BTS: Capital FM’s new Talk of the Town

I had a rare but valuable opportunity to work alongside Adam Seow, an established and successful commercial Malaysian photographer, as an assistant for one of his recent shoots in middle of June. He has a nice and spacious studio at Damansara Perdana, with all the bells and whistles in photography equipment that any photographers, amateurs to pro, could only ever dream of!

I do assist him from time to time when I do not have any shoots on my end. This time around, it was a shoot for Capital FM 88.9 radio station for women. They just recently brought Xandria Ooi on board to the morning show from the evening edition, to be paired with her “evil twin sister”, Joanne Kam.

Here are some behind-the-scenes look at the photo shoot.

Xandria Ooi making upJoanne Kam making up

The theme was, well, simply put, a contrast between heaven and earth, offering the listeners a balanced palate of sweet and sour, spicy and clear-tasting dishes.

Adam used a medium format Hasselblad H3D and broncolor packs for his strobes in this shoot that lasted from early morning till late evening. The Ad agency was on set to direct and lead the shoot while the client, to verify and okay the resulting pictures.

Xandria Ooi on setXandria Ooi on setXandria Ooi on setAdam Seow photographing Xandria OoiAdam Seow photographing Xandria OoiAdam Seow photographing Xandria Ooi

The lighting setup was simple and “safe”. Adam used a broncolor parabolic dish as the key light to camera right, offering a nice clean wrap around the subject, while a white reflector to camera left offered some fill.

Adam Seow photographing Xandria OoiAdam Seow reviewing picturesXandria Ooi on setAdam Seow directing Xandria OoiAdam Seow on setAd agency working on Capital FM Shoot

Individual shots of Joanne Kam and Xandria Ooi were taken before they were pitted against each other on set to get the mood going, though they would eventually be post-processed separately.

Adam Seow photographing Xandria Ooi and Joanne KamAdam Seow photographing Joanne KamAdam Seow photographing Joanne KamJoanne Kam on setJoanne Kam on setJoanne Kam on set

Next, was the “hair shot”. The models were made to lie down flat on a white paper background on the floor, while the camera hovered high above them. A hazy light from top of subject was used as the key light, while a series of well placed gridded and gobo’d strobes added some punch to the hair texture so it pops.

Their hair were artificially extended for volume. The final resulting pic was to show both Joanne and Xandria “alive” with their hair dancing above their heads.

Adam Seow photographing Xandria OoiAdam Seow photographing Xandria OoiAdam Seow photographing Xandria OoiJoanne Kam on setJoanne Kam on set

Finally some props (i.e. spices and candies) were shot and added in post and voila, here is the final end product.

Capital FM 88.9 Morning Radio Show: "Talk of the Town"

It has been an amazing and rewarding experience having being able to witness a full scale production commercial shoot from start to finish. Not only does it quenches one’s curiosity and technical know-how, working as an assistant affords one the opportunity of getting into the head of the photographer and learn the processes along the way. Processes taken to arrive at an objective.

Why did he choose such a setup? How do you cut the light coming in low from behind? What do you need to skillfully control the volume of light hitting a particular spot? Why is it done in such a manner and not otherwise? It was undoubtedly a constantly light bulb-bursting experience throughout the day.

Often times, I’m totally blown away by the little bits and pieces of tips and knowledge I garnered from Adam’s shoots. This is especially true in the manner with which he directs the models and attempting to put them at ease. The art of photographer-subject interaction, simply priceless!

The photo shoot was a perfectly orchestrated set of steps designed to accomplish the objectives of the project, calling upon inputs from various stakeholders; the ad agency, client, photographer, make up artists, wardrobe artists and other supporting crews.

Photography it seems, was just a small component in the entire equation. An enabler, albeit a crucial one that is. It really pays to be using top functioning equipment, knowing it will fire and pop just when you needed it, as you drown yourself in a series of actions to elicit the required expressions.

In the end, it all begins with a seed. A concept.

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