What type of photography do you do? Portraits? Still life? Macro? Aerial? Fine art? Fashion? Commercial? Advertising and editorial photographer Joseph Ford does many of these – sometimes simultaneously. His latest project of beautiful diptychs proves unequivocally that your creativity and innovation are what will set you apart and win you top tier commercial clients. Read his exclusive interview to find out how his latest project came about, and what you can learn and apply for you and your business.
Joseph Ford has an impressive client roster that most of us would kill for. I’ve set out what I think is at least one part of the answer to the question, “so how I get a client list like that?”.
Being technically competent is a client ‘satisfier'. People expect us to be able to produce technically sound images. Technical competency is not something that will delight your clients. Creating any image that is memorable, conveys the right message and does so in a compelling way is what I think is key.
Joseph’s aerial diptych project gives us a great insight into at least one core area that commercial clients and agencies look for. Namely, the ability for the photographer to create something so visually compelling or whimsical, that it literally makes us stop and look. In a world saturated with visual media, any photographer who can do this should be in strong demand for commercial work.
In his latest project, he has taken the abstract beauty you can find in aerial photography and mixed it with fashion product / still life photography to blend light, color, texture, shape and form so that you’re left with a set of beautiful diptych images where one world almost seamlessly integrates with another.
Joseph kindly took time to talk to us about his project:
Where did the inspiration for the series come from? How did you come up with the idea?
I spent a few days flying around in helicopters, mostly in Sicily, on a couple of advertising jobs. Whenever I had some spare time I was shooting extra images, and when I got back home, I thought through various ideas of how to combine them with fashion images. I then worked with a stylist and an art director (Mario Faundez & Stephanie Buisseret) to produce the series of diptychs. What I love about aerial photography is the ability to see patterns in a landscape that one doesn't see from the ground. Because of the distance, 3D details can become almost two-dimensional, abstract, and this was the inspiration for finding similar or contrasting details in clothing.
What gear (camera / lenses) did you use for the aerial shots/ still life?
Hasselblad medium format digital back with 35, 50, 80, 150mm Hasselblad lenses, and for a couple of the aerial shots, Canon 5DII with 24-70 2.8 + 70-200 2.8.
The large size of the Hasselblad files allowed me a good degree of flexibility in cropping for the final images, and the high quality was crucial in getting a good result. The Canon is great for higher shutter speeds, but with a skilled pilot, light winds, and the inertia of the weighty body and lens, the Hasselblad allowed me very sharp images despite the lower shutter speeds.
How did you plan out and then capture the series?
Several days hanging out of a helicopter, then several weeks comparing various items of fashion with the shortlist of aerial pictures. The still-life shooting was very time-consuming - getting the details of the two sides of the diptych to match up in a pleasing fashion required a huge number of adjustments.
How much post work was required and can you tell us a little about your post production process?
Very little post, mostly just altering colour balances and contrast levels to achieve a matching look. My post production process varies from project to project, depending on the amount of post work required. For a project like this, I do the work myself on a properly calibrated monitor, generally spending way too long on making tiny little colour adjustments that nobody else seems to notice.
What has been the reaction to the images?
Amazing. They've been featured in a variety of national and international newspapers and blogs, and I've had calls from a number of art galleries and other institutions.
What challenge(s) did you encounter with this project - and how did you overcome these?
All went pretty smoothly for once, apart from some high winds on one of the aerial days, and there's not a whole lot you can do about that!
Can you provide insight into your next project (s)?
I'm shooting a moving image project with some crocodiles next week, and preparing two fashion series for German magazines to shoot in the next few weeks, one still life and one portrait based. They should be up on my site in a month or two.
There are some great learning points here that I think we can all apply to our own work:
1.) Bring Something Different To The Table – It’s What We Are Paid For
It’s not enough to be just technically accomplished. There are thousands of others out there way more technically accomplished than I am - but that’s fine. Don’t let this over rule your vision, creativity and other strengths - this is what you bring to the table. Push yourself to see and think about your images a little differently wherever you can and try to create a sense of emotion or feeling with the images you enjoy making. Daydreaming from time to time is healthy – get out there and try new things. Clients (commercial or otherwise) will pay for anyone who is making their viewers stop and take notice.
2.) Make The Most of Your Time
Joseph came up with some great aerial shots that later inspired him to undertake this project while shooting for his clients. He didn’t just “get the shots the client wanted” or think they wanted, and pack up and leave. He didn’t rent the helicopter on a whim and go shoot for the fun of it, he was applying his vision while being paid to get the shots for his clients as part of his ‘day job’.
We aren’t all fortunate enough to be shooting out the side of helicopters but that’s not the point. Anytime we are shooting client work, whether it’s a huge commercial campaign or a small wedding, it gives us the opportunity to try something new while we are being paid to be there shooting. What an amazing opportunity! Of course, secure the client shots first, nail those 100%. But then try something new, something small. Treat every client shoot as an opportunity to try apply your own vision. You never know where the happy accidents might lead to something wonderful.
3.) Be Inspired By Non-Photographers
I would never have thought about creating a diptych or triptych of my own, but now I think it’s something I would like to experiment with. I’ve realized – probably only over the last few years - that so much of what we can apply through our photography can be channeled through inspiration found in art and design, and other fields outside of photography. There are so many great photographers, past and present, that inspire, sometimes I over look the other great artists in completely different fields who can inspire us in new ways. These days, I'm always trying to be open to gaining new inspiration from now just my favorite photographers, but also other artists, painters and designers.
Hope you have been inspired by these images, please feel free to comment and let us know what you think. If you’ve got any examples of work that you’ve seen that combines different visual elements in a beautiful or pleasing way like these, please post these too.
Image Credits [Joseph Ford]