As a portrait photographer, I am always trying to make people feel comfortable in front of my camera so I can capture a real emotion from them. But what if I was able to make people feel so uncomfortable in front of the camera that I could guarantee an interesting portrait every time? This is the idea behind my latest series: The Stun Gun Photoshoot. I've edited two different videos as well as a behind the scenes in the full post below.
Like many photographers, I have a ton of ideas floating around that I think would be great to explore. This idea for a photo series showing people the second they are hit with a taser or stun gun has been something I have wanted to photograph for almost a year now. Despite all the barriers it presented and the countless people who thought I was a sadist, crazy, or just outright irresponsible, I decided to finally stop talking about this idea and actually execute it. The results were pretty hilarious.
I explain the entire setup in the Behind the Scenes video below but I'll outline it here as well. For the camera, I decided to shoot with the new Nikon D810 DSLR. It has 36mp which allowed me to shoot a little less tight and still retain a high amount of resolution if I needed to crop. Having people jumping around in the frame can make it difficult to compose the perfect shot so I often shot a little wider to give me some flexibility. The lens used was the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 because it gives a nice compression to the portraits.
For the slow motion videos, we used two Sony FS700 cameras. These relatively inexpensive professional video cameras are all the buzz right now because they can film amazing High ISO 1080 video at 240 frames per second. It's pretty cool to see this footage in such detail at these super fast frame rates. For the lenses, I wanted the video to match the still shots so we used another Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens on one camera and the Canon 70-200 2.8 lens on the second camera.
The overall lighting setup was pretty simple. I used in total 3 Profoto D1 1000 Watt heads to craft the light on my subjects. The key light was fitted with a small 2.7 x 2.7 softbox with the front diffusion panel removed to increase the contrast. To help edge out my subjects from the background, I setup a larger 2' x 3' softbox behind and above my subjects. The final D1 Monoblock was placed behind my subject to the left of the camera to give an even stronger edge light from the side. In order to produce the fastest flash duration, I set my key light to full power (10) and set a correct exposure on my camera to compensate for the high amount of flash.
When I envisioned this event, I knew I wanted to keep my subjects separated from the crowd and also have a clean background to film them against. Instead of messing with paper or fabric backgounds, we setup two 7'x8' Lastolite Hilite backgrounds to form a little cove. These Hilites are really useful for location shooting because they are easy to break down and can be used as HUGE softboxes if you fire lights inside of them.
Each person was tazed by their friend or significant other which created an interesting dynamic in itself. The emotions on both sides of the taser were extremely entertaining to watch. The person getting tazed was almost always nervous and jittery with either a sense of fear or anxiety. The participants doing the tazing had a different demeanor altogether. Most of them were excited to cause pain to their friend and only showed remorse immediately after executing the shock. I wanted to record both of these reactions and you can see a second slow motion edit of both people's reactions in the video below:
Extended Version of The Taser Photoshoot:
What I found most interesting about the reactions people showed while getting tazed was you never knew how they would react. Some people screamed while others were quiet. A few people looked like they were experiencing pleasure while others had the most painful faces I've ever seen. I saw jumpers and fallers. People laughed and people cursed. I even had about four guys and girls who did not react at all and seemed to be completely unphased by the 300,000 volts of electricity.
Overall the entire photoshoot and event was a huge success. I was able to photograph roughly 100 people in a single night and instantly created a unique portfolio full of taser reactions. If you want to hear my thoughts on how I created this idea, built up the photography lighting, planned the slow motion shots, and hosted the entire event, check out the behind the scenes video below:
Behind the Scenes:
To view all the photos from this series, check out the full gallery at Patrick Hall's Stun Gun Photoshoot Gallery.