Ollie Green, huh – This young guy’s gonna be urban pop music’s next big thing for sure. I first met this remarkably modest yet uber-talented artist/producer at a music industry coaching day in Leeds. Paraded in front of a ‘speed-dating’ style music demo session at Leeds College of Music, Ollie presented himself and his music to the team of industry experts and he instantly became the one-to-watch. We kept in touch via Twitter and Facebook and I monitored his ever increasing stream of contemporary, urban beats ‘n melodies flowing via YouTube.
It was sort of inevitable then that the idea of a music photoshoot collaboration would take place, and sure enough, after a series of emails and texts, Debz and I shot over to Ollie’s Leeds based studio location for a full Sunday afternoon’s shooting. I’d already envisaged some end result composite (and stylised) image themes and discussed them with Ollie whilst setting up the day’s lighting gear – fortunately, he was into every idea presented and threw a few variations into the mix himself. Also there for the photo session was Ollie’s friend and collaborator, rapper and vocalist, Gopal ‘Exclusive’ which of course added to the dynamic of the day and created even more image possibilities.
The studio environment for the photo shoot was small in scale, but full of interesting music-tech recording gear, some of which was used for additional props and backdrops for the artist’s. A full rack of studio outboard hardware, Dynaudio speakers, a Neumann U87 microphone plus an SE Electronics Reflexion filter all added to the flava’s these guys wanted to stamp their musical identities further. As a photographer, such gear props as these help me get the subject interacting and more at ease – something to hold, pose and work with (or in Exclusive’s case, sing/rap with), are also awesome for adding extra visual interest and add greatly to any narrative the image portrays. Some ‘SICK’ Ollie ‘n Exclusive music in the background while we worked sure nuff helped too!
We were also quite lucky too that the studio had a large white wall, which was of course useful to grab certain shots that would eventually become knock out composite’s later in post production. In addition, we found some big acoustic panels (used normally for minimising sound wave reflections) which were used for throwing some funky coloured gel back lighting behind the subject(s) and adding textured interest too.
Lighting & Lens Set Up
My recently acquired Bowens Gemini 500C flash head became part of a two light set up used for the indoors studio shots of the two guys. A 3-foot Photoflex Octodome (with a 400 Classic Bowens head) was used as key light in various positions to the subject’s – sometimes feathered across, sometimes directly in front/above. The second head took care of occasional fill light duties, but mostly was used with a grid attachment as rear wall white illumination or gelled, coloured lighting streaks etc. Lens choice for this rather close quarters shooting involved the wicked Nikon 50mm f1.4 and for those ‘drag it all in’ images, my 16~35mm delivered the goods. The great thing about shooting wide with such a lens as the 16~35, is that by maintaining a similar horizon perspective to the subject, you get little distortion, but arc away from that plane, and all manner of funky visual possibilities emerge – cool!
Outdoor Night Photoshoot
After completely juicing every creative image possibility from Ollie’s studio environment, and as daylight had already fallen, I asked the guys if they’d consider stepping outside to grab some shots with a few night-time backgrounds. They were cool about that and fortunately, the studio was based in a cool apartment block with some interestingly lit, outdoor back drops. Using the main Octadome key light, backed up this time with the more portable Nikon SB900 speedlight, we tried a few scenario’s, on occasion really working on dragging in the ambient light, balancing the flash with that and keeping an eye on the high ISO’s necessary to do so.
One particular shot involved showing Ollie (done paparazzi style) as he was climbing the stairs to his apartment. Knowing I’d later turn that into a more ‘cinematic’ vibe later in post-production, I had no worries about mixing the tungsten colour temperatures with my daylight balanced flash, and so concentrated more on composition and capturing the ‘moment’ to enhance the image narrative.
So, Ollie Green.. a massively promising UK artist and producer, soon no doubt to go stratospheric, in fact already networking with the superstar entertainment industry (having recently played backing piano and keyboards for some of the X-Factor finalist’s in 2011). As for photographic subjects, the great thing about shooting such young and forward thinking talent, is that they are really open to more conceptualized imagery and are happy to accommodate further by being totally professional in their creative attitude and approach to every shooting scenario. It was also a barrel of laughs too – both Debbie and I had a great day with the guys, which was rounded off with a trip to Ollie’s recommended curry restaurant (the famous Mumtaz in Leeds) to review the day and enjoy some awesome Indian food. Cheers Ollie and Gopal – we had a blast!