Category Blog

Let your backgrounds tell the story

Portland, Maine Bartender
Andrew Volk, co-owner of Portland, Maine’s Hunt & Alpine Club © Brian Fitzgerald

 

When it comes to portraits: choosing the proper background environment is as important (and sometimes, more so) than the subject themselves.

Your backgrounds give clues, both subtle and overt, and add contextual information that gives portraits mood and depth. They help to tell a more complete story about your subject. In short, a well-executed background can do some heavy lifting when it comes to conveying information and emotion.

Think about your background environments as deeply as you do your primary subjects. Give that background your attention—with purposeful lighting, frame composition and styling—and let it do the hard work of storytelling for you.

Portland Chiropractic Neurology in motion

Last year, Fitzgerald Photo produced a series of videos for Portland Chiropractic Neurology, a Portland, Maine-based clinic providing uniquely comprehensive treatment that addresses underlying neurological causes for many debilitating and chronic ailments. The videos included instructional, how-to videos, patient testimonials and videos for social media campaigns that we rolled out throughout the year.  

I’m happy to share one video in particular that we’ve now released.    The goal was to provide a welcoming introduction to the clinic and staff for use on their website.   This is a great example of what video does so well:  transporting the viewer into a scene while vividly capturing the mood and feel of the clinic and giving a real sense of the patient experience.    

These kinds of video productions give an opportunity to tell stories that connect and inform in a way that augments and enhances the still imagery we continue to create.  See more of our Maine video productions here.   

Photographing the person, not the title

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

One of my favorite projects this past year has been covering the campaign of Maine Governor Janet Mills as she ran for re-election against challenger, former Gov. Paul LePage.   Maine’s first female governor (elected in 2018), Mills faced the Covid pandemic and the resulting, ongoing economic and health impacts.  

I was fortunate enough to accompany her on a visit to her hometown of Farmington, ME, to a child care center, a health clinic, and other locations around Maine.   In the process I met her family and  photographed Maine Senator Angus King, himself a former Maine governor.   

Being on set with the governor for several days over several months,  I was able to see Mills for extended periods of time—when the camera and lights were on but mostly when they weren’t—capturing the kinds of unguarded moments I tried hard to find as a photojournalist.   It was great to catch a glimpse of the person and not just the politician.    It was a good reminder of something I try to keep in mind no matter who I’m working with:  photograph the person, not the title.   

The results, I hope, tell a more complete story of Janet Mills, the person.  It was certainly fun to see the reactions of Mainers and visitors alike when they met her in our travels.   

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Governor Janet Mills
© Brian Fitzgerald

Telling stories in 2023

Portland, Maine
Eastern Promenade with Mt. Washington in the distance, Portland, Maine  @2022 Brian Fitzgerald

 

As 2022 melts into memory, those of us lucky enough to call Maine home are on the threshold of the coldest, snowiest part of the year. Winter is a time of reflection, of doing the work and preparing for spring and warmer weather to come.   As grateful as I am for the projects and client work that occurred over the past 12 months, I’m even more excited about what’s in store for 2023. 

It’s worth pausing and celebrating the past year.  2022, by the numbers:  40+ clients, 7 videos, 95 shoots on location (and about an equal number in-studio), and 137 shooting days.  It was a busy, busy year, and I’m grateful. 

Given the lag time between when much of my work is produced and when it can be actually shown, I’ll be sharing images from the past 12 months in the coming weeks and months.   One of the biggest evolutions in my work over the past years has been the integration of drone photography and video as well as full video production capabilities.   These tools are important because they enable me to tell stories with even greater impact.    Not every project or story calls for (or needs) video, but I’m excited to now have the option to use a wide variety of storytelling tools—audio, video and stills—that can best create powerful, moving brand stories.    

Over the following weeks and months, I’ll share images and stories that illustrate this point.   Given the nature of my work, there’s often a lag time between when my work is produced and when it can be shown.  I’m excited about doing so and look forward to helping my clients create portraits and stories with impact.  

Taking it to the next level with commercial drones

Commercial Drone View
Kennebec Valley Community College

Fitzgerald Photo is an FAA-certified commercial drone operator

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are almost 900,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, registered in the United States. For reference, in 2018—just four years ago—there were 110,000 drones registered domestically. Globally the total drone market is expected to grow from $8.15 billion to $47.38 billion by 2029, as reported by Fortune Business Insights.

Businesses small and large are taking increasing advantage of drones, for real estate, construction, inspection and other purposes.

Starting in 2021, Fitzgerald Photo added full aerial capability for both stills and video coverage. We’re FAA-licensedand fully insured for any commercial projects. The ability to have mobile, aerial cameras has been a game-changer for many of our clients, who can now get professional-level imagery of their locations and operations from a unique perspective. Having views that show scale and context easily also makes it easier to tell the stories we create with stills and motion.

