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Photographer Steve Belkowitz focuses on the world he wants to see.

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What develops when a world-class photographer marries the client’s business objectives with a personal mission to move the conversation? People are presented in an authentic way that still speaks the market language.

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“Overall I'm trying to add images to the conversation to push along a progressive vision,” Steve reflects, “Whether they are Female, LBGTQ, AFAM, disabled, amputees…any group that has been faced with the challenge of being treated as ‘normal’.”

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Clients such as Vanguard, Comcast, Foxwoods and Hartford seek Steve out to create authentic moments with real people. Images that resonate emotionally. Images that celebrate individuals based on their talents, not their bodies or gender.

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“I am a big proponent of breaking down barriers and celebrating differences in people. When Foxwoods wanted to market in a new way, I was thrilled to be a part of it,” explains Steve. “They insisted on real couples, but we didn’t try to be overt or stereotypical. It was a regular casino shoot capturing people enjoying each other’s company.”

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For The Hartford, Steve worked with Oksana Masters, a Russian adoptee who now competes in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, where she medaled in both. Her sports include cross-country skiing, nordic biathlon and rowing, but her real strengths may be her sense of purpose and determination.

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What can an Army EOD Specialist who has lost his sight to a bomb detonation help us see? According to Steve, “Possibilities.” A year after the explosion, Brad Synder won gold swimming in the Paralympics. “To me, ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges – whether physical or societal – offer my clients a unique perspective, empathy, and a sense of universal connection.”

If you’re looking to increase mind share as well as market share, you can see more of Photographer Steve Belkowitz’s work here. Inspiration comes standard.

 

 

 

Illustrator Kelly Hume draws you in

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Sometimes picking the right illustrator is a slam dunk. Kelly Hume’s hallmark has always been his versatility. He believes in letting the subject dictate his approach rather than forcing projects into a predefined style. Despite a middle-school basketball career most notable for bench warming, Kelly bottled up NBA-level energy in this Nike promotion and designed a book cover that captures the madness of the NCAA tournament.

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How do you say “Drink beer” in different countries? Kelly designed the first two illustrations for a South American beer importer despite never having visited the continent. Instead, he looked to a historical figure for inspiration basing the Santiago illustration on a military figure whose statue resides in the capital of Chile. The Silver Bullet didn’t require such exotic inspiration (though you might spy a little of Mt. Rainier in those Rocky Mountains).

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How does Kelly, a compact hybrid driver, get revved up for off-road trucks? “I try to get a feel for what the client is after,” he explains, “Often I ask them to point to something we can look at together – my own work or any sort of visual reference.” The goal for Wildhorse Casino Giveaway was to create excitement for something that seems like a long shot. “It was fun to feed off of that anticipation, I just hope somebody actually won the truck.”

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What do you do when Sony Records wants you to visualize a tribute album for fabled musician? Blind Gary Davis was a bluesman and gospel singer known for singing happy little ditties like Death Hath No Mercy. He played the banjo, guitar and harmonica the way Illustrator Kelly Hume jams on typography, graphic design and illustration. On the other end of the musical crossroads lives the Rock & Roll College Bowl, an online music trivia game. From the depths of despair to the titillation of trivia, the illustrators who can bridge that gap are few and far between.

If you’re looking for the perfect fit for your next job, check out the amazing versatility and impressive variety of Illustrator Kelly Hume’s work here. You’ll see the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

Director Jef Loeb on how to get more from every production

How does a consortium of energy companies change the way people think about their industries? Showcase a future made possible by their products. Combining live action with intensive VFX, this tentpole video anchors a huge number of digital, streaming, and point-of- sale assets. Each scene was shot to work as a stand-alone, platform-agnostic topical video, in lengths from :06 to :15 to :30. And stills, pulled from VFX output, became the visuals for display advertising, branded content, destination website, and more.

Too often, scenes pulled from an anthem video feel disconnected or incomplete. Not so with Space Playground and the other vignettes! “The intention was to create a big-screen cinematic experience,” describes Jef Loeb, “The combination of live action, specialized stunt rigging, and VFX allowed us to capture the gee-whiz cool factor as well as a nice emotional ending.”

Transforming plastic waste into sports cars? Almost as magical as what it took to tell the story. Intensive set design with practical rigging and puppetry was needed to create this realistic, but futuristic, vision of a car-making facility that’s 3D-printing cars using recycled ocean plastic.

