To see more of the images, check out Cooley’s annual report or quarterly magazine.

Online PDF of the magazine and photographs

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Cooley Law School’s annual report is now available online here.

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[Editorial] Sin Republic

One of the most interesting people I’ve met through Rapid Growth has been Sin Chun of Sin Republic. He just opened his salon to Grand Rapids - right in the heart of downtown. His studio is elegant in design. 

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Obviously, Sin is a colorful character, so we put him in the primary public space of his salon, and gave him a chance to simply be himself, and the picture does the rest. We actually wound up with a quite complicated lighting set up, given how big the room was, with mirrors everywhere. We used 8 lamps in all.

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Check out his story here on Rapid Growth Media.