Posts tagged on assignment

Client Work: Pine Tree Legal Assistance

It’s easy to get lost in the technical aspects of photography—the correct exposure, the right light modifier for the exact situation—and produce a technically perfect image that lacks heart. 

That’s why I enjoy working with clients like the Pine Tree Legal Association.  They are a statewide non-profit providing legal services to Mainers with  need but no ability to pay.   It’s a wonderful mission and they do great, important work.  

Recently, PTLA asked me to take portraits of their clients both at their Portland office and at various other locations of significance to the clients or their legal cases.  

Selfishly, I love the opportunity to photograph PTLA’s clients—many of them families, all of whom have stories to tell—in a candid, simple, editorial way.   Here, the moment is the most important thing, as is revealing the stories written on the faces of their clients.   

Pine Tree Legal Association

Showcase: Baker, Newman & Noyes

I’ve worked with the fine folks at BNN, a full-service accounting firm based in Portland, ME, for a few years now.  In honor of their 20th anniversary, they just relaunched their refreshed website look this week with a new logo and a few of the environmental portraits we’ve done featuring their principals within their beautiful downtown Portland office space.    They wanted to emphasize the personal, human component of their services, and I think the new web design and images work well to do that.





Inspire ME with John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas, a very cold EntrepreneurOnFire.  Photo by Brian Fitzgerald
John Lee Dumas, a very cold EntrepreneurOnFire. Photo by Brian Fitzgerald

Way back in 2011 I launched Inspire Portland, a project showcasing (through portraits and interviews) inspiring and interesting people who choose to call Portland, ME home.    I planned it to last a year and so I closed it down in 2012–temporarily glad to move on to other things but sad to see it go.    When you get down to it, Inspire was a killer way to meet and spend time with all sorts of interesting people that I found fascinating.    The photos and the website?   Like icing on the cake.

Fast forward to 2014, just a short year ago now.   I had been getting occasional emails from people suggesting those they felt would make a good profile.  In my travels around Maine I realized that there were many more interesting people all over the state that I’d like to meet.   Inspire Maine was born.

This week I relaunched the project, albeit with a slightly different name.   My first victim is John Lee Dumas, who runs the crazy-popular EntrepreneurOnFire podcast and who, according to his website, generated income in November of $307,504.50.   Dollars.   I hate to be a numbers guy, but that’s pretty astounding.  Even more incredible is that he has more than 800 podcast episodes to date, broadcasting seven days a week.   Not bad for a commercial broker from Portland.

I’ll be posting other episodes on Inspire on a semi-regular schedule from here on out–most with a behind-the-scenes story to go with them here on this blog.    As fun as these shoots are to do, there’s always a bunch of stuff that happens during the shoot (much of it unanticipated) that you don’t see.      Take John’s shoot, last January.    We’d intended to take his photo months later but John ended up coming to Maine for a short trip during the coldest time of year.    Our initial idea was to photograph John in a typical Maine coast setting, but with a twist:   we wanted to try a complicated procedure with steel wool, sparklers and flame.  I mean, EntrepreneurOnFire.    What could go wrong?  We didn’t have time to practice much beforehand, and then we ended up outside in 10 degrees with the temperature falling fast.   Lights, steel wool and my brain do funny things in such situations.   The result was not exactly a great image (saving this technique for another time) and John looks….well, freezing.   My assistant, Charlie, still points out that he has a burn hole through one of his jackets as a result.    We definitely suffered, but sometimes things don’t come up like you planned.  At least we have a new story to tell…..



Might & Main: how a brand feels



Might & Main is a branding firm based here in Portland–they do fantastic work and cast big shadows on the local creative scene.  They’re the team that you call in to do a rebranding, or to handle the look and feel of a product or campaign.  They’ve also got a great sense of style that infuses their work–take a look at this award-winning work for the Portland Museum of Art’s Homer Winslow exhibition (I want that bobblehead, Sean).

