“Behind the Scenes” Forbes Magazine Shoot with Michele Hadlow

photo “Behind the Scenes” Forbes Magazine Shoot with Michele Hadlow

Thanks to PhotoShelter for thier recent webinar interview with Forbes Magazine Senior Photo Editor Michele Hadlow. Her fantastic interview inspired this blog post. I highly recommend checking it out: Listen to the Interview

After listening to this most insightful interview with Michele Hadlow, I decided to share my own experience shooting for Forbes and working with Michele.

Although I have worked with Michele more recently I chose a photograph from my archive that I feel is the perfect shoot to deconstruct for the purpose of this blog post.

I was hired by Forbes to take a portrait of Robert Mitchell, an investor, in the business of yellowcake uranium, which is a controversial, serious topic.   I started my process with research about the Uranium oxide, or “yellow cake,” which is the uranium concentrate powder, which can be turned into nuclear reactor fuel.

I thought about how to take a portrait, which could lighten up this heavy issue and show my willingness to experiment.  When I heard the term “yellowcake,” what popped into my mind was one of those domed glass cake covers, the kind that are always on the counter at a classic diner.  And, then I realized I had my concept for the shoot!  I would photograph Robert Mitchell at a retro 50’s style diner, eating yellowcake.  Prop styling would be essential, so after I had found a diner to shoot in, I brought my own vintage ceramic plates, teacups, etc, which I had inherited from my grandmother.  They were perfect as the design on the cutlery was these little atomic-esqe patterns.  A detail like this would only be noticed by a discerning viewer, but to a seasoned reader, details like this really enhance the way the final image tells a story.  I tend to be resourceful and use props that I have access to, so as to keep my expenses as low as possible and defer to creative trouble-shooting rather than buying or renting props (if at all possible). It is simple a goal I set for myself to deliver to the magazine a creative, unique image with minimal costs and maximum creative results.
 “Behind the Scenes” Forbes Magazine Shoot with Michele Hadlow Breakdown of a shoot for Forbes magazine by photographer Sean Gilligan

So, through this example, you can see how I utilized what Michele outlines in her recent webinar, which includes:

+ Do your homework about the publication you are shooting for and your subject

+ Don’t just do typical work that you think they expect

+ Show your willingness to experiment & let your creative voice come through

+ Show variety

+ Take a chance

+ Deliver an image, which captures how fascinating the subject really is. Your research should reveal more subtleties about your person, it is then your responsibility to highlight those visually. The editorial photographer creates an image which is revealed in greater detail in the article. Beyond great lighting, a great photographer is able to tell a story in an image.

+ If you have genuine enthusiasm & interest in your subject, it will come through in your image.

Above is the photograph where I’ve deconstructed my process. It’s a wonderful thing to be hired by an experienced photo editor like Michele b/c of the trust that she has for her photographers. Because she really understands the value of good photography, we are given greater creative freedom to deliver something worth publishing.  Our challenge as photographers is how to draw out the essence of the storyline, this is just one example of one photographer’s creative process.

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  • http://www.seangilligan.com/ Sean

    Thanks, Mark. I was able to contact Mr. Mitchell a few days prior to the shoot. After running my ideas by him he was incredibly receptive and comfortable with my approach. I always have a back up incase of any opposition, a) had the diner failed I secured permission from a second diner a few blocks away b) I always try to get a green light on ideas like this prior to shooting (if possible) to avoid any problems and respect the comfort level of my subjects c) I shot a number of variations in the diner and out, cake and no cake, serious and light. ~ Sean

  • http://twitter.com/MarkKrajnak Mark Krajnak

    Love this post, Sean. Wondering though…what were your backup plans should a) the diner fail you or b) Mr. Mitchell thought the idea ridiculous and wouldn’t sit in a diner with yellow cake around? I joke, of course, but seriously, what else did you have in your back pocket, and did you shoot any other options for Forbes? ~ Mark