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“Contraband” (© Bill DuBose, All Rights Reserved)

This photo was the beginning of a stylistic evolution for the studio. I refer to it as cinematic; basically it’s supposed to be a scene, or a moment of conflict from a movie.

“This was the mid 80’s, and the market competition among the younger shooters was heating up and recession budgets were reducing assignments through the industry. When faced with a decision on which way to go, I always say go forward.

As your circle of clients started to grow, you had to keep showing the book to art directors and designers, or art buyers in the larger agencies. We also used mail-outs as leave-behinds or introductions. Sometimes producing one or two “samples”, plus your greatest hits from earlier portfolio presentations, would be sufficient reason to call back your potential clients. As a matter of course, existing clients always got the first look at new work. That way, if they liked it, they could talk it up. If they were less enthused, you could usually get some friendly constructive criticism. This was always of great value, not only to further your own work’s development, but to further develop your relationship with your client. More on the selling process in future bits.

With this one being very stylized, I wanted to make sure it would read. My grandsons were still quite young (long story), so I asked the younger if he could tell me the story in the picture. I started to ask where the scene took place. He clued right in and said the shipping docks. From there he nailed it right down to the spilled contraband (my word, I think he said “stuff”), and the nightwatchman dropping his flashlight and running away, because the snake startled him. I was so proud of him.

We shot this on film with a view camera, the special effects were complicated. I had started working with retouchers (in film), and there were a few different types of retouching being used in those days. Some better than others. So we shot b/w and color, lots of bracketing to get the exposures we wanted to assemble, and coordinated with the lab, and between friskets (an old school masking technique), and opaque overlays, we got pretty close.

My lab guys knew a lot more about this end of photography (post production) than I did. We got it pretty close. Then I got a real education on retouching on the film itself. We had made multiple dupes from the originals so mistakes would not kill the whole project. They cut, scraped, blended, rebuilt by hand, and constructed the final version. It was amazing. Huge respect for those retouchers. Nowadays it’s PhotoShop of course, or like-minded products.

We were more or less on the cutting edge of our work, digital cameras of poor quality were rumored to be coming, but us film guys would have none of it. (Ha!)