When I completed Strobist as a project in 2021, I promised to check back in when I had something worth sharing. Today, I’m announcing my new book, The Traveling Photographer’s Manifesto, which seeks to do for traveling photographers what Strobist always tried to do for lighting photographers.

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On Assignment:
Greg Funnell Photographs Joe Wright

You have a typical hotel room, which you will gain access to an hour before the shoot. You will have a total of 20 minutes with your celebrity subject, who will arrive in God only knows what mood and/or disposition. Go.

That's pretty much the setup for London photographer Greg Funnell's shoot of movie director Joe Wright. Think about what you would do for a moment, and then continue reading to see how Greg handled this exact assignment for Time Out London.

If you do not know who Joe Wright is, you probably prefer your movies long on car chases and shorter on culture. Wright directed Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina, etc.

I saw the above photo on Greg's iPhone when I bumped into him at The Flash Centre on a recent trip to London. I love the day-into-night swap of this shot. And as you'll see below, he had a cool and varied take given it was yet another celeb-in-a-hotel-room lightning round press tour assignment.

These aren't easy to do well, actually. The setting is repetitive, you sometimes only get 3-5 mins and you really don't know what kind of mood your subject will be in after, oh, a dozen of these shoots in a day.

Fortunately Wright was cool, quirky and up for interesting photos. Says Greg:

I was lucky because he came in not wearing any shoes, and having sat down he started rolling a cigarette on the end of the bed pretty much without me giving him any direction. His slightly rock and roll attitude worked well with the setup and meant that everything came together better than expected.

From the offset I realized he was going to give me quite a cooky set of photos. He didn't take himself too seriously, and that confidence is always a joy to discover in a subject.

His clothing also helped and it didn't clash with color palette I was going for. Sometimes you get lucky like that. I suspect that if his attitude had been different or if he'd been wearing something totally different I would have taken another approach.

Fortunately I didn't have to, which meant I could work quickly with what I'd prepared and still have time to try some more setups outside.

Greg got a lot of different frames from a constrained setting, reserving some of the twenty minutes to run outside for some different looks.

Exposing for the in-frame lamps as subject matter (not as light sources—big difference) dropped the room down enough to connote night. From there, he built the room back up by gelling one soft box blue and the other a ½ CTO to make it look like Wright was being lit by an unseen lamp.

What I love about this shot is the way the different color lights mix together on his hands. On his face, the planes are discrete. But on the hands it is a different story. Very cool.

Funnell travels light, as you can see in the beginning of the video. The lights are 400ws Elinchrom Ranger Quadras and the camera is a 5D Mk I (he has since updated) with a Canon 50/1.4 for all of the indoor shots.

At about 1:23 in the video you can see another blue light in the doorway, but Greg ditched that idea after finding it both too demanding and distracting. The key is to getting a variety of looks in a short time is to keep things simple.

Now that you have some background, take a look at the BTS:


Cool, huh? That's a lot of looks in a short time. Which, I am sure, is very pleasing to Funnell's editors. This shoot was from a couple of years back (you may remember his name from a time-lapse of his assignment to photograph Colin Firth.)

But since then, Funnell has branched out into all kinds of self-directed assignments. I was really drawn into his recent work and highly recommend visiting his site, which contains several other BTS vids, too.

I you want to keep up with him (I do) you'll also find links to his blog and Twitter on his site. While we are on the subject, one of the best things you can do for inspiration is to RSS the blogs of a couple dozen good shooters and follow them on Twitter. Of all of the reading I do on the web, that is consistently my favorite.

Next: Mathieu Young's Harvest


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