If you’ve managed to rebrand a colour, then you must be pretty famous.
Last Thursday I had to make a portrait of pop star Pink, who even I know is kind of a big deal. Perhaps not in my music world, but album sales of more than 45 million commands at least a bit of respect.
When you know your image is pencilled in near the front of the book (tomorrow’s newspaper) the pressure is always on to produce something deserving of that page.
When your image is of someone famous, you also know you’re only going to have five minutes, probably in a shitty location, with a largely disinterested subject.
In these situations it pays to turn up early, scout the location, try unsuccessfully to convince the public relations person to do something different and generally be as prepared as you can. But there’s always a curve ball.
I turned up for this shoot half an hour early and was shown a tiny hotel room where I was to produce the portrait. I pushed for somewhere else, but the suggestion was flatly refused.
I contemplated shooting into the light, but it was super bright outside and the glass was filthy, and with the tiny room it would have been impossible to stop my flashes reflecting in the window.
This left the bed. With the curtains closed, at least I could control the light, and hopefully build up enough rapport in the few minutes to convince her to lie down and look a little playful or seductive.
With about five minutes until Pink arrived, two guys I’ve never seen before entered the tiny space and start silently setting up their own lighting and video equipment. WTF!
Turns out their also from News Ltd and we have five minutes in total for stills AND video.
At this point I had to dig my heels in and insist in going first, trying my best to push all their equipment out of shot.
Pink entered the caustic atmosphere (on time, remarkably), took one look at the bed, and said; “I’m not lying on that.”
“Jesus, this is going well,” I thought.
Usually I try and at least make a bit of smalltalk with my subjects, even of they have sat for 1000 portraits, just out of basic human courtesy.
Demonstrating you’re not a total prick and have some level of composure can go a long way. It might mean a couple of extra minutes, and actually getting a decent image.
But not in this situation. With two video guys and two PR peeps breathing down my neck, I knew I only had a few minutes.
I said to Pink; “Well, will you sit on the bed? As you can see, there’s really not much else we can do in here.”
She agreed, and behind her I had a red gelled flash firing on to the wall to try and make the background look a bit less (or perhaps more) like a cheap hotel. I only had room for one umbrella flash to my left as the key light.
I took a few shots to test the lighting and the images looked – well – horrible. The light was OK, but Pink’s skin tones were anything but. She looked like a poster girl for anemia.
I was using my new Nikon D4, but this was my first encounter with the horrible skin tones it can produce in certain lighting set ups. I had used it on outdoor jobs, but a quick switch to the more familiar territory of the D3s was clearly required, wasting another precious 30 seconds.
I could feel the cavalry on my flanks already closing in, so I just resorted to saying; “OK, give me something fun,” while cringing at myself.
Respect to Pink – she actually gave me some decent expressions – spurred on by my noises of positive reinforcement. Four shots later I was just about to suggest another pose and the PR peeps moved in.
The video guys, spotting their opportunity, swung in to action and I knew it was over.
I thanked Pink for our brief encounter and quickly faded out of her existence. I knew I had something useable, but was already preparing for the inevitable ‘what about the other shots?’ question from the picture desk.
The image ran page three in the early edition of Friday’s Herald Sun, before it was replaced by something fresher (and less anemic) from her Thursday night Melbourne gig in later editions.
But, all things considered, that’s a decent result.