Breakfast at Tiffany's, San Carlos Hotel, Arizona

John Foley Editorial Photography Shoot

Breakfast at Tiffany's, San Carlos Hotel, Arizona
Breakfast at Brenda's

A great deal of what I have learned about glamour photography has been from the words, photographs and observation of other photographers.   As so much may be learned while quietly watching someone else work, I was fortunate, this past weekend, to have the honor and privilege of observing fellow Phoenix photographer John Foley as he was shooting one of his amazing editorial projects.

It quickly became evident well ahead of the evening’s planned shoot, that John’s vision, attention to details and preparations were quite exact as to where, how, with what props, and what final pictures were intended to be captured.

A Canon shooter, John used a Canon 50D SLR with a Canon 28mm F2.8 lens for this night shoot.

John is fond of using and used for this night shoot a series of incandescent hot lights.  Each light is kept on an individual dimmer in order to adjust and control the quality of his lighting precisely.   These lights are often used at far less than full power and have various metal reflector dishes, from about 6 inch cones to something like a 10 inch curved dish.

The location was outdoors.  We were in and around an old run down wooden building full of character.  It had holes in both roof and sidings through which holes John shined some of his lights to achieve just the right textured results he had in mind. 

In John’s editorial styling, very little post processing is used.  In fact, John intentionally has chosen not to use Photoshop.  When he needs to do some post processing, he uses a lighter weight program and that only gently.

His style is more gritty, thought out ahead of time and pretty close to done when captured in camera.

What’s shot in the camera is pretty much John’s shot.

For example, when John shoots black and white, he shoots it in black and white in the camera.  Myself and many of us shoot color in camera and post process into black and white.

Not so with John.  He feels he gets a better result shooting in black and white directly.  He certainly can see more exactly the quality of B&W he is shooting as he shoots and make adjustments on set while shooting.

When I asked him about Photoshop, John’s sentiment was that if he were to start post processing with Photoshop, it might change his shooting technique developed over years of shooting.  Well his results are quite exciting, and I know Photoshop is certainly effecting how and what I and others put in camera.  Therefore, I whole heartedly applaud John’s purist processes and results.

When we view the results, and I was also able to see some of John’s captivating prints on his walls, particularly surprising for me was the detail he is able to capture while shooting at ASA 100, F2.8 and exposure times dragging his shutter at 1/4 to 1/25 of a second.   All this done without vibration reducing lenses.    The prints are fabulous.  Each is visually compelling and tells a story which sucks the viewer deeper into the print.

Wrigley's Suite, Arizona Biltmore, Relaxed Beauty
Wrigley's Suite, Arizona Biltmore, "Relaxed Beauty"

How was this possible to shoot so slow and not get motion blur?

John plans ahead, has his models stand stock still, and shoots on a Slik Pro 700DX tripod, you can view or purchase one here.    The tripod helps a lot to keep the camera still.  He is also using lenses in the 28-55mm range.  So, he is not getting a lot of telephoto blur.

The models and poses play a big part as well.  Part of this involves using poses where one can stay steady in the pose.  Where my models may often move when I shoot and their motion will be frozen by my strobes, John’s models hold very still when he is ready to depress the shutter.

By having the idea for the shot well in mind ahead of time, John is able, in short order, to get what he plans into the camera in a final form consistent with his editorial format.

Each shot is staged well ahead of the models arrival.

While heavily involving the models in the actual poses, concepts and artistic processes, John knows ahead of their arrival where and how he will arrange his major props, some of which he has hand crafted for the shoot.

His lights and camera are ready and set up.  The stage is waiting.

When the models arrive. it’s apply makeup, turn on the lights and action.

Or more accurately, pose, hold still, remember the slow shutter times… much like back in the day.

Because of the pre planning, the shoot was accomplished in a remarkably short amount of time.

Observed Shoot 'Sinister Puppeteer'
Observed Shoot "Sinister Puppeteer"

The atmosphere was kept fun by virtue of the quirky themes and John’s playful banter.

With the finished image already well in mind and his sets thoroughly thought out, John quickly got his several shots in camera, along with some minor improvisings.   And voila, another successful wrap.

John’s results, as you can see using the link above, are a charming melange of classic editorial images blended with some brilliant quirky twists.

As you visit his profile, know that not every shoot results in a posting we can view publicly, and that he does about 3 of these themed out shoots per week.  Quite a creative torrent.

Impressive lessons in what can be done with creative forethought, talented models and a slow shutter speed.

Please share any thoughts, opinions or questions by commenting.



2 thoughts on “John Foley Editorial Photography Shoot”

  1. It’s always useful to look into the work practice of a true professional. Especially one so meticulous and dedicated as the one above. Well written and concise – well done

  2. John Foley is great to work with and very professional. I have worked with him multiple times and always get amazing shots (some planned and some random!). I really enjoyed working with him.

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