Shooting Chengdu China

Shooting Chengdu China


As many of you know, we recently had the opportunity to visit China and speak in 5 cities. First, the trip was absolutely amazing, the culture was just so warm and welcoming and the food… lets just say I had some of the best Chinese food I have ever had in my life. I truly enjoyed myself and can’t wait to return.

That being said, we are photographers, so you know I found a way to get out there and do my thing. We were teaching about 100 photographers in each city and most of the seminars were in conference room settings, which is fine, but if you know my style of photography, I am not a huge fan of studio work, let alone in a boring conference room. So, city by city we showed lighting techniques, simple posing, etc, but in Chengdu, they had a private VIP event where I had a small group of photographers being hosted at an outdoor restaurant.

Our hosts wanted me to work with the group and show them some techniques in the restaurant… and, well, no. I needed to get out on the streets and do my thing. And thats when all hell broke lose. They LOVED it! Suddenly, our style of shooting and working in high traffic areas was really being showcased and now the group could truly see what we were all about and how we get some of the dymanic portraits we get. Best of all, it became an absolute circus with the crowds gathering around to see what we were doing – people were having Taylor sign autographs and pose for pictures with them. And don’t let Taylor tell you otherwise, she ate it up. It was fun to be part of for sure.

The goal of this little exercise was to really show the group how we work and make the portrait more environmental and more meaningful to the client. Our clients love being part of architecture and cool locations. Well, we are in China, so what better backdrop than a gorgeous sign with Chinese dragons and red colors. So, we posed Taylor right out in front to start making some cool shots. Then, we added off camera flash to showcase how a small portable light source can easily be used on location without the need for big equipment like light stands and soft boxes.

In addition, we showed our technique for adding another element to the shot where we drag the shutter to about a 30th of a second hand held to give the shot some movement from the crowd. I like to do this in some of my street work because it really adds another element to the shot – it shows the business and energy of being there. However, we really don’t care about the other people in the shot – they are there as a visual element. If they are in focus, then they distract from the main subject, by slowing the shutter and allowing them to be blurry your eye makes its way to the main subject, in this case, Taylor.

Finally, because we were working with the Phase One IQ250 we had wireless capabilities by using it with Capture Pro and the iPad. People in the crowd were able to see the pictures we were getting in real time. It created massive buzz and excitement for what we were doing.

So, whats my point? No matter where you are in the world, you have shooting opportunities. Get out there and shoot. Grab your wife, your kids, a stranger and start doing your thing. Practice different ideas, concepts, poses. Fail. Fail again. It will make you a better photographer. I learn something new every time I get out there its what keeps me excited to shoot every day.


For the main shot below, we headed to the Chengdu Convention Center – the largest building in the world with 5.5 million square feet. The enormity of the building is incredible. My goal was to get something fluid and use the chiffon to match the fluidity of the roof line. I also wanted to use some off camera flash to create some separation from the background.

For this shot, we used the Phase One IQ250 with the 28mm lens from Schneider and the Profoto B1. We had Laurin holding the light as a human light stand and Taylor helping maneuver the chiffon.

The settings were ISO 100 f11 @ 160th of a second.

We had 30min to work. We did this on our way to the airport. We had a gorgeous model – KinKin was her name and she was awesome to work with.

Again, no matter where you are in the world or your local area – make the most use of your time and get out there and just try something different. Make an amazing image and add it to your portfolio. And as always, don’t be afraid to get out there and experiment, fail, try again. It’s what being an artist is all about.

(Click to view larger)


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Robert

    I hope you had a great time in Chengdu. If I know you were there, I would have you photograph my wife there.
    I was in Chengdu for two years, then I recently returned to USA. My luck, I am in USA, and your in Chengdu.
    Any chance you will return to Chengdu again?

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