More than that, Kevin, Sean and Arielle (the principals behind M&M) are great people who always seem to be up to something interesting.   The trio,  along with team members Graeme and Morgan, moved to a new downtown Portland location in January and wanted a photo that showed them off in their new environment.  They didn’t dictate the look of the photo, but we discussed what the image should do for them:  it should give a sense of each individual person (all three principals had successful solo businesses before partnering, and all three bring different skills to the table), but show them as a team as well.  It should be interesting and striking, incorporating key elements of their new space and their quirky retro decor (Boris the Boar has made one other appearance, in an Inspire Portland feature on Sean from last year).  These guys are young, very hip and are extremely creative, so I knew I wanted to show these attributes as well.

When you strip away all the fluff–the globe, the -um- shotgun, even the lights–it’s all about the people.   Might & Main is comprised of interesting people, and I wanted to give a sense that they bring a strong point of view, a certain touch of humor and, yes, a little attitude.   To that end, I think the shoot was successful.   The final frame we all liked shows plenty of attitude.  If you look at each person’s face there’s something interesting going on.  Someone once told me that successful photos don’t give you all the answers, but make you wonder a bit, too.  Add on the lighting, the props and the “look” of the final image and you get an image that tells a story…and captures the “feel” of a brand.

There’s always room for serendipity, too.  Although I gave a few pointers on dress, I could have hugged Arielle when she showed up in that bright red dress.   How could I not get a great final image?

Might & Main: Behind the brand

Lose the gear and become a better photographer

[photoshelter-img width=’400′ height=’627′ i_id=’I0000EHrXNHkbRsc’ buy=’0′]
© Brian Fitzgerald
I love nothing more than getting a visit from the UPS fairy, bearing boxes of the latest gear or light modifier.

But with experience comes the realization that a great photograph has less—much less—to do with fancy gear or expensive equipment and much more to do with what’s going on with the person behind the camera.

In short, it ain’t about the tools you use.  It’s how you use them.

When I first learned how to use studio lights on location, I was so excited to bring out my lights and stands, position the subject, etc.   I would spend a lot of time worrying about details like exposure and light shaping and correspondingly less time engaging with my subject.  Invariably, the result looked technically sound but lacked soul.

On the other end of the scale were the seat-of-your-pants moments as a newspaper photojournalist.  With just two cameras, a couple of lenses and a flash I was able to focus on capturing the moment.  Sometimes the photos were grainy, or were shot in less than ideal lighting conditions, but the content and moment elevated them far beyond the realm of the average “pretty picture”.

Once I did a week-long assignment covering a wilderness teen camp–you know, the type of program where troubled, out-of-control teens are whisked away in the night to find themselves deep in the wild, learning discipline through hard work and routine for weeks or months on end.     This one was isolated in a remote area of high Arizona desert, and everything I needed was packed on my back for the daily marches to each night’s new camping spot.    Within an hour of hiking, I slipped while fording a river, dunking a camera, a lens and smashing another on a rock.   I shot everything for the next five days with a backup Nikon FM2, a 24mm and a 35-70mm lens while the wet gear rusted inside a plastic bag.

And the photos were great.  Limiting myself to a couple of lenses and  a single camera body helped me focus on getting the moment,  gave me less distracting choices and ended up helping me get a very strong photo story.   I also learned to start a fire with a bow and stick, but that’s another story.


Portland’s own Mad Man

Portland-area fans of the AMC cult-favorite drama Mad Men take heart.  Due to the Mad Men Casting Call contest (a partnership between AMC and Banana Republic), you can get a shot at a guest appearance on the show.  All it takes is some creativity, a camera and a devotion to 1960s-era coolness bordering on the fanatical.

The rules are simple:  visit a Banana Republic to get a ‘Mad About Style Guide’, register, and then submit a photo showing a scene and characters that could fit right into the set of the TV show.   The photo with the highest number of votes when the contest ends on September 6 gets a walk-on appearance and a small shot at being a star.

