When the President Comes to Town… and Needs a Photographer

The Family Photo

The Family Photo

A few months ago the Irish Consulate in Chicago called me, wanting to know if I’d be interested in photographing the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, on his visit to the city. Without missing a beat, I said yes and got the details. A few weeks later, after being checked out by the Secret Service and Irish security, my son (in his first job as my assistant) and I found ourselves in the Drake Hotel, ready to photograph 300-500 guests, all eager to shake the president’s hand and have their picture taken with him.

Waiting for the President and Mrs Higgins to arrive for the family photo

Waiting for the President and Mrs Higgins to arrive for the family photo

First off, we had to photograph President Higgins with some local family members in a group picture. Then there were dignitaries to meet the president, finally followed by ninety minutes of ‘grip and grins’. As the official photographer, I could ask the Secret Service guy assigned to me to move other ‘photographers’ out of the way, though in practice, half the people were looking anywhere but at me, the president included. It was chaotic to say the least.

Secret Service not looking conspicuous at all. My son David is in the front, fitting in well.

Secret Service not looking conspicuous at all. My son David is in the front, fitting in well.

A few well known people stopped by, including Cardinal Francis George and one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters and her husband (who wouldn’t look at my camera no matter how many pictures I took).

Cardinal Francis George stops by for a few laughs with the President.

Cardinal Francis George stops by for a few laughs with the President.

I was told the woman on the left is one of Muhammad Ali's daughters.

I was told the woman on the left is one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters.

After it was over, I set up a website where everyone could download their pictures for free (it was included in my shooting fee), or pay for prints, which many did.

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David handed out cards to everyone who had their picture taken.

David handed out cards to everyone who had their picture taken.

I’ve photographed several presidents and world leaders, but this was the most enjoyable. President Higgins was a down to earth, affable chap who never seemed to tire of all the attention and adulation. If it was an American president or politician, it would’ve been stressful and frustrating beyond belief, but this was more like photographing your grandpa and his mates. Makes me want to go back to visit Ireland again now.

One of the Secret Service guys

One of the Secret Service guys

President Michael D Higgins of Ireland, Drake Hotel, Chicago, May 12, 2014

Lisa Madigan representing Chicago politics

Lisa Madigan (in blue), representing Chicago politics

In the end, David and I got to pose with the President too. Photo by Shane O'Neill/  Fennell Photography (Dublin)

In the end, David and I got to pose with the President too. Photo by Shane O’Neill/ Fennell Photography (Dublin)

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.

 

 

Lighting is Everything

[This post was originally written about five years ago for my first photo blog]

I was asked by a new commercial client today if it’ll be necessary to set up lights for a shoot we’re doing. I know the location will be bright enough to shoot without any additional lights, but I responded that we may use them anyway. Here’s why…

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Photography literally means ‘drawing with light’. Think about it– without light, whatever you’re taking a picture of won’t be visible. As a photographer, I’m always faced with decisions about how to photograph a particular subject. Should I use available light, or light with my portable strobes (variable power flashes)? How will the light fall on my subject? Will they be backlit? How will I light up the background so it doesn’t go dark? If I’m using available light, will the color be weird due to mixed sources (all lighting emits different colors- tungsten light bulbs are yellow, fluorescents can be green or light yellow, and halogens defy normal colors)? Will the available light complement my subject, or should I use supplemental lighting to define my subject?

A while ago I did a shoot for a client that went on the cover of a magazine. This was an important shot, probably seen by 100,000- 150,000 people, and the cover sets the tone of the magazine. Put a bland picture on the cover and people may not even open the magazine. Put a quality picture on the front and readers will associate that quality with the organization producing the magazine. I wanted it to look really sharp and draw attention to the woman who was the cover model. Bland lighting wasn’t going to cut it. In the end I used three lights– two on the woman and one bounced off the ceiling, lighting up the colorful background. It took more time to set up and shoot the picture, but the effort was justified by the final result.

Morris Hospital HealthSource Magazine Cover Shoot- Dawn Dike (Stroke Patient), Lisbon, Illinois

And that brings me to my point. The magazine client and I have been working together for many years and we almost always use additional lighting. Another client of mine has a tight budget (ok, all my clients do…) and wants to squeeze the most out of my time while we’re shooting together. We rarely use my lights, often moving quickly from shot to shot without time to think about making things look any better. Basically, we’re shooting snapshots with little thought about lighting. There are times this works ok, but most times, unfortunately, the pictures don’t look like anything special. Image is everything, and for better or worse, people will judge your business by the image you portray. If the images of your business are classy, well executed and eye catching, your customers will look at your business that way too. There are times when I won’t want to use additional lighting and natural light can sometimes be perfect for the job, but for the best quality, take the time to create your images, don’t just let them appear.

The first picture was used for placement, to see where the subject would stand and how the background would appear; the second shows the effects of additional lighting. BTW, extra space above her head and around the edges was purposefully planned for the magazine masthead and additional copy.

© Michael Hudson, All Rights Reserved

The final magazine cover

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.