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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Herrmann + Starke - Failure Is Not An Option

The team of Herrmann + Starke creates perfect moments instead of waiting for them to happen

Says Herrmann, “Having been working with digital capture for so long, we think like digital photographers now. We problem-solve as digital photographers. We work faster and more efficiently, and we're able to give our clients better results. We have a range of skills that we developed in our film days that we brought into this equation, but there's a whole other problem-solving and thought process dimension that's different.”

This new thought process involves preplanning, shooting lots of exposures and incorporating all the pieces in the computer. By working with the postproduction options in mind, Herrmann says their photographic sensibilities have evolved from recording moments to creating them.

“Creating the perfect moment instead of capturing the perfect moment,” explains Herrmann. “At the point when that becomes a large part of your vocabulary as a photographer, going back to film becomes almost impossible. All of a sudden it's like having one hand tied behind your back.

“It's looking at all the different tools at your disposal and exploiting them to get the best image in the least amount of time,” she continues. “It's funny because there are many photographers who feel that what makes them photographers is capturing everything perfectly in a single instant. That's the skill that they bring to the table. Whereas I'd argue that what makes me a photographer is my ability to envision in my mind's eye what the image needs to look like and then achieve it. And I don't care how I achieve it. To me, the real skill is understanding what the image needs to be in order to communicate the concept effectively.” For a recent NyQuil advertisement, the image needed a relatively complex combination of saturated color and a moody nighttime look, while ensuring that the product packaging was well lit and instantly recognizable.

“In order to give our clients the most flexibility, it's a combination of four different captures,” Starke explains of the shot. “There was a capture with just the background lights, and a capture of just the light coming in from the right side, and then there was an overall capture—we call it our ‘cover our ass' capture, where we make sure we have all the detail we need in the whites and in the blacks. Then we blended those different captures together in Photoshop.

“The sidelight exposure leaves the bottle completely black, but when you look at the image, it appears to be a spotlight on the bottle,” Starke continues. “To create that, we took the overall boring light exposure and put that on top of the sidelight exposure, and did a layer mask that hid everything. Then we took the Gradient tool and clicked and dragged where we wanted the dappled light to be. It looks like we spent a lot of time with a spotlight on the label and on the cap, but we did it in Photoshop.”

From Products To People

“Our editor for a number of years had been twisting our arms to do people,” says Starke. “She said, ‘If you could only do to people what you do to still life, it would be amazing.' We started playing around with the digital cameras we used at the time—the Olympus E10 and E20—and it was really a combination of what we could do with those digital cameras that made us dive into photographing people.”

Starke says that prior to the digital revolution, he and Herrmann dreaded photographing people. “It always seemed like it was a hassle. With digital, you have so much control; it's so immediate that it removed much of the fear factor from the process.”


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