Location, location, location

Good photography, especially good portraits, are nothing if not improved by a good location. With quality photography, it’s not always the work you do with tools like cameras or lighting –it’s the effort you make before anything is even touched. And good locations are a critical part of that work.

Bird + Bird is an AIGA WM sponsor and we volunteered to do individual portraits of the board members as well as a group photograph. We could’ve opted to bring them all into the studio for a photo in front of a nice backdrop—but that would’ve been easy. And it wouldn’t have been great.

(I’m reflexively wary of easy. I’ve found it’s rare for easy to create great imagery.)

There’s a process of determining the usual suspects of who, what, where, why and when for great imagery. Since AIGA is a non-profit composed of primarily graphic designers and illustrators, I wanted to create something that was visible and tangible. These days most of their work is accomplished on computers, but once upon a time it was all done by hand. You’d find graphic designers in print shops with heavy metal type presses creating their designs on paper. The letters were small chunks of metal, and were all placed by hand to make the print plates.

It was laborious. And it was beautiful.

Using the past as inspiration, we found the perfect background for the board member portraits: an old print shop. This environment helped build the story of each person (the where and the who) as they relate to the professional association (the what). We were also fortunate enough to have support from the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Their Old Streets of Grand Rapids exhibit features a working vintage print shop, and they were nice enough to share the exhibit with us.

While there were some lighting constraints because of the low ceilings and small space, the actual shoot was fairly straightforward and went well. We photographed each board member with as much variance in pose, posture and background as our location allowed. The AIGA WM board members were all a delight to work with! They were extremely attentive and present in front of the camera.

Now that the shoot is over and the portraits are ready, it goes to show that location can be the difference between a good shoot and a great one.

And, we should always support local organizations like AIGA WM and the Grand Rapids Public Museum. These organizations make our community better and if we don’t support them—they go away.

To learn more about Bird + Bird and see some of their work, please visit their website here.



By Adam Bird
Published July 9, 2018