We recently did a commercial photo shoot for the men's hairdressers “Fella Hair”. Our Brief was to create a set of promotional photos in various iconic locations across the Kent county. We spent the day on the road, taking photos in the 30 degree heat, travelling from location to location all over the Kent coast. It was one hell of a rewarding experience. Here is the story behind the shots.
The Lens - These shots were to be storytelling, with the environment just as important as our subjects. We decided on the moderate wide angle of a 35mm lens, shooting nearly everything over F7.1 which allowed to keep everything in focus.
Lighting - The shoot was outside, mostly spent in the heat of the summer sun. We were travelling all day so we wanted to make sure our equipment was streamlined. We used the sun to our advantage, using a bounce board to reflect the sunlight onto our subjects. To give the photos a little extra pop we also took along a wireless flash with a 31 inch octagonal softbox for some directional fill light. Searching for open shade when possible was a must for this shoot, to keep the light controlled and save our models eyes, but as you’ll read later on that wasn’t always easy to find.
We also took 35mm film photographs on the shoot, using 2 Canon AE-1 cameras. These were both equipped with 50mm f1.8 lenses.
We started in Block Art Media’s hometown of Canterbury and our first location was Westgate Towers and Gardens. We got to the location before the scheduled time to scout out some nice compositions and locations.
After that we headed to the nearby gardens where we had previously found a great location for the shoot, just down by the river Stour with the Westgate Towers in the background.
Once we had the models placed, we added in the lighting. We had a great moment of luck when one of the tour punting boats appeared in the background.
The next stop was one of Kent’s Iconic Orchards. The midday sun was fast approaching, the models were sweating; this was a real run and gun scenario.
Composition found. Models posed. Lighting added. Shots taken. Back in the van, just in time as well, as a disgruntled farmer arrived on the scene.
Margate - Dreamland
The next stop was to the coast. After some traffic troubles we finally arrived into Margate.
The shots were to feature the Dreamland sign but also include the beach. It was probably the most difficult part of the entire shoot. With the hot midday sun beating down on us, we walked our equipment across uneven sand to set up in the middle of a crowded beach, we didn’t have the option of open shade.
We had to use an umbrella at times to keep the heat from ourselves and the models. We got the photos and a few more from the opposite side for good measure. Tough stuff but worth the effort.
Margate- Turner contemporary & The Old Kent Market
After the beach ordeal, shoot fatigue was setting in. We decided to get a few shots in front of The Old Kent Market, an amazing red painted building, originally a cinema and now restored into a marketplace. We set up across the road to give a full view of the building. There was a lot of traffic so we had to time the shots for these ones carefully.
Just to the side of The Old Kent Market building was the iconic Turner Contemporary which we took a few shots outside of; the modern shaped architecture made for a brilliant backdrop.
Just as we were hitting minimum energy levels, Bobby (the manager of Fella Hair) appeared heroically with boxes of pizza. A life saver.
With our energy newly restored we were ready for our next stop along the coast, Kingsgate Bay! The beautiful chalk white cliffs gave a feel of a mediterranean fashion shoot, something that wouldn’t feel out of place on the cover of Vogue magazine. We headed down towards the beach and stopped at an opening in the cliff for our first set of shots. We were luckily provided with open shade and positioned our flash to mimic the direction of the sun.
After the clifftop shoot we followed the path down through the cliff side onto Kings-gate Bay. We had done our research and already knew we wanted the scene placed right in the centre of the natural Rocky Arch cut into the cliffs by the tides. It gave us a perfect frame and the cave walls gave us open shade from the glaring sun. We clambered on the rocks with the lighting, tripod and various gear trying not to slip on the seaweed. This was one tricky location for sure but the shots came out beautifully!
As we parked the van up on the harbour arm we were greeted by a perfectly still and tranquil blue ocean. We quickly scouted out cool locations along the harbour, looking for leading lines and clean compositions.
One method we used here was to use a bare flash to back-light droplets from the sea salt spray that Fella sells. This also created a strong rim light on the models face, helping him to pop from the blue background.
Back to Canterbury
The shoot was drawing to an end. We chucked all our gear in the back of the rental van and headed away from the coast, back to our home city. It was Golden hour as we arrived. We had to get one more location in, Smack bang in the middle of the Canterbury high street! The streets were busy, many onlookers stopped and stared, wondering what was going on. The extra “characters” in these photos really add to the scene and a add some visual tension, especially one we got with a passing cyclist!
Shoots don’t get much more fun than this. It was a long, tiring and tough day but what a beautiful experience it was! The clients were over the moon with the shots and we all left satisfied. If we could have changed one thing it would have been to take a scrim to block out some of that midday sun but hey you live and learn. We got to travel all around the Kent coast and visit some of Kent’s most iconic locations and we will remember this shoot very fondly for a long time.
And a video from behind the scenes can be found on our instagram highlights:
All behind the scenes photography is taken on 35mm film (Fuji colour 200) with a Canon AE-1 and Canon AE-1 Program. We have tried a number of different types of colour film but this one works great for us. Behind the Scenes Shot by Peter Marsh, Peter Sladen, and Kamila Lobuzinska.
Models: Bobby Gordon, Alex Wakefield, Lawrence Goslett, Steven Perks