Dan Routh is creative director of Burgess Advertising & Marketing, one of Maine’s largest ad firms.  He’s also a huge fan of the show, which depicts the life and times of Manhattan ad men in the 1960s.  Having cut his teeth as a New York City advertising art director, Routh knows the subject well.  He also happens to have a trove of period items–from desks to lamps to clunky black telephones–ready to serve as props.   Add to this the desire to take advantage of an opportunity to do a little social media marketing, and this contest was a no-brainer for Routh.

The only thing he had to buy was an $8 pack of Lucky Strikes cigarettes.

Check out Routh’s Mad Men photo and add your vote.

Below, see some of the shoot outtakes, including some wide scenes that include his entire office and the lights we used on the impromptu shoot.    Yes, that’s real cigarette smoke.

Maine photographers give back with Flashes of Hope

I’ve gotta be one of the luckiest photographers in Maine.  How do I know?  Last week I was one of four photographers taking part in the Flashes of Hope shoot at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine.   More than a worthy cause, it’s a great way to give back to some amazing people.

Kevin Brusie, a local commercial shooter, has organized the local response to what is a national effort–to provide ill children and their families with professional portraits taken at hospitals and camps across the United States.  This is the third year Flashes has been in Maine, and my second year shooting.   Other photographers this year were Fred Field and Jeff Stevenson.

It’s one of the most humbling and touching experiences I’ve ever had.  Selfishly, though I’m giving my time and sharing my digital files for free, I feel like I’m getting far more than I’m giving.

I see the faces of the children–from very young to 18 years old–and as a group they impress me with their poise and grace.  As you might expect, these kids are far older than their years would suggest.

I’m including a handful of my favorite photos from my portion of the day, which involved a total of 40 families.

This is what real work looks like…

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Susan Taylor of  Simply Susies Catering, a Downeast vendor who has worked every wedding, BBQ, picnic and countless other types of events for 22 years up and down the coast.  I spent just three hours with Susie and her crew, busy prepping for a family BBQ at Freeport’s Winslow Park (see a couple of the photos above from the shoot just to get a sense of the place).

Next time I even think about complaining about the long hours or physical aspects of what I do for a living, I’ll remind myself to look at the photos I took yesterday.  In a past life, I held several food service jobs.  None comes close to the amount of work Susie had to do.  In humidity so thick it feels like you’re swimming in air. In the middle of a park, out of a van.  In the rain.  On a Sunday.

Of course, the food smelled and looked great.  Once the rain really started going, I beat a retreat even after Susie kindly offered me an apron and invited me to stay and help.  Uh…I would, Susie, but I don’t think I could keep up with you.  Susie just smiled, covered her head from the rain and got back to work.  Just another day at the office.   That’s a true professional…and some truly hard work.

Give your business brand image an overhaul

There’s a tagline at the bottom of my business card: “Image Matters”. Sounds obvious, right? Still, too often, many businesses who take such great care to take care of customers, or to produce a great product or service neglect to attend to their visual brand image. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when first launching my own business was to develop a good relationship with a good designer. I have, and I know many others I trust and like as well. This decision has made my life easier and continues to bring me clients. In short, these visual professionals make my brand into something that is consistent and professional. Now I’m free to do what I do best–take great images for my business clients.
Businesspeople often assume that custom photography of the sort that is commissioned and shot specifically for their needs is too expensive. But you don’t necessarily need a big wallet to have the same quality images that you see used by Bangor Savings Bank, L.L. Bean, or other large to medium-sized companies. Working with an experienced business photographer who you like, who understands your industry and who can help you plan the best usage for your images can be a rewarding experience and one that is affordable. It’s possible to get an affordable image library of custom stock imagery created for your company’s use for years to come.
So when I see small companies and business individuals settling for less-than exciting visuals, or generic stock images, I want to tell them: Image Matters!

Flashes of Hope

I posted a gallery from the Flashes of Hope shoot I did over the summer with several other local commercial photographers. There was a bug in my blog preventing the photos from being displayed, so I’m reposting them here: