Linda Holtsinger, 77, Preble Street Resource Center volunteer. ©Brian Fitzgerald
Fundamentally, making a difference starts with doing something that has an impact on someone else. This may entail something huge and world-changing (think of something like Matt Damon’s Water.Org), but more typically it’s a small kindness, a comment, a small gesture extended from one person to another. Small acts of this sort occur all around us, and they usually remain unseen and unknown except by those directly involved.
That’s why I loved being part of Down East Magazine’s annual “Maine Gives Back” feature published this November. I got to meet and photograph three remarkable Mainers whose efforts are changing the lives of others: 77-year-old soup kitchen volunteer Linda Holtsinger, who despite the pandemic never misses a day of volunteering; Rose Barboza, a mother who decided to create the nonprofit website Black Owned Maine as her contribution to racial and social justice; and Elizabeth McLellan, whose Portland-based nonprofit Partners for World Health distributes donations of needed medical supplies around the world.
Truly one of those assignments that energizes me and makes me feel better about humanity in general. Below are some of my images used in the issue, but read about many others in the November 2020 Down East Magazine feature, “Maine Gives Back”.
Elizabeth McLellan in a warehouse filled with medical supplies destined for countries in need around the world. © Brian Fitzgerald
Rose Barboza, founder of Black Owned Maine. © Brian Fitzgerald
Behind the Scenes is a quick snapshot of where I’ve been and what I’m doing on location. Enjoy!
Mostly we experience all three in succession—phases, rather than permanent states. That certainly seems to be true of my friend Trevor Maxwell, the founder of Man Up to Cancer, a support network to connect men dealing with the disease.
I’ve known Trevor since we both worked as journalists at the Portland Press Herald, now officially a Long Time Ago. At different points in time and independent of each other we both ended up leaving the paper, and our journalism careers, deciding to strike out on our own—me as a commercial photographer; Trevor as a communications and media consultant.
He discovered, like me, that with age comes inevitable physical changes and health challenges. Unlike me, he was faced with a true monster—a stage IV colon cancer diagnosis in 2018 at the age of 41.
As he related later, the diagnosis hit him hard, with depression so strong on top of the physical sickness that confined him to bed on most days. Eventually, he made a promise to his family that he would get the help he needed to regain his mental and physical health.
Two years later—and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, no less, Trevor launched Man Up To Cancer, along with a podcast that continues to grow and support men who, like Trevor, once felt isolated and alone in their struggle. The company’s howling wolf logo and tagline, “Open Heart, Warrior Spirit” speaks to Trevor’s approach, somewhat unique among cancer support groups that tend to be softer, more feminine and involve pink ribbons.
Clearly, Trevor has decisively moved into a phase of purposeful action, even as he continues treatment for his own cancer.
I photographed Trevor this summer near the grand oak tree that has stood on his family’s Cape Elizabeth property for decades (check out the moving, beautiful tribute created by Roger McCord). I’m inspired by seeing how far Trevor has come and how he’s made it his mission to help others using his own unique talents and voice.
In normal times that would be something special. In 2020, it seems downright heroic.
Beginning in 2019, I worked with the great people at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) to create location portraits for an ongoing recruitment campaign. These portraits were to feature the game wardens, biologists, educators, cartographers and others who together protect Maine’s wildlife, habitat and the people who enjoy them.
It’s hard to imagine it would be difficult to find people willing to sign up for a job where their office is the great outdoors, but being part of the MDIFW team also means sacrificing physical comfort—especially on winter days spent outside when the thermometer never breaks north of zero degrees. And as with any job in law enforcement, Maine game wardens must confront difficult and dangerous situations, often in remote places.
I spent some very cold days with a few of the MDIFW team members at several locations around central and southern Maine. It was a blast. My favorite kinds of portraits are those that rely on mood, connection and place to create a real moment and tell a story about a person and a place. I hope in some small way that these images successfully do just that. My hope is to capture a sense of each person’s personality while showing the variety of environments they work in—their ever-changing office—day in and day out, in every season of the year.
I’m happy to be able to show some of the work I did for NAI The Dunham Group and agency East Shore Studio & Print this past year. The goal was to feature the commercial spaces of actual Dunham clients for an ongoing ad campaign. Rather than photographing static rooms devoid of people, we tried to show how the spaces enable each business to do optimal work and thrive.
When the ostensible subject of a photo shoot is an inanimate object (like a building, a space or a product), or some generic concept —technology services or real estate, for example—the best way to provide emotional connection is to show how the object, space or concept actually impacts people. People just like you and me. Every good sales professional knows: focusing on features rather than benefits leads to more sales. If you can show how something benefits people—or changes their lives, for better or worse—you create a more powerful, resonant image in people’s minds that stays with them.
