The fall, which apparently was some time ago, was a very busy time. Between the class I was teaching at VCU and work at the studio, the blog suffered and is only today being resuscitated. There has been much to record, but the habit of doing so lapsed.

Teaching at VCU was an interesting experience. I would do it again some day, but at a time in which I could dedicate a greater portion of my attention to the task. Additionally, I would prefer instructing students whose primary focus is photography. The Communication Arts students were quite talented, but their attention and interest did not seem to be consistently on photography, with a few exemplary exceptions, of course. This fact was understandable, but nonetheless, found to be at times frustrating for me. I would imagine that with time in the classroom, my ability to properly deal with such things would improve, and I would be more able to maintain the attention and focus of the kids, while communicating not only that that is relevant, but also interesting.

So, my experience as a rookie teacher was not without its bumps, but I certainly would not rule out a similar venture in the future. As it was, though, the end of the semester was greeted with a bit of relief at my being able to focus fully on the studio. And, in the studio, we have been involved in some pretty interesting projects. Recently, we were tapped to provide imagery for the annual Richmond Magazine “Top Docs” issue. We had done this job in past years, but it was more or less straight portraiture. This time Creative Director Steve Hedberg approached me with the concept of three featured docs spotlit among a sea of doctors. We were gunning for both a cover and a double page spread, so it was evident we would needs lots of bodies to fill the space. And, doctors’ schedules being what they are, we knew we would have a limited amount of time with each, and the likelihood of having all three at once was slim.

So, we opted for an approach that would necessitate the least amount of the doctors’ time, and a fewer number of “fake doctors.” The plan, it was decided, was to shoot the doctors both individually and with a small group of the stand-in docs surrounding them, lit with a spotlight effect. We also photographed individual and small groups of stand-ins with subdued lighting. The individual elements would then be brought together in Photoshop into the desired composition. The keys to success were to be mindful of consistent lighting (both intensity and direction), and perspective. The final composition, we knew, would have both foreground elements (stand-in docs), and elements that would recede into the background, and camera height and angle would have to be subtly adjusted in order to maintain the proper perspective.

Fake Docs. ©Jeff S. Saxman

Real Doc, with some Fake Docs. ©Jeff S. Saxman

Shooting went well, and ultimately, we ended up using about 25-30 separate images for the spread photo. We had each doctor in makeup and on set for no more than a half hour, and they all seemed willing and able participants. The fake stand-in docs were rotated in and out for variety, but each is featured in the final image more than once. (During one moment of down time, a group of them, dressed in scrubs, departed the studio in search of a free cup of coffee and were dismayed to find their “uniforms” held no sway with the local coffee vendors.)

My initial test composition. Due to time constraints, Steve completed the final composite used in the magazine, below. ©Jeff S. Saxman

Cover. Photo ©Jeff S. Saxman

Spread. Photo © Jeff S. Saxman

All in all, a successful day at Saxman Photography. I’ll be back again soon with some other interesting projects we have been working on.

Fake Docs sitting around with real coffee. © Jeff S. Saxman

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