Still Images In Great Advertising – Danny Christensen

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a new column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

Great Advertising is not only a print ad or billboard, it can be a vehicle that is not considered conventional. Today’s example is just that, a new show on E! called Scouted, which becomes an unconventional way to show a photographers work. I’m sure many will be critical of the show itself, but this is the reality of the business:

There are many people in this industry includes photo editors, art buyers and art directors who will watch and see Danny Christensen at work photographing and directing models. What better way to advertise how you shoot on set and then the final results in printed images. I reached out to Danny after watching the show to see if he would be interested in being a part of this series.

Suzanne: How did you get the opportunity to be the photographer of record for this program? I am sure they considered hundred’s of fashion photographers and you got the job, that is a great testament to your talent.
Danny: The executive producer and creator of the show, Michael Flutie, contacted my agent, Lorenzo at L&A Artists, and asked if I would be interested and requested a meeting. That was on a Tuesday, 7 days before the planned start of the filming the NYC part of the show. Originally, there was supposed to be 8 different photographers on the show, one for each episode of the first season. A few hours after the meeting they contacted my agent and requested a 2nd meeting the next day, where I was to meet the entire team of producers, including the guys from 51 Minds who produced the show and the Executive Producers from E!

The meeting went really well and Thursday morning they contacted us and asked if I was interested and able to do all 8 episodes – with pre-production meeting the following Monday! I guess I fit the bill of who they were looking for and I think a big part of it was my non-traditional look and feel to my work and my experience with motion, that Michael Flutie was keen on integrating in the shoots.

Suzanne: I have several clients who have been the photographers on Americas Next Top Model and it has been great for their careers. How have you seen changes in your business?
Danny: The response has been amazing. Especially the first couple of weeks here in 2012, where Season 1 episodes are coming to an end. I think everyone was waiting to see how the show developed and that the quality of my work, both the pictures and the videos was consistent.

I shot everything on the RED EPIC camera, so everything was shot in motion and we pulled still photos from the motion film with amazing results. It’s a quite new way to approach fashion and beauty photography. Additionally we cut together a fashion film clip that was shown to Scott from One Models the day after the filming, and Scott based his decision to sign the girls, both on the video and the stills. So, a lot of the response has been from clients who are interested in doing just that, filming a commercial/video component and shooting the stills.

Suzanne: Most the time you are working with young talent who have never been professionally photographed and to make it even more difficult, photographed for the first time on television. How do you work with them to get them to feel comfortable with the whole process? Is there a lot of unseen footage where you are coaching them? inspiring them? talking to them about the process?
Danny: It was very challenging for sure. I’ve worked with brand new talent many times before but as you mention, there is a crew of 30-40 people and 3-4 cameras on set for these shoots so most girls just froze like a deer in headlights when they came on set. I had to talk to the crew and we found a solution where only the people who had to be on set was there. That also included asking the girls parents and the scouts to wait off set, the girls simply couldn’t relax and I didn’t get a connection with them before the people they knew left the set. Then the girls were more relaxed and they connected with me and the camera.

When ever I could, I would go and say hi to them and introduce myself when they were in hair and make-up and I would explain a little about what we were going to do, but it was primarily to just break the ice before they came on set. I feel some times with brand new girls, it’s better to simply direct them on set rather than trying to explain them something before hand, that they don’t understand anyway. That normally only results in a girl trying to “model” as they might have seen online or on a tv show and that’s NOT going to work, especially in a video/motion piece.

In most cases, due to the production and time challenges, I didn’t even meet the girl beforehand and she would walk on set with the tv cameras rolling. That was really challenging ,but most of the girls warmed up after the first shot and we got beautiful pictures and videos.

What You don’t get a feel of on the show, because of the editing of the tv footage, is that I only had max 45 min filming time with each girl where we did 2-3 different looks. I have never done that before. Additionally, we had around 14 hours turn around time for final images plus edited and produced videos. It challenged me as a director and photographer and I feel I learned a lot from it. It forced me to practice and plan how I approached each girl, based on concept/look and a little profile video clip of each girl that the scouts provided me with – that was really exciting!

Danish-born Danny Christensen discovered his love for the visual arts working in advertising and PR in Copenhagen and New York. This passion for advertising led him to transition into fashion, portraiture, and fine-art photography during the following years. In 2006, Danny attended photography school in Denmark. He continued his creative journey in Paris where he assisted various fashion and portrait photographers It was also in Paris where Danny started started his career as a working photographer shooting, editorials, small commercial jobs, and film. Danny splits his time between New York and Copenhagen, Paris & Milan.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

Suzanne Sease

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. While the show itself definitely isnt marketed towards me, i have to say that i have caught myself watching shows like Top Model to see the photographers working.

    I am wondering how much control the photographer retains in this kind of situation in regards to image approvals/selects. I would imagine there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen deciding what gets used on the show.

    Also, would E! own all of the images created for the show indefinitely?

  2. A Production Person

    Just know that photographers are directed on these shows, like anyone else in front of the camera. “Say this…”, “Do that…again…”, “Say that to the model, but say it this way…”, “Make that particular model do something ridiculous, we’re kicking her off the show this episode.” Speaking from ANTM experience.

  3. Great, timely interview. I’ve been watching the show, and wondering if video and stills from a Red Epic (and using Briese lights, I think) are becoming an industry standard, or just for special shoots, like for Scouted.

    • It’s happening more and more, especially for fashion, lifestyle and portrait shoots: where it’s important to get “the shot” out of 500 images. What better way then to have the camera on “Motor Drive” or shoot video and pull a frame.

      At this point, I can’t see it happening for still life and architecture… but never say never….

  4. I’ve worked on the live-music-show “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” and the shot-before-a-live-audience sitcom “Alice” and it was not uncommon for the director to ask that they back up and do it again.

    In this age where every wannabe fashion shooter posts behind-the-scenes video of themselves photographing internet models, I can see how people could confuse a reality (unreality?) show with a BTS video.