Shooting Consumer Portraits for McAfee

Posted on November 14th, by Danny Santos II in Client Work, Photo shoots, Projects. 19 comments

Portraits for McAfee

A few months ago, I got a message from Kelly, a project manager of a design agency in San Francisco – Tolleson Design. They were interested in buying a couple of photographs from my Portraits of Strangers set to use for a project they’re doing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any release forms for any of the portraits, so using it for commercial purposes wasn’t possible. So instead, they commissioned me to create a new set of portraits with the same aesthetic.

The project involved creating portraits that will be incorporated as part of the visual language for their rebranding design for McAfee. The set of faces need to portray personas of home and business consumers from around the world. It’s a good thing I’m based in Singapore :)

The main challenge I had was casting. I couldn’t just walk around the streets hoping to encounter faces that fit the client’s preferred profile.. that wouldn’t be an efficient use of time. So I first resorted to friends and office mates. I got a few good candidates, but after the 3rd round of casting, I realized I had to broaden my search. So I resorted to other sources such as Facebook and Model Mayhem. After 7 rounds of casting and 70+ candidates, the client got to select 17. The variety of the selected candidates were just awesome… they came from Spain, India, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Brazil, Philippines, Singapore, and Japan.

I shot in the same conditions as I did in the Portraits of Strangers project: late afternoon in Orchard Road. The shoots were very quick and informal… no stylist, no makeup artist. Just me, the subject, and an assistant. I approached it the same way I did my personal project, except that I alloted 15 minutes per subject (as opposed to the usual 15 seconds), and I brought along an assistant just in case I needed to use a reflector. And in those times when the reflector wasn’t needed, my assistant decided to take some behind-the-scenes shots. Thanks, Paulo! :)

behind the scenes

I rented a Nikon D3x for the project. Though compared to my D300, I’d say it doesn’t have a world of difference in terms of image quality, it does trump my camera in 2 areas:

1) Images from a D3x has 24 megapixels, as opposed to my D300’s 12. I know people often say megapixels has no significance in image quality, and I agree. But the moment you start getting clients who wants the flexibility to print their photos large, the D3x is heaven sent.

2) The D3x has mind-blowing noise performance on low light situations. In one of my shoots, the subject was very late coz she got unexpectedly caught up in traffic. It was already getting dark (past 7pm) and I thought it was impossible for me to get a decent portrait at this light. I was about to postpone the shoot to another day, then she suddenly showed up. I figured, well I have the D3x, so let’s see what this baby’s made of. Fortunately, there was a large LCD screen outside the mall, so I used it as a source of light. I just waited for the screen to turn white… then click!

At ISO 1600, the image turned out pretty good. It’s as if I shot the photo an hour earlier. So that’s why the D3x is Nikon’s top-of-the-line camera, and cost you an arm and a leg.

After a few months of casting and shooting (I could only shoot on weekends), I’ve finally wrapped up the project. All in all, I was pretty happy with the results… thankfully, so was the client :)

This was the second commissioned shoot I got because of my Portraits of Strangers project. It’s really true what they say, that personal projects win commercial jobs. Not only does it make you do what you’re really passionate about, it also gives your potential clients an insight to your vision and approach in photography. And if you get lucky (as I have), a few will start knocking on your door.

Here are some of the portraits I’ve taken for the project:

You can view all the portraits in my Facebook page album here.

I’d like say big big thanks to all my friends who helped me out in the project. The casting was made easier with the help of Unai, Winnie, Luiza for recommending Shirley, and Jun for introducing Naoki.

Big thanks to Paolo Legaspi for patiently assisting me in some of the shoots, and for taking those behind-the-scenes shots. He wrote a blog about his stint as a photography assistant. You can check it out here :)

Of course thanks to the wonderful people who agreed to be photographed for the project: Oscar, Santeri, Lena, Nikita, Lana, Adeline, Sonjel, Jore, Ankur, Maiya, Jasmine, Zee, Dora, Tanishq, Unai, Shirley, and Naoki. You guys were awesome.

And most of all to Kelly and the guys at Tolleson Design… thanks for the confidence, guys.

19 thoughts on “Shooting Consumer Portraits for McAfee

  1. Great shots Danny! Must have been interesting going from a crop to a ff did you use your own lenses? It looks like you shoot from about 6 feet? I really like how you think about the background colours to match the person and the light around there looks fabulous.

  2. hello Danny,

    This serie is just amazing. I’m really fond of the way you use the natural light. How do you choose to place your subject ? (sometimes it looks like the light is behind you, sometimes at 90°) because I really like the fact that there is some soft shadows on cheeks (or reverse for the 13th one, the cheeks are in the light and some soft shadows on face part).

    Thanks for your help ! (Maybe if you have a book recommandation :) )

  3. Very nice post this one. Thanks for sharing in sights of the shoot + behind the shots as well.

    Something I have noticed is the style of photographing is kept so much in the same line. Well done on that.

    Also thanks for encouraging personal projects and how important they are.

    Did you use a 85 mm. Can you share that info.

  4. superb work as always Danny! congrats on this project!

    wowww.D3x. jawdropping. =) but il agree, ur d300s would still do great, except a little on the lowlight. =)

    you made me think i should rent a D3x too one of these days just to get the feel in one of my upcoming shoots hehe

  5. Great set of portraits. It’s interesting to read how you approached the assignment. I think your point about doing what you are passionate about is a good one. Do what you like, do it well, and build a good body of work. That body of work becomes your calling card. Excellent and inspiring.

  6. Congratulations Danny, you deserve it. I follow several photographers who produce some very beautiful and eye-catching pictures but you impress, and inspire, me the most because you do all this on-the-hoof with the minimum of extra equipment and post-production. Love your work.

  7. Oh, one last question : I try myself a session of portrait this afternoon. And I understood something : did you use a neutral grey for your session ? Because your colors are perfectly balanced.

  8. Wonderful series of portraits Danny. Great to see your personal work leading to opportunities like this commercially – very well deserved. How did you find the transition to the D3x? Was it easy to shoot with after not using it before?

  9. From Barcelona, a big fan of photography gives you the congratulations for the brave work you do and the “envy” you give me to see your photos at the same time motivate me to go out and capture unrepeatable moments..A big salute!

  10. Very very very good photos Danny. I’m happy for you that after your long street shooting practice people do notice, and give you jobs like these. You definitely deserve this, man!

    With greetings and cheers from Germany,

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