How’d You Get That Shot with Michel Leroy

 A Spotlight Series About The Technique Of Photographic Imagery by Photographers For Photography!

 


NAME:

Michel Leroy
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WHAT IS YOUR SPECIALTY:
Portraits and large group ensembles

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS:
I got started in photography for my high school newspaper and yearbook.  Then I got into the business of photography in college working for the Dayton Daily News.  Finally, I got into a career in photography after I arrived in New York assisting Gregory Heisler and a select group of very talented commercial photographers.

FAVORITE TOOLS FOR YOUR TRADE:
Leatherman Skeletool (My absolute go to device)
Princeton Tec headlamp (Next to a Sharpie it’s the single most used item I own)
Bosch laser measure (My favorite gadget)

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE “ON THE GO” CAMERA TO SHOOT WITH AND WHY:
Canon G10 – because it’s always in my bag.  The best camera is the one you have with you at all times.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE PHOTOGRAPHIC REVALATION GOING ON OUT THERE WHERE EVERYONE HAS A CAMERA?
There is a huge difference between everybody having a camera (iPhone) and being a professional photographer.  The idea of crowd sourcing good photography is a zero-sum gain, editing through all the not-so-great images is endless.  If you have hundreds of thousands of people with cameras there are going to be some good shots created for sure; it’s just statistics.

However, if a client wants a great image for their campaign what they really want is a guarantee that a fantastic image will be created on schedule and on budget.  Clients expect a return on their investment.  Only a professional photographer has the experience, skill and talent to “create” those kinds of images.  A professional also has a personal style and brings their own visual instincts to a project adding extra value to the final result that is greater than the some of its parts.

WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHY INDUSTRY AS WE APPROACH 2013:
I see a distinct return to the principal concept of photography; content.  The market has really shifted toward images that are creative and successful regardless of how they were created.

In the recent past a big part of professional photography was the closely guarded secret of craft.  The exact type of film, camera and f-Stop actually mattered if you wanted repeatable results.  Then everybody, myself included, went crazy over sub-menus, megapixels and RAW processors – for what?

Very few changes in the past one hundred and fifty years of the photographic process compare with the current technology revolution. The rate of change in our field has accelerated beyond anything previously experienced and remains on a fixed trajectory.  However, for the first time in years I see photographers comfortable enough with the tools of the digital age to create great images, regardless of how.  The legacy of photography is not tools but images.

I’m really excited about the future of our field in the near and long term.  Photographers are creating incredible images with point-n-shoots and $45,000 digital backs with equivalent emotional impact.  The photography industry has leveled the playing field in such a way that every photographer has the tools to express their own style – limited only by personal creativity.  With so much of the craft of photography supplanted by technology the moment has arrived for content to reign above all else.  Content is the future of photography.

TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THE IMAGE YOU ARE CHOSING:

The creative team at Body and Pole reached out to me to photograph the rapidly growing roster of instructors for their 2012/2013 season.  The co-founders, Lian and Kyra, wanted an image that highlighted the incredible physical prowess of the instructors while remaining approachable.  They are top performers in the field and yet remain dedicated to a welcoming and nurturing atmosphere.  The large group image would find it’s way into print, marketing and web placements but also stand as a keystone 4×6 foot fine art gallery print mounted in the lounge of their new 5000 sq. ft. midtown mega studio.

After preproduction meetings with the creative team we created a mood board that ranged from highly staged sets to subtle arrangements with beautiful, directional studio lighting.  For most groups, props help the talent relax and become part of their environment.  However, in this case the strength of character and physical presence of the instructors is so dominant that we shifted from props to personality.  Each of the instructors looks like a statue – it was like doing a shoot in the Roman sculpture hall at the Met.

This section is where you take over. Format is free here for you to describe your image. Some ideas you can mention are:

Over my years in New York I have had the great fortune to work on some enormous productions involving tens or even hundreds of people for a single shot.  It’s intimidating the first few times and then the numbers become transparent and the project is all that matters; three or thirty it’s all the same.  The client expects the best – the stakes are high either way.

This is a good time to mention that this was shot in-camera, not a composite.  What fun would it be to shoot 17 people separately and composite them into a background?  Coordinating a group this size is no small task but the rewards far outpace the challenges.  Dancers thrive on the pressure of performing and feed off the energy that builds as the group takes the stage.  Directing a large group means there are interweaving moments when everything connects and those precious seconds are when the magic happens.

There is a wonderful quote by Yousuf Karsh that best describes this singular moment: The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world.

The technical aspects of creating a group shot of this scale are the kind of problems that I relish.  When you understand the principals of studio lighting you can scale them to fit any group. However, when you are scaling the light to cover a 30’ stage with flawless, even lighting from left to the right your lights needs to be very large and very powerful.  For this I rely on a really talented and trusted lighting director who I have collaborated with for years to make sure that the crew has enough lights, grip and power to make it work.

For this shot I scouted the Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo a week in advance for a better idea of what we were getting into. The setup took a full 6 hours while the shoot itself was over in just thirty minutes.  We were wrapped and out the door before we hit O/T at 8 hours.

FREE SHOUT OUT:
The success of this group shot is the cumulative effort of everybody involved.  Special thanks to all the stylists and makeup artists who worked tirelessly to highlight the very best of the entire Body & Pole team.

Body & Pole Dance Studio – Client
Michel Leroy – Photographer
Lian Tal – Art Director
Kyra Johannesen – Choreographer
Kyle McBeth – Photo Shoot Producer
Jonathan Orenstein – Lighting Director
Brian Bloom – First Assistant
Keziban Berry – Second Assistant
Linn Edwards of Feather Creative – Retouching

(L-R): Tiffany, Rica, Marlo, Issac, Kelly, Kat, Kyra, Steven, Michelle, Tracee, Meritza, Brooklyn, Roland, Olga, Rebecca, Lian and Lauren.

 

To check out ALL of Michel’s work 
please go to his website! If you are
a professional photographer or know
of one that should be in this series
please email us today at: hello@iheartmrktg.com