Chicago Stylized Shoot

I am always talking about sweat equity and investing in your business, well here is a perfect example to prove even with an established business, I am still willing to invest my time and energy to grow my business.

As our business has grown and continues to grow, it’s important that we continue to reinvest in our business and evolve our art and style. See, I am looking to break into a new market. Chicago. We get weddings there from time to time, but I want more. How do I get more? Let me tell you how I won’t. Just showing up to bridal shows showing pictures of my St. Louis weddings. Or just calling planners up in Chicago asking for them to refer me. Or by running ads in Chicago magazines. It’s going to require some investment and networking along with traditional marketing efforts.

Small world sometimes. Alissa, my trusted czar of all things Sal, (code for she tells me what to do), had a connection in Chicago with a high school friend who was now a wedding planner in Chicago. The two of them started talking and boom, we are doing a stylized wedding shoot in Chicago. Ashley La Fleur of La Belle Fleur Events in Chicago was running point helping us with the dress, location, makeup, and models. Why you ask? Because Ashley, like us, understands the value of investing in her business and the value of having great images for her portfolio. Not sure if you are following at this point. I did this for free! Ashley for free. Makeup for free! Models for free! See, everyone had a vested interest in the shoot. Great images! Everyone was investing sweat equity. Can’t find anyone? Keep looking. Try harder. Stop making excuses. This was a team of people who “got it” and those are the people I want to work with and build long term relationships with.

Now for some details.

Camera // Phase One IQ 250
Lighting // Profoto B1s and their Softlight Reflector beauty dish
Location // Art Institute of Chicago
Hair and Makeup // Vanessa Valliant
Dress // Hailey Paige, Dori gown
Tuxedo // Daniel George
Models // Grant and Lisa
Flowers // Natural Beauties Floral
Jewelry // The Left Bank
Chicago wedding planner // Ashley La Fleur with La Belle Fleur Events
Chicago wedding photographer // Sal Cincotta
Assistants // Alissa Zimmerman and Taylor Cincotta

Let’s get into my mind set and goals of the shoot. You should always have goals or you are just walking around aimlessly hoping to get something. Instead put a plan together, get the shot, and move on. Sure, inspiration will strike and you will go off like a dog chasing a squirrel and that’s ok, but you have to track those must-have shots in order to consider the shoot a success. If nothing else, it helps your team stay in sync.

So, my goals from the shoot? Beyond the shot list below, keep in mind, if I just rolled into Chicago and took the same shot every photographer takes, how would I stand out? I wouldn’t. Same shit, different photographer. So, I had to light it, pose it, and process it in a unique way.

1) Head shot of both models.
2) 3/4 shot of them individually and together
3) Full body shot of them individually and together.
4) Romantic image of them together In the garden
5) Detail shot of tux, head piece and flowers
6) Indoor. There was only one shot I wanted. The couple on the gorgeous staircase.

The indoor shot was going to prove the most challenging because photography in the museum is tolerated at best and challenged every step of the way. However, the team was briefed on my vision before we ever walked in. More on that later.

Here are the outdoor shots and the lighting diagram outlining how we did it.


The biggest challenge here was dealing with the dappled light. Natural light was 5.6 so in order to get rid of the shadows I had to power them higher than the natural light. Sorry, you gotta dust those light meters off. 🙂 I lit the scene at f10 using the Profoto B1 and their beauty dish. However, I wanted more separation from the background. We brought in another B1 for support right behind them and lit it at 5.6 just to create some separation.

CF005119 CF005127 CF005179 CF005195v2

Wide Shots // Phase One IQ 250 // 55mm Schneider Lens f10 @ 1/125th ISO 200 // Profoto B1
Tight Shots
// Phase One IQ 250 // 150mm Schneider Lens f10 @ 1/125th ISO 200 // Profoto B1

Some behind the scenes.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.43.56 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.59.11 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.43.34 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.43.21 AM

Next, while we were still in the garden area, I saw a shot that just screamed leading lines. This is where working off a shot list can really help you think about what you are trying to get. This was perfect for a romantic shot of the two of them. Here is the shot.


Now, we were ready to head inside. Briefed the team and models on what I was looking for and also told them we would more than likely get chased off, but to let my team run interference while we focused on the shot. Problems began the minute we walked in. Immediately, they would not let us in with our roller bag. I tried converting the Lowe Pro x200 to a back back. “Nope. Not gonna happen”, I was told. Will shit, this is not good. I can’t even get in to start breaking rules. 🙂 Plan B, had to leave Alissa behind to stay with the gear. Now, I was down a set of hands and more importantly, my interference crew was getting smaller.

We started walking through the Art Institute looking for spots. Perfect, found it. We walk up and start getting ready to take a shot and immediately 3 security guards are all over us with 20 questions. Mind you, the ironic part of all this, there are people taking pictures all around us shooting art work, etc.

I consider myself a bit of a veteran in these situations. I know what questions to ask and I typically know what the rules are and what I can and can not get away with before I walk in the door. Now you might be asking yourself why go to a location like this if you know you are going to get harassed? Well, because if it were easy, everyone would do it and if you want to stand out from the crowd then sometimes you gotta push limits. Don’t hate, instead, realize there is an art in getting something unique for your clients. Follow your own path to that shot – whatever that shot is for you.

After the shake down and a visit from the floor supervisor, we established what I could and could not do. On the list of could not do… block traffic. Hmm, that was going to be tricky since the minute my camera came up people just naturally stop walking to be courteous and because they are just genuinely curious about what we were doing. Taylor’s job? Keep traffic moving. I would have to shoot around it.

We got killer shots here and some of those shots I can not show at the moment because they are so strong, I have to save them for print competition. I know, I am being a huge tease (or maybe another word), but for competition, impact is a huge thing and seeing an image for the first time presents amazing impact. I promise I will update this after competition season this year. Here are some of the behind the scene shots.

CF005358Phase One IQ 250 // 28mm Schneider Lens f5.6 @ 1/250th ISO 800

CF005455Phase One IQ 250 // 150mm Schneider Lens f3.5 @ 1/250th ISO 800

CF005457Phase One IQ 250 // 150mm Schneider Lens f3.5 @ 1/320th ISO 800

CF005423v2Phase One IQ 250 // 150mm Schneider Lens f3.5 @ 1/250th ISO 800

So, what’s the point of all this? No matter where you are in your career, you are never too big to invest in your career, your business, your future! Sweat equity is the one thing you can invest in to develop relationships, your portfolio and of course, develop new business! Good luck, get out there and make it happen!!

Interested in Medium Format in general? Then reach out to Capture Integration and rent one!

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Franklin

    This is awesome Sal…Thanks for sharing

  2. Emil Stancu

    Hello, I’m not working with phase onae mias may be desirable but that money 🙂 honestly a very good photo helps a lot if you own and a very expensive machine, that is clear. Miar be fun to shoot and with phase but unfortunately I can not but what I saw here is very cool

  3. Humberto

    The set up is so simple and the result is amazing.

    Thank you for sharing, teaching and inspiring.

    1. admin

      thanks brother! it doesnt always have to be complicated to produce gorgeous results… sometimes less is more. 🙂

  4. Bridget

    These photos are gorgeous. Can you tell me where the headpiece in the last photo is from? I’m absolutely in love with it!

  5. ty

    good stuff sal. love the enthusiasm and determination. you’re an inspiration to new and experienced photographers. thank you!

  6. Rick

    So true. Show prospective wedding clients what they haven’t seen before. Show judges what they haven’t seen before. Can’t wait to see the others.

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