UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Reader Question: Where's the Content?

Reader Adam McAnaney was left feeling both used and confused after the Wired BTS post earlier today. So much so, that he fired back the following question:

I have a sincere question. I know this is going to sound like I'm being a smart-aleck or a pain in the *ss, but I am being sincere. My question is:

What were we supposed to get out of that post or the pictures? There just didn't seem to be any worthwhile content in either. I assume there is something in those pictures that I'm just not getting. To me it just seemed like a random statement that "Hey, we just shot some pictures of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Isn't that cool?", coupled with a couple of boring and random shots from the shoot to prove that yes, indeed, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were there.


Yer honor, the defense will approach the bench after the jump.

First, thanks for the question, Adam. I respect your sincerity and your preface does indeed keep you from sounding whiney at all. Not a given on the internet, either.

You say "we" as if you are assuming homogeneity among the readership on this site, I can assure you that is not the case. It's more accurate to assume a wide range of experience among the readers.

I have no idea specifically what you got out of the photos. Probably not very much, given your comment. Sorry about that. All I can tell you is what I learned, and why I thought it merited a look.

For simplicity's sake, you may want to open the Wired photo set up in a new window. (Should open in a new window with that link.)

First Pic: Empty Setup Shot

1. Height of the room: This is something I am becoming increasingly attentive to, as my basement studio is very restricted vertically in addition to square feet. So much so, in fact, that for the last two shoots at my house I abandoned my basement and spent hours cleaning out the garage (some) and carting lights upstairs and back.

Long story short, I am paying attention to how people use vertical space in shoots as well as horizontal space.

2. The stool: That looks way more comfy and functional than the one that came with the POS posing table set I bought last year. Spent ten mins in the Ikea bar stool web page (ADHD much?) and got several cheap alternative ideas for my next trip down to the Greenbelt, MD Ikea store.

3. Big fill panel: WTF? Is he getting reflective fill out of it that far away? Can't be.

Second Pic: Gates / Anderson in Front of Para

4. Bird dog: Serrao is shooting as Gates talks thorium reactors with Anderson. Anderson is a broadly smart guy (not everyone can hold Gates' attention) and Serrao is wisely using Anderson as a distraction so he can get some more natural shots of Gates.

I used to use reporters the same way, and it was mutually beneficial. Essentially, we were each other's distraction. I miss having reporters just for that reason. I need to manufacture conversationalists on set more often.

5. Para: Why so far back? Why so big? The two go hand in hand. Moved far back, it is still moderately soft. And since it is so efficient, you keep a lot of lumens on the subject.

But the distance also gives you flexibility, as the exposure will be fairly consistent across the shooting zone. I will use that idea with my PLM, probably for less than the cost of the sales tax on (or rental fee for) the Para.

6. Stability: Not a lick of wind -- even so, everything is bagged. The two subjects have a combined net worth bigger than the GDP of some countries. Word to the wise -- no gear accidents.

Third Pic: Monitor Shot

7. Gold mine: I am seeing exactly what is coming out of Serrao's camera.

This is very informative, as it shows me how much was done in camera and how much in post.

Frankly, I like it better before the post work. But that is purely subjective. Further, these two versions helps me to better understand how much of Serrao's other work is likely in camera, vs. in post. I spent a lot of time on his site, BTW. Really interesting stuff.

Fourth Pic: Gates / Anderson

8. Backlights: WTF? Why a gridded dish on one side and a silver umbrella on the other? This makes no sense to me, if only from a spill control sense.

Best guess: Two different schemes, pre-set for quick change.

Fifth Pic: Anderson / Zuckerberg

9. Using a table for a two-person posing surface: Gotta remember that. And the silver table would pick up the background reflection and give it a tech-y look. Great idea.

Sixth Pic: Serrao and Assistant

10. Umbrella through scrim: Ahh, that makes more sense. It is a big light source, not a reflector. Same as the Para -- big and far away gives you exposure flexibility.

At this point, I am more likely to do it ghetto style with a bed sheet, but still worth remembering.

So that's what I saw, Adam.

Long story short, I am probably a little more curious than you are. At least that's the impression I get from your note. And that's okay -- I am probably a little more curious than many people who read this stuff. That's how I keep learning.

UPDATE: And, as several people pointed out, there is an Octa up in the ceiling (he removed some panels for that, too.) Lots to learn when you look carefully...


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