Shooting Jimmy Fallon: Interview With Lloyd Bishop
A month or so ago I was touring NBC’s studios at 30 Rock with a friend of mind who works on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and he introduced me to the show’s photographer, Lloyd Bishop. After meeting Lloyd I checked out his work online and discovered that this guy has an impressive portfolio! I knew I had to catch up with him for an interview to share his work and his story with all of you. Enjoy!
Briefly, Lloyd is a Scottish born photographer who hails from Glasgow and has made quite a name for himself in the entertainment business. As you look through his website and his tumblr site, Bishop’s Daily, it seems as though he has shot everyone that is doing it right now in show biz, and he has only just begun.
For those reading this who don’t know of you, what do you shoot on a daily basis?
Right now, I work as the Staff Photographer for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. I shoot all the images during the show’s taping as well as everything that happens backstage before the show and everything in between. Pretty much, I am creating an archive of the show and what goes into making it happen. It’s a pretty fantastic job, and I feel very grateful being able to work there.
It all started as a hobby. I was studying business & marketing at University and realized that was something I couldn’t imagine myself doing for any amount of time. I then switched courses and started a degree in photography while assisting and working with other photographers to gain as much experience outside that classroom as possible. The assisting definitely helped, paired with what I learned during my degree course.
How long have you been in the game?
As soon as I finished my degree, I started to shoot for various clients in the UK before moving to New York. So I guess that’d be just over 10 years. Wow, how time flies!
Who inspired you the most as you were starting out?
Most of my work revolves Portrait & Documentary imagery. I have always been inspired by the work of Richard Avedon, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier Bresson, Eugene Richards, Harry Benson, Robert Capa & Robert Frank to name a few but the list goes on and on. People like Norman Jean Roy, Annie Leibowitz & Dan Winters are also influences and inspiration to ways I approach my work as well.
Did you study any other visual arts in school? If so, what other medium(s)?
In high school I never had the opportunity to learn about photography, as it wasn’t an option. Before I switched over to my photo degree, I did a 1-year Art Foundation course in University which allowed me to experiment with various mediums such as illustration, painting, sculpture and graphic design, as well as photography. Art was always a subject I enjoyed greatly and it definitely paved the way for my interest in the creative fields. After the foundation course I then enrolled in a Documentary & Fine Art Degree. This allowed me to study many facets of photography and then diversify into the areas we were most interested, and in my case it was portraiture.
What are 5 tips you would give to someone that is just starting out in photography?
There are so many things I’d like to pass on … let me think.
1) Always find inspiration from photographers that have come before you.
2) Learn from people who you respect. Assisting is a great way to learn the dynamics of a photo shoot. It also allows you to learn different lighting techniques as well as how all the different types of equipment work.
3) Don’t try to be a photographer that does it all. There are too many people out there that feel they can do every type of photography. If you want to be seen as a specific type of shooter by a prospective client, concentrate on that and sell yourself as that. Rather than being a portrait/wedding/architectural/wildlife/fashion/etc. photographer. Pick what really excites & interests you and work on crafting that rather than just being ok at it.
4) Look for constructive criticism. Your mum/partner/friends will always say they like your work but that won’t help you progress as a photographer. Get criticism and advice from real industry people whether it be from photo agents, photo bookers, photo editors or even other photographers whose work you respect.
5) Practice! Practice! Practice!
Regarding your portrait and studio work, are there common subjects or motifs that you work with or do you always start with a blank slate?
I’m always drawn to certain angles, which, in the TV studio is just a matter of getting into the right spot when certain things are happening. Those things are all out of my control as I’m just capturing what’s happening. I just look to get in the best spot to capture the moment which best reflects what is going on at that moment. As far as my portraits go, there are many things to take into account. If I have control over the location, that can definitely affect how I will plan to shoot my subject. Sometimes I only have 5 minutes with someone so it may just be a case of making an interesting light setup if I’m restricted to time, or maybe getting them to do something quirky or silly … it’s all a matter of judging their mood and attitude towards being photographed.
