The time I shot a Big Brother contestant | A GQ Style Photoshoot with Clay Honeycutt

Last month, I accidently hired a former Big Brother contestant as a model for a personal project.

 
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Prior to that, I was burned out and on the verge of giving up completely. In many ways, 2015 was a great year. But by the end of it, I had stopped creating. Instead, I was just busy making money. Earning a living is important, of course, but as an artist, it’s dangerous if I let it be my primary objective. I make better art when I’m more focused on pushing myself and growing than in sticking with what I know I can do well.

When I get stuck in a rut of repeatedly shooting the same way, I stop feeling inspired. When I’m not inspired, I have a tendency to procrastinate. I become paralyzed with fear, and I look for distractions to keep me from thinking about what’s important. I turn to Netflix marathons, reading endless articles about photography gear, binging on social media, or just moping for days.

Lack of inspiration, procrastination, and fear are all tied together in my struggle with perfectionism. When I give in to fear (which is really the fear of not being perfect), then perfectionism wins and I’m not able to do anything until I’m ready to go out, try something new, and risk not being perfect. 

In December, I noticed that I was sinking into discouragement because with the holidays and being busy with family, I was losing the drive and momentum to find inspiration. But I did the opposite of what I normally do. I was looking through all of the photographs I had taken in 2015, and I realized that it had been a long time since I worked on a personal project without the pressure of pleasing a client. 

I decided to produce my own photo shoot. I called up a few friends I love working with and asked them to join me.

For a long time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to shoot GQ-style images in my own style. The only problem was there was no way I could do it alone. I also know nothing about fashion, unless you call a black t-shirt and jeans “fashion.”

I created a Pinterest board of ideas and sent it out to the team. They all loved the ideas, and we got to work. I had worked with Ashley Akins at the Campbell Agency before. From the selection of headshots she sent me, I found one who looked like he would fit in a GQ ad. So I booked him for the shoot.

The morning of the shoot, I still didn't know who he was. But Bella, our studio manager, told me just before Clay arrived that he had been a popular contestant on Big Brother last summer. Knowing he was famous made me nervous. Suddenly this was less of a fun concept shoot and more of a risk. I tried to shake off the pressure, knowing that more people would be interested in these images.

 I try to keep the shoot light and fun.

I try to keep the shoot light and fun.

Clay was easy to work with and a humble, nice guy. He got along with everyone and we got some great shots. If Bella hadn’t told me he was famous, I wouldn’t have known from working with him.

 Ricky putting finishing touches on Clay's hair and makeup.

Ricky putting finishing touches on Clay's hair and makeup.

 Courtney's looks for Clay were on point the whole day.

Courtney's looks for Clay were on point the whole day.

 Don't ask why I am standing like that.  I am trying to explain to him about the emotions he should feel...

Don't ask why I am standing like that.  I am trying to explain to him about the emotions he should feel...

He was never boastful about his fame that he had with being on Big Brother show.  You would never notice he was a popular guy unless you knew the show.

This shoot was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with talented people and create great images. I like working alone, and I do it well most of the time. But I always enjoy creating with a team. This team inspired me and challenged me to create better work.

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These first shots only happened because Ricky, the makeup artist, thought it would be interesting to wet him down with water bottle. The rest of the shoot went smoothly because our talented stylist brought the right outfits and Ricky matched those concepts perfectly.

 
 

Here is the team:
Model - Clay Honeycutt
Agency - Campbell Agency (Ashley Akins)
Makeup - Ricky Flores 
Styling - Courtney Walker
Assist - Imani Chet Lytle


Here are the technical details for my fellow photography nerds:
Camera: Fujifilm X-T1
Lens: Fujifilm 56mm & 35mm
Lights: Einstein E640 (I used 1-2 lights for each photo. To save time, I had 3 lights with different modifiers set up at all times)
Modifiers: Paul C. Buff 22" Beauty Dish (when I want to slap someone with ton of light, this is what I use), Cheetahstand Rice Bowl (lovely contrasty light), Lumopro Strip (dramatic light), black v-flats (to cut light), and natural window light.

Background: Grey Seamless paper (Savage), cyc wall, and white wall.

The goal with the lighting setup was to create dramatic light.  To pull it off, the lights were close to the subject for a quicker fall off, and the modifier was a deep parabolic shape to create more contrast.  At times, I used the beauty dish to flood light with more of a punch.

I shot tethered to Lightroom via Macbook Pro.

One thing I learned is that I need to watch the time more carefully. My first setup took more than 40 minutes, which is longer than it needed to be. I got way too excited and kept on shooting until Ricky tapped me on my shoulder. After that, I had Bella remind me of the time every 15 minutes. Lesson learned: Get the shot you need and move on. Trust your instinct that you got the shot! You only need one or two “safety” shots, not ten.


Behind-the-scenes photos by Chet Photography

Shiloh + Skylar

These adorable girls are my nieces. 

 Shiloh, age 7.

Shiloh, age 7.

 Skylar, age 4.

Skylar, age 4.

Their photos are on my website and frequent my social media. My sister loves that her girls have a professional photographer for an uncle, but not every photo is perfect.

Last Christmas, I had a very stressful photo shoot with them. Shiloh is seven so she was very well behaved and knew what to do.  But Skylar, who is four, threw a huge tantrum. She refused to be photographed and cried for more than half an hour. That's why you Shiloh looking so elegant in her Christmas dress but Skylar with her back to you. 

 Yet another one from the day where Shiloh smiled her big smile, as usual, but Skylar would not even turn around.

Yet another one from the day where Shiloh smiled her big smile, as usual, but Skylar would not even turn around.

Later, I found out it was because my studio lights seemed too big and scary to her. She really taught me a lesson about photographing children after I have already been doing so for a couple of years now. A non-threatening object can look like a monster in the eyes of a child.

For next time, I need to make sure the children I photograph are not afraid of my lights and if they are, I need to be more intentional about getting them used to it. If that does not work, I will need to try to hide the lights behind something or take them outdoors.


Here are more images of Shiloh. (I don't play favorites with my nieces - I just don't have any of Skylar by herself except with her back turned to me.)

 
 

These photos were taken on Fujifilm X-T1 camera with Fujifim 56mm f/1.2 lens.

Think Branded Media | Head Shots

Recently I had the pleasure of working with Think Branded Media, a video production company that has worked with the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, American Airlines, and Burger King. I did headshot for Beau, Daniel, and Johny, my colleagues at WELD. I enjoyed having the opportunity to collaborate with them as they update their marketing photos.

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This was a simple setup using a single light. I shot three different styles for each person so they would have a variety to choose from. They gave me free reign over the style of the shoot. I knew I wanted it to be classic, dark, and moody. I rented the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Lens  for my Fujifilm X-T1 camera. 90mm focal length is good for head shots and portraits because there is minimal distortion.  Also, it’s a very sharp lens.


Most of the photos were lit using the CheetahStand 48" RiceBowl RB-120 Deep Para Softboxes to create depth and contrast. One thing to note is that these softboxes are a bit heavy - I had to be careful when attaching them to my lights (Einstein E640 monolights).

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I also used a modeling light to create a shallow depth of field for the photos below.

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I’m proud of how these turned out, but I'm always looking for ways to keep my portrait photography interesting and innovative. One thing I want to try next is shooting moving portraits, like Sue Bryce. She mixes video and stills together.

Check out the new head shots and see Think Branded’s videos on their Facebook page!