These are just simple images, but the concept and the goal are the same. The following are part of the ad campaign, showing people at work in some prominent and growing Maine companies. Two of those companies (clothing maker American Roots, of Westbrook and outdoor gear manufacturer Flowfold, of Gorham), have pivoted during the pandemic to produce PPE—protective gear-—for front-line workers and individuals. The other is Guideline, a 401(k) technology solutions provider.
It’s a great feeling knowing that the shoot you’ve been planning for is complete. But just as the real work of planning begins long before the actual shoot date, there is still much work to be done after shoot day is over and the gear is packed away.
It may be days until clients get to see their images, but our job is just beginning. We start by archiving our precious files per our 3-2-1 system and scanning releases and other paperwork. Most critically, our post-shoot ritual involves a reflection on the shoot itself: the shoot post-mortem.
The post-mortem is based on the After Action Report methodology used by the military and other organizations to retrospectively analyze our performance and improve it for the future benefit of our work and our clients. This is especially true when things don’t go according to plan (It’s important to note that this is a feature, not a bug; being flexible and able to pivot leads to often surprisingly great results). Discussing these unplanned events, as well as outright failures, leads to big leaps in understanding that help us when it comes to future projects.
We use checklists, write notes and have discussions about everything from subject interactions to shoot timing to gear performance. We’ll brainstorm how to improve in the future. These notes will be organized into actionable steps and to-do items that get added to our calendars and followed up on later.
Over the course of the next several days, we edit images using a multi-step culling process. First, we discard the obvious ‘bad’ images—out of focus frames, technical snafus, or closed eyes, for example. Subsequent editing rounds cull down even the largest shoots down to a manageable number that will in turn be toned and shared with clients so that they can make their final selections.
Once clients select their images, we process them for delivery and use. Our goal is not to make people look unrealistic and “Photoshopped”, but to apply toning and contrast, and clean up issues with skin, hair, or backgrounds. It may involve perspective correction and ‘merging’ multiple images together. More typically, it consists of mitigating skin blemishes, correcting skin tones and producing high-resolution image files that will reproduce well in print and online.
Because our clients are businesses, agencies and creatives who utilize digital files for their own uses, we deliver high-resolution digital images optimized for their intended use.
We use Photoshelter.com for our client proofing galleries and also to deliver final electronic files to clients. We may utilize WeTransfer or Dropbox as well, depending on client needs. Photoshelter is a great, visual, easy-to-use system that works great for our clients in most situations.
Once files are delivered and in use, the shoot is over—yet the work of continual improvement continues. When we arrive at a shoot location, we bring with us the knowledge acquired from hundreds of previous shoots. Our clients benefit—as do we—from each part of our system having been tested and vetted through real-world application and use.
Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our posts on the right questions to ask yourself before hiring a photographer , what to expect once you’ve hired a professional photographer or what to expect when shoot day arrives.
Shoot Day is finally here.
You’ve planned for success, arranged for staff, customers, or talent to be on hand. Your space is cleaned and you’ve gotten confirmation from all parties including the photographer. The day you’ve been planning for has finally arrived.
The adage, “failure to plan is planning to fail’ is an apt one when it comes to a shoot. Avoiding details and decisions until the day the photographer and crew show up means, at a minimum, leaving the success of your shoot to chance.
If you have a talented photographer working with you, you may get lucky. They will likely get interesting images that accurately show what is happening in your business.
What you won’t get—except by accident—is purposeful imagery that goes beyond the obvious and allows you to propel your brand visually. This kind of work only comes from planning and conscious decision making before shoot day.
An experienced pro photographer will not arrive without a plan (even if it’s a minimal, stripped-down one), formulated in communication with you beforehand.
It’s not the size or complexity of the plan that matters; it’s whether there is a plan at all, whether the right questions are asked and answered, and whether the plan is appropriate to the task at hand.
A portrait shoot requires different planning and approaches than an event shoot. But what unifies them is knowing beforehand what are the deliverables, the must-haves, and what would (in your mind) make the shoot a success. Assuming these are in place, your shoot day is on its firmest possible footing. The hardest work should already be done. Today is the culmination of the work done days or weeks before.
You can expect the photographer and crew to arrive at least an hour before the start of your shoot. If it’s a complicated production or involves video, this setup period could be several hours rather than just one.
The photographer will go over the basic shoot plan and will be in constant contact with you or a designated point of contact throughout the shoot. If you’ve planned to be involved in the direction of the shoot, or to view images as they are being created, there will be constant interaction as the shoot progresses. Otherwise, there may be short updates as the shoot progresses.
If changes occur over the course of the day—as invariably they do—the photographer will update you and if decisions need to be made, will be ready with recommendations and options.
What you should expect from your photographer, always, is great communication. If they are unclear about something, they will ask you rather than making assumptions that lead to reshoots later on.