These spots humanize the Bay Area housing crisis using a mix of real people and actors (dare you to tell the difference). Wide shots create a sense of isolation. Close-ups create a personal connection. Jef’s directed performances – using the device of “read” letters – make the spots memorable and highly emotional, while remaining genuine and authentic.

Why hire a director who is also an award-winning writer? The morning of the shoot, the client forwarded a news clip detailing a state legislator’s bill to address the housing crisis by letting community college students sleep in their cars overnight. The script and the spot were written on location and an actor previously cast for another part, shifted into this role.

Authenticity may be the hardest thing to reproduce, but critical for this public-service campaign. Pre-scripted dialogue with interview-prompted improv took advantage of our star’s wonderful back-stories in entirely authentic and “non-stagy” settings.

How do you transform a single shoot into a complete rebranding? Collaborate on set design and ping-pong between video and still shoots. Then, take a true “physician-as-hero” approach and combine live action, CG, and intensive motion graphics to tell the story in a way that breaks the cliche of shooting clinicians inside of sterile hospitals.

This highly art-directed piece was designed primarily as a theatrical trailer, but also to support digital advertising. So how do you shoot for the biggest and the smallest screens simultaneously? “We used 100% practical props including the giant zero,” Jef explains, “and captured each location the day before with a DLSR, so we had a variety of interesting looks that reinforced our message.”

If you’re interested in maxing out your next productions, check out more of Director Jef Loeb’s work here. Your next shoot may just turn into an entire campaign.

 

 

 

Photographer Will Strawser Hits the Road with Jaegermeister’s Willy Shine

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Five cities. Five microbreweries. The one and only Willy Shine. What could go wrong? Very little, according to Photographer and Head Ringleader Will Strawser. His approach? Plan like crazy, then go with the flow.

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First stop: Maui, HI. Apparently, not all shoots are created equal. The goal for this five-city extravaganza was to create a body of social media and print material in support of brand icon Willy Shine’s new show featuring interviews with independent brewers across the US.

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Any surprises in paradise? “When we were shooting content of Willy Shine surfing in Maui,” recalls Will, “Humback whales were surfacing and jumping less than 100 feet away. It was pretty wild. Also dolphins were swimming under his board while he rode waves. Hawaii truly is an amazing place.”

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Back on the Mainland and back on the beach in San Diego. You haven’t tried to plan and execute a complicated five-city shoot until you’ve tried to do it with a team of Jaegermeister employees. Long days tend to turn into long nights.

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This stop included a lifestyle shoot with local talent. “Jagermeister wanted to showcase their drink being consumed in a fun and safe way,” explained Strawser, “so we cast modern millennial types and scouted locations to capture the fun, laidback San Diego lifestyle.”

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From sea level to mountain high, Will Strawser’s moveable circus traveled on to Denver, CO – a town that treats microbreweries like church and brewmasters akin to high priests.

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Despite the added demands, Strawser made the decision to work with a minimal crew. This freed him to capture Willy Shine and local brewmasters in intimate and authentic moments that fit Jaegermeister’s social presence to a tee.

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Each city added its own personality to the project and The Magic City, Miami, was no exception. Four stops in, tapping into this local flavor is how Will kept the shoots looking distinct.

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“It’s not easy to keep making bottles of liquor look fresh and unique,” said Strawser, “so I’m glad we were able to push out of some expected boxes and get cool images.”

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What better place to end a microbrew tour than Beantown? A great place to reflect and hoist a final beer. “I think the large scope of the project is the most amazing thing about it,” Will reflects. “We were able to travel, coordinate and shoot all of these cities and breweries, but also form great connections and friendships with all involved.”

If you would like to get better connected with Photographer-Director Will Strawser, you can check out his work here. Drinks are on us.

 

 

 

Photographer Nader Khouri’s shoots a very special dinner on Tomales Bay

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Bringing food and lifestyle photography together is no easy task, so it’s a good thing Nader Khouri has more than a decade of experience shooting both. In that time, he’s photographed literally thousands of intricate dishes and interesting people.

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Culinary and lifestyle photography takes an incredibly deft touch. A vast reservoir of experience is required to bring these worlds together in a way that authentically conveys visceral appeal and emotional relatability.

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“Brands today want imagery to be both authentic and real, yet polished and styled,” Nader explains. “And an image doesn't get that way by itself.” Not only does it takes the right food, props, wardrobe, and stylists to strike that balance, it takes a particular skill set to fashion the desired composition with an invisible hand.

