Party in Paradise - The BIG Shoot

January 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The Story...

One of my long time friends and party-mentor, Todd Sparks (, is a talented musician and great guy.  Last Christmas, he released a tropical holiday song to celebrate and asked me to shoot a promo photo to go with it.  We had a great time working up the concept, working with one of my favorite models, Wendy, and getting the shot.

Todd is getting ready to release his third album and has asked me again to work with him to develop the album cover.  I, of course, jumped at the chance!  Todd is great to work with because he is open to ideas and likes to hear your input and then develop the concept from there.


The Plan...

He sent me an early mix of the title track to listen to.  It's a really catchy trop-rock number called "Party in Paradise".  I pulled some of the elements of the song out to work the concept.  We came up with a concept of having a vintage convertible with Todd standing in front of it, a model standing by the open passenger door, and some select friends having a colorful party behind the car

Now for the technical challenges of interest:

1) This will easily be the largest group of folks I've ever needed to light.  and they will be layered in the composition.  Most likely we will have a nice sunset in the sky behind them, so shadow control will be critical for a natural look.

2) I want to make sure the car is lit smoothly and shows a nice, creamy reflection, not a harsh single point.

3) Need to make sure the focus of a busy photo stays on Todd.

4) I plan to use a big, gorgeous sky and a few palms for the background.  Nothing like building in uncertainty and a lack of control into a planned shoot that will require coordinating people, a model, makeup artist, a borrowed car, and a Bongo Man.  What can possibly go wrong?

Here is my initial lighting plan.  

To get the creamy reflection and minimal shadow on the car I am going to need a really large light source.  For this I am going to use a white video screen material stretched across a frame.


The Big Day...

The once again reinforced that as photographers, one of our prime tasks is herding cats, wrangling yaks, and wrestling alligators.  From chaos cometh magical images, though!  To start with, Ma Nature made her presence felt.  It was a beautiful day, but the breeze kicked up and modifiers were flying everywhere.  Onlookers, makeup artists, and assistants where drafted to "control" the situation.  The rest of the zaniness was pure fun.  Todd showed up with a fairy, stilt walker, juggler, chief, the world famous Conch Lady, a noted Nashville producer and his friend that has written 16 (count them, 16) number 1 country hits!  Oh yeah, and the Bongo Man that was recruited from the Wal-Mart just that morning!  

I was in charge of arranging for a professional Model and a makeup artists.  The model selected was Skylar Vanel, and she was excellent!  Very professional and nailed the look and energy.  With all the pieces and parts going on, it was reassuring to have a model that got the vibe of the shoot and had the experience to get the look we were looking for.  This is where paying a pro really pays off and saves money in the long run.

Here is the original image selected fir the cover by the client:

Then it was off to my good buddy and a heck of a artist, Victor Strickland (, for a dose of un-reality!

It's a Party in Paradise!


The Take Away...

This shoot was sure a lot of fun!  Met some great new interesting folks, got to work with some old friends, and some real pros.  My thoughts?  

  • Planning a necessity for a shoot, but be prepared total dance some when you arrive, because you just don't know what you will run into on location.  
  • Working with pros will save your bacon!  Having a pro model let me concentrate on dealing with elements that need extra attention, like bikers, jugglers, and inflatable porposes. 
  • Have a concept, no, a vision to sell to your clients, but don't be so attached to it that you can't let it morph into the end product the makes your client happy!
  • Finally, if you're going to be goofy, crazy, or different with a shot, embrace it!  Don't be a little different, but REALLY different.  That makes for a fun shot and a fun shoot.

Here are the other images (untouched) that Todd is going to use for box and CD art.

Go shoot something fun!





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