I recently took a picture – basically a selfie / welfie – of my wife, who is also a super competent make-up-artist, and me. We used Sony’s in some sense wonderful and in another sense horrible remote app to take the shot, so no third person was involved.
For some reason the picture got a bit of attention. I like that, of course, as I am the photographer and one of the models in there (hint: I am the not so pretty one). Quite a few photographers approached either me or my wife asking all kind of questions on the camera setting, the light modifiers being used, the types of flash, the lenses, and so on. Technical questions.
I answered them, of course, trying to be helpful. Explained settings. Felt a bit of unease in admitting some things I wish I could have done better (35mm for that shot, really? An umbrella and not a beauty dish?). But eventually it dawned on me that I gave incorrect answers. Not incorrect factually, but not hitting the point.
Yes, I like the shot. But not because there was anything stellar in terms of studio capabilities involved. I think we did a pretty decent job, but basically it is a standard clamshell set with a bit of strip light from the side. Bread and butter. Nothing outstanding. Actually, I have quite a few things I want to work on.
The reason why the shot works lies completely elsewhere. The models and the props look right. The woman is wearing in nice dress that works well for the topic and creates a nice visual anchor. We looked two weeks for such a dress and invested money for it. The guy (me!) has a reasonably well fitting dinner jacket – even though I am not satisfied with the arms. There is Champagne, and the glasses are the right ones, we bought that stuff a week before. The pocket square is the same color as the women’s dress and it took almost a day to find. The expressions of the models work. And, of course, the make-up is perfect, as it always is; it took two hours to do. My wife went to the hairdresser in the morning to get the right style done.
Ah, and there was a test shot two weeks before. A full day just for playing around and getting used to the topic.
All in all, the shot took us an estimated four man-days. And that is of course why it works. Because we invested a lot of time and effort. The technique has little or nothing to do with it. But nobody asks about that. We are obsessed with technology as if we could buy our way to a picture. But that is wrong. The picture we took would look exactly the same had we used a 2004 Canon 300D Camera. It would not change a thing.