I recently had lunch with David Martinez and his producer Emily. We talked a lot about trends we were both seeing in regards to estimating and production. The biggest thing we both recognized was the client’s interest in a ‘no production’ production. Yes, you read that correctly. More and more we are hearing that clients want their photo shoots to feel under produced and “real.” While we hear the word “real” a lot when it comes to talent (real people), we are hearing it more now about the environments, the lighting and the over all energy. In the thoughtful way that David approaches all of his shoots, he really considered what this means. We all know that so much of real is manufactured on set, so how could David achieve this request for his clients?
At lunch, David shared with us an experience he had with a long time client that allowed him to put aside all his regular photography tools for a ‘no production’ production.
“More and more clients these days are requesting images that are ‘not produced.’ They want things to look real; no perfect models, no perfect wardrobe and no heavy makeup. I even had a client recently say that they didn’t want, now this verbatim, “beautiful photography lighting”. They want images that feel real and lived in and often pull images from my website as reference for what they want. What they don’t know is that a lot of the images they pull are the product of a huge amount of production; careful location scouting, days of casting, numerous prop and wardrobe reviews, etc. The more production time you put into a project, the easier it is to relax on set and end up with authentic, spontaneous images. It’s all about getting a great crew, a location scout that understands where a real garage band would practice or a wardrobe stylist that knows how to incorporate parts of a model’s own wardrobe. These are the details that make the photos credible.
Photographically, I’ve always wanted to make images where the light feels real and natural, not overly ‘lit’. Clients will pull an image of mine for reference of ‘natural light’ and don’t know the backstory. What the picture might not tell you is that it was shot in pouring rain or that we had to use tons of lights and had three soaked camera assistants.
A great example of a ‘no production’ story happened recently when a long time travel client came to me and with a new project. This client had hired me in the past on some of the biggest productions we ever work on; lots of talent, a huge creative team, days and days of shooting, multi-country travel, etc.
This project was different. His request was to send an assistant and me to shoot whatever I thought would make a beautiful picture. We had a loose shot list and the goal was to shoot a library of images for their brand during a week long trip to Hawaii. They wanted it to feel completely unproduced; a style veering more towards photo-document than a commercial print image. No professional talent, no wardrobe stylist, no hair + makeup, no art director.
With all production stripped away, I had to spend a lot of time considering what my approach would be. I had to make beautiful images without a lot of tools that are usually in my photographic toolkit. What I was reminded was that when I trust my aesthetic instincts, I create really beautiful images. Instead of directing my surroundings, I had to keep my eyes open and watch. Instead of totally controlling the situation , I had to move fluidly through my environment. Without all of those elements to control, I was left looking and waiting for the magic of a great photograph.
The client ended up loving these images, saying they felt they were some of my best work that I had done for them.
Through the experience with this client, I discovered that either approach to the “no production” production works. I could either bring the circus of a huge production or go out on my own with just my camera. Either way, a lot of thought goes into the non produced and non lit image. It is a puzzle I continue to love to solve.”