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Drawing on his previous life as a photojournalist, Nader likes to work with “a fly on the wall” approach, but won’t hesitate to shape the action of the shot to achieve his desired goal and to meet the objectives of the client.

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The stakes get even higher when you’re working with fellow artisans. “For this shoot, I asked the Makers to do what they would be doing as if I wasn't there,” recalls Nader. “Yet I stopped them when I wanted to position them with a different background or have them relive a moment because of someone's emotional reaction.”

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When an image can literally make your mouth water, it leaves no question Nader is an artist working with artists. He applies that virtuosity to all of his projects, but is never more in his element than when getting to photograph both food and the people enjoying it.

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Nader’s passion for good food and the good life whets the appetite for more. You can get a second helping of his work and inquire about availability here. It’s too delicious to pass up.

And to find out more about The Maker’s Dinner and the artisans who attended, you can read the full article here.

 

 

 

Photographer Eric Frazier’s Latest Portfolio Was 20 Years in the Making

Photographer Eric Frazier has been honing his craft for more than 20 years across hundreds of shoots. In all that time peering through the camera lens, what he’s looking for hasn’t changed. Beauty. Emotion. Impact. And some element of human truth.

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“I tend to focus more on people photography and am trying to draw out genuine expressions,” explains Eric. “I enjoy the process a lot, and find being curious about people and asking ques-tions tends to bring out real reactions in them.”

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Eric’s work is classic, but always unexpected. Brilliant color and composition are hallmarks of his images, yet the most marked characteristic might be his storytelling. This latest portfolio showcases that talent through untraditional pairings – juxtapositions that highlight his range and ability to draw the most out of each and every subject.

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Eric doesn’t subscribe to any particular photographic motto our guiding principle. Accordingly, his beliefs are profoundly simple, “Just that there should be something beautiful or emotional in there somewhere…something that makes a person want to look and something that stays with them after they have.”

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So how do you know if you’ve captured something unforgettable? “Usually right after you click,” according to Eric. “Things will start to come together – the light gets good, the subject turns out to be special, the vibe is right. It can be hard to predict, but when it’s happening you know it.”

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“I like talking to people and asking questions, which usually helps them relax,” Eric reflects. “Most people have the same desires and fears as everyone else, so you can always find a way to relate.”

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There you have it. Beautiful. Emotional. Impactful. And always with an element of human truth. You can see more of Eric’s work and request his latest portfolio here. Have a look, you won’t forget it.

 

 

 

Retoucher Rachel Kissel puts it all together for Nike and Starbucks

Rachel Kissel Retouching has become a sought-after specialist in athletic apparel. This work for Nike spotlights her gift for highlighting textures and motion while showcasing the beauty and style of the clothing.

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“Athletic clothing ripples and bunches up on an active model, so you have to find the right balance of those dynamic qualities while still keeping the clothes looking beautiful and communicating as much as possible about the details of the garments,” explains Rachel.

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Of course, it’s not all about the clothing. A couple of sky swaps required detailed hair masking, but at the end of the day the primary goal is to get the clothes looking great!

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Starbucks presented an entirely different set of challenges. Not only is Rachel a master retoucher, she is also an expert compositor. This job put those skills to the test. Starbucks wanted strong color stories and striking designs, but not final images that looked over-polished or over-produced.

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“In some ways, this snapshot style required more expertise. Complex compositing lends itself to a glossed look. Creating a casual look requires real skill to hide all the compositing,” Rachel explains. “I had so much fun with this project! It was fast-paced and turned out beautifully.”

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This is just a small selection of a larger body of work that Starbucks shot for a variety of uses including print and social media. Many of the final images involved swaps based on their selects. Rachel combined the ideal pieces into one remarkable shot.

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How do you know when you’re dealing with a true artist? They do their day job just for fun! “As a kid, I loved to imagine never-ending skyscapes of sweet treats, and if I climbed the right rainbow, I'd be able to dive in and indulge!”

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This cotton (eye) candy was born out of Rachel’s love of pink clouds. “I sourced some of the shots from stock but I couldn't find the right hand and stick so I just shot those. I enjoyed making a visual representation of something I daydreamed about as a kid.”

You can see Rachel’s portfolio, some amazing before/after imagery and learn more about her work here.

 

 

 

Photographer Michal Venera and the farmer next door

Sometimes photographer Michal Venera gets inspired by the rolling landscape out the windows of his northern California studio. Sometimes he gets inspired by the neighbors. “Bob runs the ranch next to my land,” says Michal, “and they just don’t make them like him anymore.”

