It Takes a Village: The amazing crews behind amazing images


Photography is an interesting craft because it rests on the power of one image – one single frame to convey an entire story and human emotion. And one of the things that I think is widely unknown about professional photography is how much work, and how many people, it takes to get that one image.

Some of the biggest shoots we do, involve incredibly large crews and diverse teams that virtually disappear in the final product. I want to pay some attention to this invisible work, and give you some insight into how these images – highly produced, perfectly crafted – actually come to life.

I do a lot of work for Pharmaceutical companies that involve months of careful planning, powerful creative teams, and experienced crew all working together to bring a specific vision to life. It usually begins with a phone inquiry about availability from the agency Art Buyer, which leads to a phone interview between photographer and agency Creative Director with a few top candidates, and if you’re lucky, you get to submit a 20-30 page treatment detailing how you would approach the job.

And then, if you’re the chosen Creative – the real work begins!

For one particular shoot we did last year, we needed to build out three large sets, and the creative approach called for us to shoot it all directly from above (as in 35 feet above). We considered sound stages in NYC, Chicago  and LA, but ultimately decided on a fabulous state of the art soundstage in my own backyard – Park City. The most important first step for this shoot was finding an incredibly talented production designer. We decided to work with Jay Neander from Hero Solutions, who truly thrives on creating the impossible – on a deadline. Jay has been a lover of science-fiction and world-creation since he was a kid, and has that special mix of big imagination with hyper-focus on the details.

Next step is the foundation of capturing images: Lighting. Lighting huge sets like these (for photo and for video!) means you need an experienced crew that is focused on technical details and safety. When you are hanging lights that weigh hundreds of pounds from an articulating boom lift – think lifting up, over, and out – above the heads of talent, and moving them all in between shots, you need a crew who can keep everyone around them safe and focused on their own creative process. Fortunately in Utah we have some of my very favorite (and incredibly experienced) crews to work with, and we got to collaborate with them for this one (thank you Reed Smoot, John Raymer, Thomas Cooney, and Alan and Roger Stoddard!).

I could really keep going here – I haven’t even mentioned the amazing work put in by the producers, PA’s, digital support, photo assistants, video crew, agency and creative, wardrobe, hair and makeup, catering and the client – but I think the behind-the-scenes video above is worth a thousand words.

As you can see, it takes a village to produce one single image, and one of the most important things that I do before even taking out my camera is putting together a stellar crew. It may sound silly, but one of the biggest joys you can create for yourself is just to work with nice people. We end up spending long, sometimes stressful days together, and it turns out that life is just better when you work with people who are creative, kind and excited about what they do.