Monday, January 16, 2012

TAMRON® New eyes for industry


Hernan Rodriguez uses the Tamron SP 17-50mm VC lens for a photo session with comedian Eddie Griffin.

Article By Jennifer Gidman
Images by Hernan Rodriguez

It’s not every day you get to laugh your way through an entire photo shoot — but when performer Eddie Griffin is your subject, expect some comic relief in front of your lens. Griffin, best known for his starring role in the TV show Malcolm and Eddie and the movie Undercover Brother, recently debuted a new DVD comedy special, You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It, and needed fresh promotional images. Photographer Hernan Rodriguez was selected to carry out the photo shoot.
One of the lenses that Rodriguez used for his session with Griffin (in addition to the Tamron SP 90mm and the SP 70-200mm lenses) was the Tamron SP 17-50mm F/2.8 VC lens. The 17-50, which produces a picture angle range that approximates a 26-78mm lens on a APS-C size sensor DSLR, also features a fast maximum f/2.8 aperture that allows photographers to blur out the background and focus solely on the subject during portrait sessions. “This is a great lens that lets you get a closer context and a wider shot for environmental portraits,” says Rodriguez. “It allows you to do more storytelling.”

Prepping for a Star
To set up for a shoot like this, Rodriguez advises, you’ll be working mainly with the personality’s representation. “Your client for the job isn’t the talent per se, but rather the agent, manager, or publicist,” he explains. “They’re almost like the art director: They determine the approach and approve all of the details.”
Nothing was left to chance for this commission, from the carefully selected wardrobe Griffin would wear during the session to the studio setup and general shooting regimen. “The stylists pulled from high-end clothing companies such as Prada and Calvin Klein — it was our job to make sure he dressed to fit the look we were after,” Rodriguez says. “Plus, I storyboard all of my concepts way ahead of time. You only get a few opportunities like this to shoot celebrities — you don’t want to be winging it on the day of the shoot.”

Although most people might think that performers are naturals in front of a photographer’s lens — after all, they spend most of their workdays in front of TV or film cameras — when they’re out of character or without a script, it takes a little finessing to relax them for your shoot, just as it would with any other subject. “People are people, whether you’re shooting a model, an ordinary person, or a celebrity,” says Rodriguez. “The common denominator: Everyone’s a little apprehensive about that initial shot.”
This is where your preshoot research comes into play — and can determine how the rest of the shoot goes. “You have to break the ice,” says Rodriguez. “The personality is the key to the whole thing — if you can get the person comfortable, you’ll have a great shoot. You have to do your research, know what projects they’re involved with and what their future ventures are, and find common ground so you can have a conversation. If you’ve done your homework, they’ll trust you.”

Rodriguez also gained Griffin’s trust by opening up the set to people who made Griffin comfortable. “Eddie’s grandpa, who’s 100 years old, came to the shoot,” he explains. “He was Richard Pryor’s manager for ages, so he knows his comedy. He was a lot of fun as well. Some photographers might feel like it’s their set and they’re the director — they don’t want any outside ‘distractions.’ But I’m more laid-back: If Grandpa was there and Eddie felt at ease with him, I was going to use that to my advantage.”

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative
When you’re shooting celebrities, it’s imperative to make sure you’re showing them in the best light: The photos you take are representing their personal brand. “It’s your job as the photographer to make them look good,” says Rodriguez. “You want to deemphasize any unflattering features and shoot at angles that photograph their best side — and you can’t be learning what their best look is as you’re doing the shoot. This should be done when you’re doing your initial research: Go online, look at other photo shoots and TV shows they’ve been on, for example, and check out how they act and how they look. Study them and determine how you’re going to do your own shoot.”

With the varying lighting scenarios Rodriguez implemented to photograph Griffin in a few different “scenes,” he needed a lens that would help him control camera shake in lower-light situations. The 17-50’s Vibration Compensation (VC) technology, which allows photographers to shoot as many as four shutter speeds slower than usual while handholding the camera, enabled Rodriguez to capture the appropriate mood in a variety of settings — even those with ambient light and a fog machine.

“We mainly used three lighting setups,” explains Rodriguez. “The background we picked depended on the look we were going for.” For example, Rodriguez featured a laughing, relaxed Griffin in a vibrant red sweater against a gray seamless backdrop for straight-up, clean photography that Griffin could use for any type of commercial use, such as editorial work or head shots. For a more classic look that could be used on a CD or DVD cover, Griffin donned a royal-blue jacket to contrast with the set’s pale-yellow background.

It was the shoot’s “lounge” look, however, where Rodriguez was able to truly portray the lifestyle of a world-class comedian. “To get that upscale lounge feel, we used a purple couch against a number of backgrounds, including a velvet one,” explains Rodriguez. “I also used a collection of colored gels in combination with a fog machine to complete the effect.” (For complete lighting setups for Griffin’s different “scenes,” please see Rodriguez’s personal take on the shoot on the Tamron “Angle of
View” blog).

What ultimately helped turn this celebrity shoot into a success was Griffin’s naturally easygoing nature and ability to keep Rodriguez and his crew laughing. “Every celebrity, or person for that matter, is different — and your shoot is always dictated by the personality of the person you’re shooting,” says Rodriguez. “In Eddie’s case, I didn’t have to pose him at all, maybe just refine a head turn here or there. We simply carried on a conversation while I was shooting and had a blast.”
To see more of Hernan Rodriguez’s work, go to
For more about the SP 17-50mm F/2.8 VC and $50 rebate through 12/31/11, go to Tamron's rebate page.


Anonymous said...

Nice photos Hernan. Very well done

wilians wilim said...

Good pictures! I have gone through the whole blog and found that the Hernan photography studio is really best. La photo studios are also the choice of many to shoot different clear photographs.