During an average show day, I shoot around 1000-2000 images. It’s usually split into 3 sections; Rehearsal, Behind-The-Scenes, and Show images. Once the show finishes, I download all the images into Lightroom and start to edit the show into 3 sections; Guests, Games and Music. I pick selections for each category and once I’ve renamed the files for my selection, I send those images off to our press office who then clear them to be released to various photo agencies and media outlets for usage. Once that’s done, I back everything up, take a breath and go home till the next day.
Oh, there’s been a few. My 1st day photographing on tour with Paul McCartney, I was walking backwards as he walked in somewhere and I completely missed there was a chair in my path and I wiped out right in front of him. Not cool!
Another moment that comes to mind was when I was assisting a photographer while doing a shoot with Eli Manning. The shot was Eli throwing the ball. Someone had to be on the other end to catch it and the photographer thought that someone should be me. Eli threw it a few times easily and softly and I caught it, no problem. But I think he noticed that I was quite pleased with myself; after all I was catching a pass thrown by Eli Manning. On the last shot he put everything into the throw, I knew it before I even received it, as he was grinning. The ball smacked me in the face, and I dropped it as they all had a good laugh at my expense … Oh, the life of an assistant!
What is your all time favorite image that you have ever shot?
That’s a tough one. Some days I’ll like one and others I’ll like another.
One that is definitely up there would be the cover shot on my website where Paul McCartney is on his way to the stage on the back of his golf cart when he comes to sudden stop and nearly spills his tea.
His expression is great but I also love the huge security guard off to the side. He’s got his arm out and has a tattoo of a wee bunny rabbit. He’s kind of half heartedly trying to help while the cop next to him just stands there, arms folded and his guitarist, Rusty Anderson, is halfway out the cart already.
Always have a game plan for your shoot. Know what you want to do and don’t just show up and think an idea will come to you. That way, you’re truly setting yourself up for disaster. If you know what shots you want to get, then work with those and anything else you end up shooting as the day progresses will be a bonus. Inevitably, the shoot will flow, and depending on the relationship between you and the subject, you may start playing around and doing different stuff. If you have a game plan you know when it’s time to move onto the next shot, you know where to direct your assistants, stylists, etc. and what your’e going to shoot next. Always be prepared!
What things do you constantly do to build rapport with a new client or a celebrity that your’e shooting to loosen them up and get them comfortable?
Relationships are very important when it comes to this business. Whether it is with a client or a subject, you don’t want them to dislike you or feel uncomfortable. If a client is uncomfortable with you, they won’t want to work with you again and if your subject isn’t comfortable, you won’t get the best out of them.
I find with shooting subjects, especially celebrities, they have done this 1,000 times before. Before jumping straight into the shoot, take some time to talk to your subject, find out if they have any likes or dislikes with being photographed. Chat about what your ideas are and maybe show them some references to give them an idea of what you’re talking about. Find out if they have any ideas or input. You always want them to feel part of what is happening rather then just being told what to do. That and some good music playing can go a long way.
If you could shoot 1 person, past or present, who would it be and why?
Thats a tough one. Off the top of my head it would be either of these, but I would probably change my answer every 5 minutes if I could!
Queen Elizabeth II. A woman who has reigned for over 50 years and still has an air of intrigue in my opinion. I wouldn’t call myself a royalist, but I certainly admire her and the struggles she has been through leading the country and her empire as well as she has, despite the way her family has been scrutinized. Yet she still performs her duties (in the UK at least). I still love her and see her as a pillar of the nation. I also hear she’s got quite a sense of humor.
Salvador Dali. As a photographer, just to look at Dali evokes excitement, creativity and interest in my opinion. I have always loved his work and I imagine that someone with such an in-depth thought process would be a lot of fun to photograph. I feel like he’d be playful, whimsical and up for anything. Oh, to have a time machine…
I’d love to have the Bresson image ‘Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris’. It’s a moment caught perfectly in time and asks the question of whether he waited hours to capture this image? Did it just happen instantly? Or was he in the right place at the right time? Either way I could look at it for hours and think about what it was like to be a photographer in those times. Oh, how times have changed.
Anything else you want to say, plug, expose, confess?
All images used with permission and copyright Lloyd Bishop 2013.