Carlos Serrao Checks In

The after-the-fact walkthru of the Wired Magazine behind-the-scenes pictures of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month prompted a slew of comments.

Guess who stopped by to answer questions, provide some color and parry the thrusts of a few armchair quarterbacks?

Info straight from the horse's mouth, inside.

Carlos Serrao's ears must have been burning, after the long stream of comments the BTS walk-thru generated. So he left two lengthy comments, which I have combined below.

I doubted many people would see them there, at this point, buried under the post. So I thought they deserved bringing up to the front.

Says Carlos:
First off, I'd like to say thanks to David and the Strobist for posting this. He is a excellent teacher and I have to say, a super sleuth!

David's breakdown is pretty spot on. [ED NOTE: Shucks...] And most of you readers asked very intelligent and insightful questions.

I'm totally happy to answering any questions your blog readers might have on this assignment.

 Unfortunately, there are some questions or comments that seem to come from somewhere else than technical. I am aware that tastes differ, so to those of you that disliked the photos I am sorry.

Sometimes an assignment is just an assignment, and we do the best we can under the circumstances and direction. What's important in this case is that the client is pleased with the results.

I was not aware nor did I ask to post behind the scenes photos of myself or my crew, and in turn be reposted again. Had I known the manner in which my dress would be scrutinized on the internet, I would have declined being photographed.

I am a very low key person who doesn't like to call attention to myself, only my work. I keep my photo site free of any personal information, because I would like to be hired for the merit of the work. I can assure you, any contacts I have made have been from persistence promotional material and the photography, not from attending parties or personal contacts. 

To James B: [ED NOTE: James asked if the results could have been achieved with less gear] We had very limited time with these subjects, and I can assure you Bill Gates have very little interest or patience in having a photo taken -- especially if the main subject of the article is not about his amazing foundation.

That being said, with subjects like Mr Gates, I found that you have to have your bases covered with gear and be ready to improvise if the timing of these two subjects changes at the last minute, which in this case it did. And also be ready (as one of the smarter readers pointed out) for little things like popping circuit breakers, digital camera lockups, etc.

I'm not so sure why having more gear than what is needed in case something goes down -- especially in a shoot that lasts 5 minutes -- would be a bad thing for James B.

James, I do not own all that gear -- it's rented, and then billed back to the client, who wants to make sure that the bases are covered. 

To Gettheshot and Tim, Re safety and sandbags: You guys are obviously grip guys with ample knowledge on how everything should be set up. True, not every stand has sandbags. However, for us we find that using a Mafer clamp J-hook and hooking the heavy powerpacks to that creates an adequate weight for strobes, especially in a windless environment.

We find that we have to adapt to each situation as it presents itself. Also as much as I love using Broncolor, I had to make sure in this set up I had enough battery powered packs. And the Profoto 7b's are a bit more reliable in our experience. Broncolor wins hands down when we are looking for a fast flash duration. But in this case we did not need it. We feel it's okay to mix and match.

To Jim, Re shooting on MAC for a Bill Gates shoot: I know! I was aware of that going into it. I asked the magazine to ask his people if that was going to be a problem since we don't own (or can't rent) the hardware or the software to run it on a PC. I assumed that I was maybe going to have to shoot to card, and load the card into the mac in another room.

Mr. Gates' people assured me it was not a problem. So, no problem with Bill, shouldn't be a problem with anyone else I suppose.

To Tom Meyer: Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry I have offended your artistic sensibilities with average photography. I wasn't aware I was a "gangster" until I read this post…

Also, I wasn't aware that you secretly attended the shoot, knew all the logistics that where involved, and thus would have such amazing insight on how anyone else could do it so much better.

That being said, I look forward to getting a link to your site to learn how to (a) reduce my amount of gear. (b) dress according for a shoot, no matter the circumstances (c) light and compose (d) deal with unwilling and rushed subjects for cover shoots. Please send link my way! [ED NOTE: Zing.]

To Joaquin Andrade: I wanted to give you info on how to get the contacts for a gig like this. First, open up the offending Wired magazine you have in your hands to the masthead section. Note the office address and look under Photo Editor.

Send that person a promotional mailer or a link to your website. Repeat numerous times until they call your portfolio in for a look.

I hope this helps, it worked for me. Also, I wish I had access to your site before hand, not only could I have seen how it's done, but I could have also asked you to point me in the direction of all the other Bill Gates actual sitting portraits out there, because I could not find any recent ones before this shoot to reference.

Link to Joaquin's Flickr stream: Great work and good luck!

Thanks again Strobist -- I wish this site had been up years ago when I was starting out! it's awesome!




No, thank you, Carlos, for stopping by and giving us the Q&A. (And, um, for the restraint...) For an original post that started out with very little overt content, this has morphed into one of my favorite exchanges in quite a while.

Again, if you have not, I recommend looking at some of Carlos' other work for context. It has a firm spot in the "inspiration" folder in my browser.

It's easy to see why Wired wanted him for the Gates/Zuckerberg photo, if they were looking for a photog with a unique vision.

Related: Original Walk-Thru post


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