There really is no substitute for experience. While faking it until you can make something of it can be highly useful, there’s no getting around the value of the real thing. You can sit and read tutorials on how to work your camera and your lights, and how to pose and direct a subject, etcetera, and you should. However, even if you work a camera like Rembrandt a brush, and have fluency with photographic theory, that alone will not provide you with a sense of being in the field. You’ve actually got to get out there.
There are, however, ways you can get a real sense of this, usually in the form of behind the scenes videos, and the one featured here where Jason Bell shoots Benedict Cumberbatch for Vanity Fair, is brilliant at that.
Bell is a rather astute fashion photographer from London, though he now splits his time between his hometown and New York. The Oxford man regularly shoots for Vanity Fair, British and American Vogue, and a slew of others, and has shot A-listers like Daniel Craig, David Bechkam, Johnny Depp, and Kate Winslet to no end. Adding to that is Mr. Cupid’s Bow himself, Benedict Cumberbatch, in whose shoot we are allowed to see behind the curtain.
The shoot took place in London in Wimbledon Commons with Cumberbatch in a variety of scenarios with a focus on juxtaposition, all shot in the field and with a PhaseOne 645 and lit with 3 Profoto heads.
There isn’t much in the way of technical discussion in here, which is great, because it lets you focus on the rest of what’s going on. There’s insight from both the photographer and the talent on what goes into a shoot, and what makes a good one, and there’s a huge stress on the value of collaboration. Those on both sides of the camera are vocal in what their ideas are, and seeing how that interaction goes down is invaluable – seeing how to conduct yourself in a firm, but amicable manner. There’s also insight into what the difficult phases of the production are, and when it’s time to cut loose and have fun.
I think it’s worth mentioning that Bell directly addresses the fact the shots aren’t to look too real, but instead be very stylized. This is something people often forget, that just because the shoot is more simple, doesn’t mean the photographer can’t do something more elaborate.
And sure, not all of us will be able to shoot such a strange and great looking subject, but still to see how the photographer interacts with his talent, and his assistants and works around the gear is great. You truly get a sense of many different elements of a production and how they come together to create something harmonious, and greater than the sum of their parts. Really one of the best BTS videos I’ve seen.
See more from Jason Bell’s impressive body of work here.
Images are screen captures from featured video.