Your photographer is also there to protect you. This means, among other things, managing the set and crew. This means not putting people or equipment in dangerous or damaging situations. This means having commercial insurance sufficient to protect you and their crew in the case of an accident. It also entails ensuring model and property releases get filled out by the necessary parties, protecting everyone in the process. On a less dramatic but no less important level, it means being a de facto member of your team; mindful of situations that are good for you and avoiding that which isn’t. On scene, we are your ambassador and act accordingly when dealing with your team members and/or customers.
At the end of the day, you can expect that the shoot location will look the same as it did prior to the photographer’s arrival hours earlier. I joke that our job is primarily to move stuff around and occasionally we pick up a camera. We want to leave behind a positive experience and not create extra and unnecessary work for anyone else. Your brand is our brand and on shoot day we’re all on the same team.
Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our posts on the right questions to ask yourself before hiring a photographer , what to expect once you’ve hired a professional photographer or what happens after your shoot day ends.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re already in mid-August and those of us in Maine know that means cooler days are not far away.
This summer of the pandemic has been strangely busy. Busy, primarily, because the work of a commercial photographer doesn’t just stop when things get slow; but also because I’ve been taking advantage of more time to start creative projects, edit my work and learn some new skills.
Taking control of my own creativity, and reassessing the direction and trajectory of my business and my creative efforts, has been an unexpected benefit of these past few months.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting some new images, along with updates on a brand-new portfolio of work that I’m pretty excited about sharing. In the meantime, as summer winds down I’m enjoying getting out and doing what I love—kayaking, hiking, and spending time with my family.
So here’s to using well the summer we have left to us, and being ready to create meaningful work when we all return.
If you’ve made the decision to hire a professional commercial photographer for your brand, company or organization, you’re likely wondering: what happens now? At Fitzgerald Photo, our goal is to showcase your brand and make your products, people and services shine. In order to do so, we follow a well-defined path that we know leads to great results.
As soon as the ink is dried on your contract and terms, planning starts in earnest on your project. From your perspective as the client, you can expect to receive regular and clear communication from your visuals team. If you’ve never worked with us before, you’ll get a welcome packet with information about our company, the services you’ll be using and our workflow. We use specific software and other tools to collaborate on projects and this is where you’ll find out how that all works. You’ll also discover the answers to many of the logistical questions you might have; everything from the size and type of image files you’ll receive to our post-production process and the protection and long-term storage of your image assets.
Planning for success includes meetings to discuss expectations, goals and logistics (whether in-person or, these days, online or over the phone). We’ve found that the more work and care put in at this stage, the smoother (and better) things are when it counts—on shoot day. These meetings don’t have to be a huge time commitment; we have no love for unneeded meetings and can guess you don’t either. Depending on the project, this may simply be a series of detailed emails outlining and getting consensus on the shoot day plan. At no point should you be wondering why you haven’t heard a word from your photographer a few days before a big shoot.
Site visits are an important part of the planning process. There’s nothing like seeing the spaces we’ll be shooting in to prepare us for the possible hitches we may encounter or the opportunities we can take advantage of. In cases where an in-person visit isn’t possible, we may request phone snapshots of the site(s), which in combination with Google street view images help form as complete a picture of the location as possible.
We believe in clear and appropriate communication. This means that you’ll know when and if anything changes that might affect you, from the weather on shoot day to unanticipated changes that affect delivery schedules (unlikely, but it can happen). You’ll get confirmation every step of the way, including the shoot day schedule, the specific team members you’ll be dealing with, as well as arrival, setup, breakdown and departure times. While we can’t keep surprises from occurring, we can minimize the amount that occur just through regular communication.
Shoot day often involves last-minute, unexpected and unanticipated events. These can be as minor as a model getting delayed in traffic by five minutes or as dramatic as a power failure that shuts down the site an hour before shoot time. Most are somewhere in between. You’ll be prepared because we will have outlined what to expect should many of these minor or major events occur, ahead of time. You can trust that we have the experience to roll with whatever changes come; in fact, we welcome changes and believe that flexibility leads to more creativity and better results. The last thing we want to do is be so rigid in our planning that we stick to the schedule no matter what, instead of taking advantage of a better visual opportunity—or a serendipitous need—that arises on the fly.
Having a solid plan, but being flexible to changing the plan as needed, enables shoots to proceed and be successful no matter the circumstances. Unplanned changes often mask new visual opportunities that may end up showcasing your brand in ways we hadn’t imagined, but end up being far more interesting, genuine and authentic.
Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our post on the questions to ask yourself before hiring a photographer, what to expect on shoot day, or what happens after the shoot is complete.
Sharing a video my assistant Charlie Widdis eBand I did B.C. (Before the Pandemic) here in the studio. I had some new gear and it seemed like a more creative and fun way to test it out. Enjoy!