From the desk of Sady Callaghan: Tips for Producing in the Wild, Wild West

I have worked with Sady Callaghan for years on a variety of productions and she has never let down any of our photographers or our clients.  She is unflappable, professional and a fun person to have on set.   I love that when someone throws us a curve ball, Sady is always the voice of reason and has the perfect solution.

So it was no wonder when Mother Nature sent a dust storm her way she steered the production in a way that got the shot AND came in under budget.  Only Sady.

When I asked her to share her story, here is what she had to say about it.

“When Andy Anderson called me to produce The Richard Group’s new campaign for RAM trucks, I was thrilled.  The idea of shooting in the Wild West was really exciting to me; especially because of the locations.

Of course, there was a quick turn around – isn’t everything nowadays?   We needed to find 6 very complicated locations in very remote areas.  So, knowing that the back bone of a good photo shoot is good scouting,  we hired the best.  We called Joe Wolek and Steven Currie, shared the vision with them and told them to “just find it.”  To do so, they drove thousands of miles through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  They of course found amazing locations.

Well, as we all know, an amazing location doesn’t guarantee great weather.  The closer we got to shooting the more worried we became about the elements.  Parts of Colorado were still covered in snow and a lot of other areas were still in spring mode: no trees and no greenery.  Challenging but doable.

What we were not prepared for was the DUST. I have called a few weather days in my time for the usual suspects; storms, rain, fog and snow, but that was the first time that we had to call a weather day for 80 mph winds.

The first day of our shoot there were 60 mph hour winds.   Andy wanted to power through and  simply said,  “We can do it.”  We bought shovels, protective coverings for the equipment and outfitted everyone in goggles and hankerchiefs to cover their faces.  The crew braved the elements and after digging a couple of people out of the sand and waiting patiently for breaks in the storm. We got our shot.  It was great day for a shower.

We were not as lucky on the second day.  The wind was so ferocious and the sand so painful that we could barely leave the hotel.  It was just too dangerous to shoot so we called a weather day.

Even though it was a no brainer to postpone the day, we were sensitive to the fact that weather days are expensive and the client was worried.  So, Andy and I devised a new plan.  We rearranged the entire schedule; including talent and locations, so that we could still finish on time.   It was no small feat, but it was worth it.  In doing so we were able to get all the shots AND still come in under budget. 

Needless to say, everyone was happy and went home with some great stories from the desert.

So, if you are considering shooting in the Wild West anytime soon, consider these inside tips.

1. Stalk your location owners.  Be creative and resourceful.  Many people do not expect a scout to call them and will have no idea what you are talking about.  In one instance, we hired someone to stake out a house night and day to get permission to shoot.  In another, I called seven different levels of management to get approvals for a fertilizer plant. They were puzzled as to why we wanted to shoot there!

2. Call the Navajo Film Commission every three hours.  There is no sense of urgency in the desert.

3. Bring lots of cash.  You don’t know who you are going to have to pay.  Our scout warned us that different Navajo families owned different parts of the land.  I had a couple of families in the motor home every day – and they would only take cash!

4. Hire a great stylist.  Sourcing things in the wild west is very difficult.  We brought along Colleen Hartman and she managed to pull 2000 lbs of railroad ties, antique barrels, sheet rock and large machinery out of her magic bag of tricks.

5. Hire a great local guide.  The Navajo Nation requires productions to have a guide with them at all times.   Sisco was our street scout and our secret weapon.  He told us where to buy beer in a dry state and he dug our assistant out of sand storm.  His brother was our caterer.  We kept it all in the family.

6.  Be prepared for anything.  There are lots of surprises out there.  That’s what make our job so much fun.

7.  Appreciate your crew and your client.  We had a fantastic team on this shoot – and could not have pulled this off it we didn’t all work together as a team.  Everyone from the PA to the client were crucial to making it all happen smoothly.

To learn more about Sady’s production magic, visit her website.

Jim Smithson shares how he shot 6 ads and 4 countries in just 10 hours.

Recently Jim Smithson had the pleasure of working with RR Partners shooting for their client Norwegian Cruise Lines. He and his team produced 6 ads of NCL’s associates in New York, Alaska, Bermuda, Hawaii, Italy and the Caribbean.

The catch is that he shot them all at Smashbox LA in a 10 hour span.

“Naturally, my preference would be to shoot them on location so this gig was going to be a real challenge.  We had 6 stock images that our real people talent had to be inserted into, with each location requiring a total re-light. In addition, issues of perspective and focal lengths had to be visually matched. Throw in a full compliment of agency and client in the studio and 10 hours to get it all done.  His first though was, ‘What the hell was I thinking!’

In order to maintain the tight schedule, production had to be seamless and efficient. Sr. AD Hosea Gruber was instrumental in communicating the expectations of the campaign, which meant I had a clear understanding of each locations relationship to the travel agent and vice versa.”

Hosea had this to say about working with Jim, “From an art director’s perspective, working with Jim was just about as good as it gets. We had a challenging shoot, followed by some challenging compositing to get the campaign that we needed. Not only did Jim deal with all the pre-shoot changes, the during-shoot pressure, the post-shoot curve balls, and still deliver the beautiful art we needed — he also made our clients feel listened to and taken care of throughout the entire process. He was a true collaborator and that’s what I look for.”

