I was called upon recently to produce a group shot of Xarelto taskforce from Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals as part of a corporate photography assignment. Xarelto is a newly approved once-daily oral anticoagulant dosing for the prevention of nonvalvular atrial fibrillation-related stroke (AF).
Since Malaysia is the very first country in Asia and third country in the world to approve this drug for this indication, the group shot of these key personnels in making this a success has to be very special. I couldn’t resist the temptation to produce something out-of-the-box when approached for this job. I could very well have delivered a normal-looking “corporate” group shot.
The first picture that came to mind was this.
Twilight-like atmosphere of a group of no-nonsense, mean and serious looking individuals, suspended in an air of mystique and perceived “power”. It certainly carried with it the intimidating ”don’t-mess-with-me” looks which was ideal.
The taskforce is made up of product manager, business development manager, market intelligence manager, drug regulatory affairs, national sales manager and a host of other key roles crucial to a successful launch and roll out of a new product. Everyone plays a supporting function to the overall goal of making this product a success.
Final count of individuals came up to 12, though on this first day of shoot, an additional popped up, throwing my numbers into the odd range, which may not be a bad thing. That would mean 6 on each side, with the leader, Bayer HealthCare’s General Manager for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei; Axel Bouchon to be at the middle.
I had to visualise everything in my head (within less than a week); from body slanting angles, poses, facial expressions, hand activity, subject perspective, crop points, mood and light direction. As you can clearly see from the above Twilight reference, arranging a group of 13 models is not as easy as illustrating for 6. I knew the final picture was going to look cramped.
Light direction was crucial to maintain a seamless realistic single source of directional lighting (key light at camera right top 45 degrees), and a directly opposing accent light (shoulder height level in opposing direction to key light). My on-axis fill was just my 7D’s built-in commander flash, which was used to trigger both my key and accent lights.
Suffice to say, it was a pretty tight deadline to meet with not necessarily the best of equipments. An overhanging beauty dish off to the side with a large light source as my on-axis fill would have been great. Nevertheless, it was a simple lighting setup that delivered the goods just right.
As seen above, the shoot took place in one of the meeting rooms, with a white projector screen as the backdrop. In the interest of time, space and logistical ease of preparation, a seamless backdrop wasn’t necessary as I would be taking either knee-up or waist-up shots. Plus, I was cropping the entire subject out to be super imposed subsequently. Most importantly, the head and upper chest areas had to be in a white backdrop for maximum contrast. This facilitates separation and cropping during post-processing works.
The chair in the setup shot above was where I sat to take pictures. Besides ensuring a steady hold on the camera while resting on my knee, this also ensured that the subjects were looking slightly down at the viewer. This yielded a “commanding” or authoritative eye contact. The subjects were told to maintain a serious, non-smiling look, that spoke of determination and confidence.
The raw unprocessed shots as seen above were rather cluttered but as long as I get the lighting right on the subjects, that would do. This goes to show that as long as your maximum contrast is maintained in the right areas and you’ve an idea of how the end product should look, you do not necessarily need a seamless backdrop, let alone a full fledged studio.
The first 2 models right up the front will have to be shot waist-up to maintain maximum resolution. The remaining 11 will be shot knee-up as they will appear to be “standing behind” the two main “characters”. This creates the illusion of a front-to-back perspective of individuals standing in line, forming a uniformed inverted “V” shape, as those behind will appear shorter in height and smaller in size.
While photographing a few subjects half way, I had to switch lighting setup to cater for a simple and generic group shot (as some were leaving for their appointments). The shot below was done with a slightly off-axis key light with shoot-thru umbrella to camera left.
I only managed to photograph 10 individuals today. There will be 3 more next week. More on that soon.