Behind The Scenes with Ben Von Wong on a Photoshoot Where Nothing Went as Planned

Being an adept problem solver is a key skill found in most successful photographers, and with complex photo shoots, the likelihood of something not going according to plan gets pretty high. On a recent project, Ben Von Wong had everything lined up, only to have things change and be forced to cancel the shoot, or make something else happen in a very short time.

It can be difficult to have a vision, have a plan, but then be forced to re-align yourself after things don't work out. Being flexible and able to solve problems calmly as they come can be the difference between a successful shoot or a complete failure. Ben had to do just that on this photoshoot.

With a location and crew already lined up, one of Ben's first priorities when plans changed was to communicate with everyone involved and start working on a a new source for a costume.

...the first thing I did upon realizing that the entire shoot was in jeopardy was to notify everyone that nothing we had planned was going to happen but that I was going to try and make something work regardless. I immediately began sourcing alternatives – reaching out to fans, friends and Facebook to try and find something that could potentially match Posh’s headpieces, in Perth, obtainable within the next three days.

Ben was successful in getting a new set of costumes to work with, but was still faced with a complex scheduling setup, with crew coming in from all over the place at a very early hour.

With only days remaining before the shoot, we came up with a plan. In the morning we would make the three hour drive, pick up some last minute gear, and detour to grab a tent & swags from a friend. Kylie, makeup, landing from Brisbane, would pick up supermodel Jess Yeh who had the clothing shipped from Barcelona and intercept us at the Sambadrome HQ so that we could select together which Samba pieces we wanted.

...we would split back into two teams, with Jess & Kylie at the campsite testing out the various looks we had prepared, while Anna & I caught the last rays of sunlight to get a little pre-scouting in. Finally, we would regroup, join the assistants and have a meal to plan for our 3:30 AM wake-up call the following day.

To add another level of difficulty, Ben was using a camera that he had never worked with much before, the Sony a7R. It didn't hold him back for the most part, but the slight increase in shutter delay did make it hard to capture the perfect moment of sand moving across the image.

After my initial tests, I felt like the shots needed a little bit more magic and drama. A little movement in the ground, I believed, would help add movement to the rest of the shot so I got Anna and Meghan to toss sand directly at Jess. This is where things started getting a little bit complicated. The Sony A7r has a shutter lag of 0.163 when prefocused. And while it may sound fast, a d800E has a shutter lag of 0.043. Almost 4 times faster which is a world of difference when it comes to capturing action.

For more information on the challenges Ben Von Wong faced on this shoot, including the exposure information of the final images and more behind-the-scene photos, check out Ben's own writeup on his blog.

Mike Wilkinson's picture

Mike Wilkinson is an award-winning video director with his company Wilkinson Visual, currently based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Mike has been working in production for over 10 years as a shooter, editor, and producer. His passion lies in outdoor adventures, documentary filmmaking, photography, and locally-sourced food and beer.

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Am I the only one who thinks these look like cartoons? If they were hand drawn from scratch, that would be impressive, but to turn a photograph into a cartoon is offensive to the art.

art is what ever the creator wants it to be, to call it offensive is rather close minded.

So being offended by a swastika is close minded? No need to insult me as an individual, I was simply sharing my opinion on the work itself.

Yes, being offended by a swastika is being close minded because it is a symbol of positivity and considered to be a very sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Your close mindedness makes you think of Nazis when this symbol has been around for hundreds of years prior to them.

It's pretty obvious why all of the comments on here have one downvote... These photos are outstanding and nowhere near cartoonish. Welcome to wonderful world of photography and controlling light Connor.

Shooting with off camera flash means that everything "pops" depending on the situation and surrounding. I can show you a photo SOOC that would look very similar to this look without doing any editing. Based on my experience shooting this style I know Von Wong could show you the back of his LCD and it would have a similar character to the finished edited photos. How is that turning a photography into a cartoon when that is what the raw photo would show? It's a style of art based on the lighting among other factors.

I'd be fine with you saying it is your opinion to say what you are saying. But you make no mention of it as being your personal opinion on the subject but rather a blanketed statement that this style is indeed offensive to art.

Raw or edited, I don't like photographs that look like cartoons.

Anything anyone says in a public forum is assumed to be an opinion. It's surprising and disturbing you assumed otherwise.

"Am I the only one who thinks these look like cartoons?"


Its lucky for us you dont get to decide what photographs SHOULD look like eh? lol

What cartoons are you watching? These are amazing images. The art of photography and composition can never be offended...

I love these types of uncontrolled sets and seeing the results. Fantastic work.


Ben ought to try shooting in Death Valley, with a model driving in from LA (with her four kids) only to have her car break down in the middle of nowhere with a hissing radiator, all while I'm hundreds of miles away, scouting for a last-minute location since the one I'd scouted the day before was flooded, only to be left in the dark since neither I nor the model have cell reception, all while my rented Profoto gear is getting cooked in the 140 degree heat of my trunk and the wardrobe, having been overnighted from across the country never made it to our motel, and guess what... my D800 just hit the pavement along with my 24-70 out of all this tension (all a true story)...

... yet somehow have it all come together at the last minute before the sun sets behind the Telescope Peak through a volley of phone-tag voicemails, careful latitude/longitude coordination, and schlepping 30-pound battery packs across the desert just to light it right.

All of this with no crew (since no one is crazy enough to do this with me). Ben, give me a call when you're ready :-)


great effects i like that. thanks for this post.