Download: JLP bible

July 21st, 2009
There is in fact a John Loomis Photography HQ bible; really just a simple notebook with an ever-expanding list of hard-learned lessons, tricks of the trade, notes about techniques, clients, and subjects, sketches of lighting schemes, lists of assistants, favorite restaurants, and rental houses in various cities, and general photography theory that I've been adding to bit by bit for the last few years. Most photographers have one.  Following is an excerpt from the section titled (Working It) "On Set."
  • Never be late... having time is one of the real currencies of magazine work.
  • Lean on past experience but go with your gut.
  • Build in time at the beginning of each shoot to go over your client's needs and your personal goals at the location and get a clear picture what must get done.  Both are important: client needs and personal goals.  And beyond the checklist, take the time to just be in the location and let ideas find you.
  • Embrace the weird... each subject, no matter the type or cliched category (CEO, athlete, rapper etc) is unique.  Talk to them, learn what is possible, what their passions are, what they are willing to do.  Allow them to become your partner in making a lasting image.
  • Carry a small portfolio to show subjects who need reassurance.
  • Fall in love with something, no matter how little, on each assignment.  A texture, gesture, prop, background, wardrobe piece, smile, light, a single color, contrast, or anything else.
  • Your job is not to flatter the subject or make the most attractive image (usually). You are there to tell a story and to take an honest portrait.
  • Nothing is set in stone.
  • Slow down the pace and then speed it up again.  Allow your subject to be still, to breathe, to connect... and then give them the freedom to move, to literally jump.
  • Follow color, it's extremely powerful.
  • Shoots are an island... do not let shit outside of the island play a role. If a client is not there in person, then they do not exist during the shoot. Do not let outside factors second guess your creative process mid-shoot. You are the king of the island.
  • Assuming you have time, make the effort to finish each idea, even if you have decided that it doesn't feel like its working. Things often look very differently during editing.
  • Details, details, details.
  • It is basically impossible to get the lights PERFECT the very first try... don't be lazy.
  • Always break apart group portraits into 1-shot, 2-shots, etc. You never know...
  • Don't be satisfied with stereotypes, but realize that iconography isn't inherently bad.
  • No matter the story or subject always get direct eye contact and a head & shoulder's set-up in each portrait session.
  • When shooting running: arm & leg placement is crucial, so shoot a ton. Make the runner/model keep changing their starting point so that you are ensured to get as many variations as possible.
  • No matter how large the production, keep an eye on ambient/available light... God is a pretty decent lighting grip.
  • Never leave home without your ND filters on a lighting job.
  • The easiest way to make sure you shoot things for yourself on a paid gig is to actually use a different camera that has a different thing going on.  If the gig is all 35mm digital, whip out a 6x7 loaded with Tri-X, if its 4x5, bring out the SX70...
  • In addition to making your life easier, task your assistants to keep a wide angle/global view of the set... being a photographer is basically the definition of tunnel vision.
  • There is no problem that can't be overcome, ever.
  • There is no such thing as too many sand bags.
  • Go with the flow... if its incredibly windy, maybe you don't actually need a 20x silk 30-feet off the ground...
  • Get dirty, wet, and stinky... get on the tallest desk, rock, car, or ladder you can find/get down on your belly, under the water, in the sewer grate... move your ass. Magazine photography is not white collar.
  • Don't let tools and technology bog you down. Just because you can view each set-up on a laptop before you commit, doesn't mean you should.
  • Push the subject until they say no... you never can tell when someone will be game for a crazy idea or concept.
  • The best subjects create and respond to energy... if you don't bring it, neither will they.
  • In each camera bag and lighting case, goes the following: Sharpies, business cards, gaffer's tape, and copies of TSA/airline baggage regulations, ASMP card, equipment and liability coverage certificates.
  • If you are not having fun then what is the point. Surround yourself with good people, work hard, and keep things personal.

4 Responses to “Download: JLP bible”

  1. Stephen Voss says:

    There’s a lot of gems in here, John. I’m especially fond of “make the effort to finish each idea”. I’m often amazed at the disconnect between my sense of what is working during the shoot and what ends up actually making the edit. Having the drive to see through the completion of each setup, even as doubts creep in about its worth, has produced many of my favorite images.

  2. [...] are some great little gems that John Loomis shares from his ever-expanding list of hard-learned lessons, tricks of the trade, notes about techniques, clients, and subjects, sketches of lighting schemes, [...]

  3. [...] good friend John Loomis gives us a peek inside his “bible,” a collection of lessons learned, tricks of the trade and other words of wisdom he’s gathered [...]

  4. luke says:

    Words of wisdom!

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