Drones can operate year-round, though their use is affected by weather conditions. In New England spring and summer is a great time of year to create timeless, evergreen aerial imagery for your company or brand.

Contact us for more information about how commercial drones can benefit your brand.

 

© Brian Fitzgerald

Don’t Hire Me

Firefighter mowing
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

This is strange advice, especially coming from a photographer.

It may indeed make sense to hire a professional photographer for your brand.  It just might be that the timing is premature.

Signs that you might be pushing too hard to hire away your problems instead of thinking them through first:

  • False Urgency:  An arbitrary deadline is put in place to pressure you to make a decision before you’re ready to do so.  This may be dictated by the photographer or marketing agency, or other party.
  • Bandwagon Thinking:  Pressure to hire a photographer because it’s  ‘what everyone else is doing’.
  • Inner Voice:  A nagging, growing sense that you’ll have to blow your budget because the shoot wasn’t planned for.
  • Lack of Clarity:  You can’t describe succinctly (in a sentence or two) the types of images you need. Even if you don’t know what specific images you might need, you should have a specific use for the images in mind.
  • Unclear Goals: Are you trying to build brand awareness? Or to sell a service or product? The former has no measurable ROI, the latter does. Each requires a different visual approach and different strategies.

Marketing plans, including hiring a photographer can have a certain momentum that’s hard to stop once begun. Make sure you’re considering the downside as well as the upside associated with hiring a professional photographer. These obviously include the expense of doing so but crucially include the time it takes to plan and execute shoot(s) properly to ensure you get what you pay for.

Colby College: The Lunder Collection

 

Peter and Paula Lunder, © Brian Fitzgerald

 

It was my pleasure to meet and photograph two amazing Mainers, Peter and Paula Lunder, a few months ago.  The couple were sitting for video interviews for Colby College, and my task was to photograph them inside the wing of the Colby College Museum of Art that bears their name.  The couple are longtime supporters of Colby College and lifetime members of the board of trustees.  In 2007 they pledged their collection of more than 500 pieces of American art from the 19th through 21st centuries to create the Lunder Collection, where I would be photographing them. 

Meeting and photographing such an interesting couple was the fun part—but it was also necessarily brief.  We’d have less than 20 minutes—perhaps much less—to take several different portraits.  Given the nature of being around priceless art, we were limited in where we could set up and even how much power our lights could emit lest we damage light-sensitive artwork.    We arrived early, formulated a game plan and and set up several different options well ahead of time.   The Lunders were then delayed,  which cut a bit into our planned shooting time.  Thanks to my assistant, Colby student Joseph Bui, we were able to photograph the Lunders—three different setups—inside of the seven minutes remaining to us.

I love the challenge of creating storytelling environmental portraits on location.  Even more, I enjoy meeting people who have dedicated themselves to living lives filled with meaning the way the Lunders clearly have.  

 

 

 

The magic of creative constraints

portrait
Parivash Rohani, @Brian Fitzgerald

 

One of the best ways to engage one’s creativity is to first strip away options.   Constraint, not necessity, is the mother of creativity.   

For portrait photographers, the focus of the image is the subject.  Yet background elements and interesting locations help to tell a story and can result in a more compelling portrait.   They can also be a crutch.   One piece of advice I give to aspiring portrait photographers:  learn to shoot portraits with no background. 

The artist Platon is famous for his high-key white seamless black and white portraits.  They are so simple—just the subject, often shot with a very simple lighting setup—but each one tells a story and compels the viewer to linger over every portion of the frame.   

When you strip away all of the choices, you focus on the essential.  When you strip away the excess background elements,  the focus is solely on the subject.  

The photographer is forced to focus on connecting with the person being photographed and helping them to carry the weight of the image through expression and mood, captured in fleeting moments. 

New England Hyperbaric Oxygen

We recently completed video production for New England Hyperbaric Oxygen.  Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves the use of a special pressurized chamber to heal the body. It’s often used for wound healing, but also to treat traumatic brain injuries like concussion from sports or accidents.

We produced a series of videos showing the process at work as well as hearing from patients who continue to use the treatment to great success. In addition, we produced an instructional video for use with patients who use portrable chambers at home. Lastly, we created several short video stories for Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter so that New England Hyperbaric Oxygen could release those as part of their reveal campaign.

Although the long-form videos will be released later this year, I’m able to share an example of the short, 30-second social media video used for Instagram now.  

Creating a mood with cinematic portraits

Maine Game Warden
© Brian Fitzgerald

As a longtime commercial portrait photographer, I’m thrown into situations where a standard formal portrait isn’t called for.  What’s needed is a portrait that focuses on a subject and has a more “cinematic”—a treatment and approach that may feel more ‘movie-like’, using precise lighting and positioning.  The result is a dynamic, rich portrait with a contemporary feel that grabs attention.