Video of a day in the life of a Sonoma rancher, from still and motion photographer Michal Venera

During one of Michal and Bob’s occasional evening walks, Michal broached the idea of doing a little filming. “Bob is old school, salt of the earth” he says. “He just goes about his business, doing what needs to be done without any fuss. I wanted to capture that simplicity and strength on film.”

Well known for his lifestyle and product-focused commercial photography, Michal often finds himself drawn to people and portrait work for personal projects. “Everybody has a story,” he says. “And if you’re open and patient and respectful, sometimes they’ll let you tell it in photos.”

A man comes out of his house to begin a day of work on the ranch, from photographer Michal Venera

In his travels around the globe, Michal has befriended mountain men in Montana, school children in Africa and proud locals in Cuba, capturing highly impactful portraits along the way. Shooting photography on his own time allows him to experiment with lighting and composition, inspiring new creativity in his commercial work.

Two Cuban women in their small apartment, from photographer Michal Venera

Smiling young school children in Africa pack into a window frame, from photographer Michal Venera

“Bob really didn’t get why I wanted to follow him around taking photos and videos,” says Michal. “He didn’t think there was anything that special about him. In this era of endless selfies, that attitude alone is worth capturing.”

A rancher unties a bale of hay in a loft, by still and motion photographer Michal Venera

You can see more of Michal’s commercial and fine art photography and film right here.

 

 

 

Twin boys enjoy gingerbread cookies, for Corelle from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

Four shoots in one: Photographer Christina Schmidhofer for Corelle

On her latest shoot for the Corelle family of products, photographer Christina Schmidhofer managed to be in four places at once. “There was so much to shoot, we had four sets going all at the same time,” she says.

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With hundreds of shots required for a website relaunch, Corelle looked to Christina to set the look for all their brands, including Pyrex, CorningWare, Chicago Cutlery and Snapware. “Organization was a big challenge, because there was a ton of merchandise,” says Christina. “We actually had to rent a second studio to store it all.”

Woman’s hands holding a casserole with a ribbon tied around it, from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

Christina’s deep brand experience and strong portfolio across categories drew the client all the way from Chicago to shoot in San Francisco. Some even brought their kids, who got incorporated into the action. “The clients would get so excited with each new photo,” says Christina. “That was the best part of the whole shoot.”

A teenage girl with tortilla chips and seven-layer dip, for Corelle from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

The two-week effort kept a crew of 15 busy capturing both still and stop motion photography. “We were charged with expressing ‘the extraordinary meets every day,’ and this shoot definitely reflected that!” laughs Christina. To keep the mood light and refreshing at the end of the long days, Christina served up her famous Aperol spritzers for clients and the team.

Gif of white plates filling a dark table, for Corelle from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

In the end, Christina shot over 400 images for the website, which is already live. “It was a fun shoot with a big team,” she says. “We got stunning images and ate so many delicious chocolate chip cookies. It was a win-win.”

Overhead shot of knives on a dark wood board, for Chicago Cutlery from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

You can see more of Christina’s commercial and editorial portfolio here.

Overhead shot of stacks of white Corelle dishes, from photographer Christina Schmidhofer

 

 

 

Shane Johnson’s latest illustrations are highly educational

Illustrator Shane Johnson creates logos, characters and superheroes for well-know brands and agencies. But his new work is for his most critical audience – kids. Regarding his latest editorial and educational assignment, Shane explains, ”I became an illustrator because I loved comics. I still love telling a story in pictures.”

A waitress hands a young girl a pie, from illustrator Shane Johnson

Commissioned for a classroom reader, the drawings depict the story of sisters who cook up an elaborate plan so they can spend more time with their hard-working dad. “Inevitably, the plan goes wrong and lessons are learned,” Shane says.

A working dad puts his arms around his daughters at a diner counter, from illustrator Shane Johnson

Typically, the story lines are final when Shane receives them, but he gets a lot of freedom to create the visual world where everything takes place. “The diner was the main setting,” says Shane, “so I started by roughing out a full floor plan to tie in specific scenes. It was fun bringing it all together – I even designed the diner logo.”

A girls gives out samples of pie outside a diner, from illustrator Shane Johnson

Given his background in character work, it’s no surprise that developing the people was Shane’s favorite part of the job. “The client had a clear vision for the family, but all the secondary characters were left to my imagination, so I got to make my mark,” he says. You can see more of Shane’s commercial and editorial work here.

A girl in a diner scene looks surprised and worried, from illustrator Shane Johnson