I haven't done one of these Start-To-Finish blog posts in a long time and now that spring seems to have finally arrived in London, I feel happy enough to impart some knowledge. What better recent shot to deconstruct than my favourite shoot of my career.

Back in June last year I was called by my one of my favourite clients, Shortlist Magazine, and asked if I would go to Barcelona and shoot Jack Black who was going to be in town promoting Jumanji. Its British editorial, so when you get a call to shoot, even if its the cover, chances are its only a week in advance. My flights were booked within a few hours of the phone call and not long after I was on a flight to Spain with the photo director, a journalist and an art director. 

We arrived in Barcelona and after an hour long false alarm over the airline losing my photo gear we headed to our hotel. The next day we were booked to shoot Jack on the terrace of a hotel about 10 minutes form ours and with not much to do before then, it was time to get in the pool and do very little else.

There were very few things that I knew about this shoot. There was a vague idea for the cover shot and it had to be Christmas themed due to when the shoot was due for release in December. Besides that I knew we were being given a fenced off area in the grounds of the hotel 45 mins to shoot up to 5 set ups. I like these challenges and its never been any different in my career. 

The next day we went to check out the location about 4 hours before the shoot. The hotel had two main terraces, one looking over the other. The one given to us for the shoot had terracotta paving, no trees/shade (it was 32 celsius) and no features to work with. The one below was grassy, shaded, full of palm trees and was perfectly in tune with the Jumanji theme of the shoot. We then spent the next 3 hours trying to convince Jack's publicist to help us move to the lower terrace but the answer was a disappointing 'no'. 


I had a hunch that due to Jack's hectic schedule, his publicist had declined our plea to move locations simply to avoid any added complication, so when I met Jack I told him we'd get way better shots if we moved to the lower terrace and he had no issue with it at all. IF YOU DONT ASK, YOU'LL NEVER KNOW! The only problem with this was I'd made a shot list and done a pre-light for the original location and we were about to jump straight into the shoot with no preparation for the new location at all. 

We shot one other set up prior to this cover so that I could get familiar with Jack and we could get him warmed up for the main event. Despite being exhausted he was in a great mood and every bit the Jack Black I hoped he'd be. 

Our checklist was simple for the cover shot.

A. a background of palm trees and blue sky

B. Jack in a Santa hat

C. Jack holding a cocktail

(There was no stylist involved here and Jack just happened to be wearing a shirt that worked perfectly for the concept.)

So...with our first set up done and dusted we walked to a spot that had our backdrop of palm trees. I had no assistant and absolutely zero preparation for this shot. I just had to keep it simple and stay calm if it wasn't going to plan. When you've got a famous person waiting on you its easy to panic when a shot isn't working out but you just have to relax and do whats needed to fix it. 

For this shot I kept things very simple. I had a Profoto B1 on a C-stand, boomed to the left of me with a 46" Photek umbrella. I wanted to light Jack from the same direction as the evening sun and in this case I knew my most efficient method would be to block out the sun with the Photek umbrella and replace it with a light source that I could control. The umbrella is about 7.5 feet up aiming down at Jack and about 4 feet away from him.

Here's a shot straight out of camera...

Camera: Canon 5DS

Lens: Canon 24-105mm L 

ISO: 100

Shutterspeed: 1/160

Aperture: F/8

We shot this set up for 5 minutes and then moved on to the next. When you've got limited time and you've got the shot, get on with the next one! 


As you can see the finished shot looks quite different. In this case I knew what I could achieve in camera and knew where the post production would take over.

We shot a couple of hours away from golden hour, so I knew I'd be colour grading the shot later to add a lot more warmth and give the shot even more of that evening glow. 

Curves: Reduce highlights in RGB. Add yellow to the highlights and a little blue to the shadows using the blue curve. 

Vignette: Radial gradients to darken the sky and palm tress and make Jack pop within the frame. 

Besides that there's a gentle clean up of Jack's skin and removal of all the mess from the background (parasols, floodlights etc).V












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