Jim’s experience with post/retouching also played a key role, ensuring all the visual cues were in sync while he shot and retouched on the fly. “It was pretty smooth. It generally took a few takes to get lighting and perspective matched. Being able to drop them into the backgrounds and quickly treat them was very helpful to me and reassuring to the agency and client.”

Looking for some eye candy today? Ann Elliott Cutting delivers in blue and red.

© Ann Elliott Cutting -

Ann Elliott Cutting has a knack for everything conceptual so when I asked her to send me something  visual for the blog I wasn’t surprised when she sent me these images.  None of them were shot together nor were they for the same project.  This is just Ann pairing images that go well together.  That common thread that runs through all of her imagery sure does runs deep with her.

Just Bragging. Archive Magazine gives a shout out to Andy Anderson!

It is always nice to be recognized for your hard work.  Thank you Archive Magazine for featuring the 2nd set of ads Andy Anderson photographed for Ram Trucks and The Richards Group.  I am sure Jimmy Bonner, Kellyn McGarity and Peg Diaz are proud too!

Perspectives: Eric Harris from Tracy Locke shares his experience with Leigh Beisch



Who would have thought that a simple request to a recent client to share his observations about a shoot would lead to such a lovely reply.  It is not everyday that a client is able to take the time to reflect on their experience with the studio and then share it with the group.  Well, Group Creative Director Eric Harris of Tracy Locke did just that.   And for that, we are grateful.

Here is what he felt compelled to share:

Leigh Beisch is a rare breed of photographer. One who truly drives the creative process; one who goes beyond merely capturing the result of it. For many reasons, it was clear to me from the beginning that Leigh’s vision would define not only our time in her studio, but also the outcome of our entire project.

First of all, what a rare occurrence in this industry to stumble across a photographer/stylist relationship like Leigh and Dan Becker. They compliment each other so well, and they speak very highly of each other (even when they think the other isn’t listening!). As the line blurs from styling to shooting, one of them is there to complete the other’s sentence… Visually. I can’t count how many times Leigh – looking at the monitor – would ask Dan to move a shred of parmesan, or add a small puddle of sauce to the dish. Only Dan had already done just that. And the difference in the shot was night and day. It’s an art director’s dream.

Speaking of art director, it’s clear that Leigh’s wheelhouse sits on an AD’s foundation. She injects and demands the highest quality design into every single shot. She deliberately and carefully affects every element of every photograph, and she does it seamlessly and gracefully. I found it particularly interesting that Leigh did not have a prop stylist on set with us. Leigh is so capable and confident in her tabletop styling that she understands the physical presence of a stylist isn’t necessary. When sifting through the props on set, I knew they were meticulously combed over by Leigh with her unwavering eye for what would support the brief. Props that added life. Props that added soul. Props that told a story.

Just like in her work, at Leigh’s studio it’s the details that make the difference. The little things: The quarry of cordial glasses resting on the hearth. The herb garden just outside the kitchen. Bella, the bloated little pug that sits around all day licking her chops. A sushi lunch on the picnic table in the backyard. These are not typically things we see in studios. These are all the makings of a home. And that’s how I felt when I shot with Leigh.

At home. It was the icing on the cake of beautifully strategic (or strategically beautiful – depending on your stance) work. “

In her own words, Leigh Beisch talks about the importance of paying attention to the details.


Leigh Beisch Ghiradelli Waffle Bowl

Leigh Beisch Ghiradelli Waffle Bowl

Leigh Beisch recently shot a project for Ghirardelli chocolates and was struck once again by how important the little details are to the success of a shoot.  Here were some of her thoughts.

“For a still shoot, it’s all about the details, even the smallest details.  Whether it be the garnish on the plate, a detail on a utensil or even a color choice for the table top, all the details contribute to the end result.  Especially the littlest of details.

I have always said that choosing the right props is crucial.  Not only do they help create the look, but they also support the brand too.  The right props works flawlessly with the product and partner with the rest of the elements to create the perfect image.  A recent example of this is a shoot we did for Ghirardelli.Ghirardelli is a retail brand known for it’s old fashioned ice cream parlor experience.  The look of its stores, packaging and advertising as well as the delectable rich taste of it’s treats, drinks and ice cream offerings supports this experience.  When you walk into a Ghiradelli location there is no mistaking where you are.

Their challenge to me was to update their old fashioned brand and make it feel current.

The easiest detail to address on the shoot was the lighting.  I knew that a brighter lighting would achieve a contemporary feel.  However, the propping was a bit more of a challenge.  The old fashioned look of the brand lent itself to old fashioned props so I needed to come up with a way to hint at that experience without distracting from the food product they were trying to sell.

My solution was simple.  I partnered with the stylist and looked for props with simple details that would not distract from the product.  We opted for a beautiful napkin with striking details and empty glasses in the background.  As we had hoped, the propping details hinted at the old fashioned experience without distracting from the main subject and made for a beautiful shot.”

To see more examples of how Leigh Beisch makes the littlest details shine, please do email us to see her portfolio.  Or, of course, link to Leigh’s site.