K.I.S.S. — Keep It Simple, Stupid

September 24, 2009 by David Bergman

For some shoots, you have to pull out the big guns: lots of lighting and a crew of assistants, stylists, and makeup artists. That was my intention for a CD cover shoot over the summer with talented jazz flutist Anne Drummond.

I worked with Anne last year on an ad campaign and was thrilled when she contacted me to produce the artwork for her debut album Like Water (iTunes link).

We decided that we would shoot at Manhattan’s boat basin area on the Hudson River at sunset. My plan was to have a big crew, photo permits, and lots of lighting equipment. Using top support people gives me extra sets of eyes and helps me to produce my best work.

A few days before the shoot, I went down to scout the area and get a feel for the existing light. It was beautiful and serene: exactly the feeling we wanted for the shoot. I didn’t want to ruin it by bringing in too much light and killing the ambiance.

I called Anne and said that I thought we should keep this shoot simple. By using only a minimal amount of lighting, we could stay mobile and simply walk around the area making pictures. We were all set.

Until the day of the shoot.

The clouds opened and it was pouring buckets of rain all day long.

I considered postponing, but Anne was up for the challenge and we decided to try and make some pictures anyway. I wound up bringing my assistants James Burger and Jenica Miller — mostly to help keep Anne (and my cameras) dry.

Anne was a trooper despite the nasty weather.

Anne Drummond
(Nikon D3, 24-70 lens, 640 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/4, one SB-800 strobe off camera left)

I spotted this leaf in a puddle and had to shoot it.

Anne Drummond
(Nikon D3, 70-200 lens, 640 ISO, 1/60 sec, f/4)

For most of the images, I used one small off-camera strobe with a warming gel so that I could make the sky go blue.

Anne Drummond
(Nikon D3, 24-70 lens, 800 ISO, 1/5000 sec, f/4, one SB-800 off camera left)

At the end of the evening, we were all soaking wet but proud that we had made some nice images.

However, Anne and I both wanted to come back the next night when the weather was supposed to be better.

And better it was. No rain and a beautiful sunset.

Anne and I simply walked around and stopped to shoot when I saw something I liked. No assistants this time. Just Anne, me, and one light.

Anne Drummond
(Nikon D700, 24-70 lens, 400 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/4, one SB-800 off camera left)

This photo was the one they wound up using on the cover (with some manipulation by the label’s art department for the design).

Anne Drummond CD cover

They also used the rain pics for her promo shots and even put my puddle shot in the album packaging and iTunes digital booklet.

Sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple.

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