Going Pro; Production

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Lessons

The process and management involved in a photo shoot.


The more practice you get, the bigger and more complex assignments you will be able take on; with peace of mind that your team is happy and safe, your clients are satisfied and you are able to create what you set out to do…within the time frame and budget planned for.


It’s a lot of things to keep in mind, especially when you do your own projects and don’t have assistants or a project manager to help you out. It’s all about multitasking. Don’t worry if you are a guy and terrible at doing two things at the same time; with the right questions asked, some planning, preparation and practice, you will be able to do it with bravura.


Ami in action. planning and practice makes perfect. Byron Bay Australia, Marstrand, Långedrag and Arendal Sweden



We will go through each one of the below questions in detail


Why? Is it for a client or yourself, what do you want to create

When? Weather, light, access, crowded or empty

Where? Photo studio, at home, nature, hotel, factory, castle

What? Photo equipment, lights, props, clothes, food, water

Who? Models, assistant, hair and make up artist, stylist

How? Transport, access, payment for location, contact person




What’s the reason for this photo shoot? Is is personal? Maybe for a learning experience, to express a vision, to build your portfolio, maybe for an exhibition or for a pitch; to attract a job.

Its always good to keep the “why” in mind and not to derail in to other ideas along the way. For instance; if you need to compliment your portfolio with a series of fashion photos to make it complete, but on the day of the photo shoot the model suggests some artistic black and white topless photos for boyfriend. Try to see the bigger picture and remember the reason you have put all this work, planning, maybe also money, involved people etc. to make it work. Ask yourself if it’s really worth it, just to see some boobs.


Maybe its for a client. A client can be a company a private person and adverticing agency, a magazine, a model agency etc. Try get as good picture of  the end-user as possible…the client of your client….the one who will buy the product, read the magazine etc. Get clear of what the desired end result is.


*I will talk about communication in another post; how to get your vision across and how to interpret the ideas of your clients.. Keep an eye ot for that….it’s very important!


Ami in action. In deep snow in Sweden, in a luxury resort in the Philippines, in a hoard of raindeers in Lappland or on the highway. Photo shots can take place anywhere.



Summer or winter, hot or cold? In the summer you might need to bring a hat and sun block if you are going to be out a whole day…in winter a thermos with hot tea and some extra blankets for the models to not freeze to death.


Night or day, dawn or dusk, rain or sunshine? The light changes a lot in different weathers and time of day or night. It you are going to do a photo series at dawn…you might want to split it in two days …as the dawn doesn’t last for very long.


Is the place empty or crowded? Maybe the day of the photo shot is a public holiday and the location is crowded with people…whereas when you first saw it was 10am on a work day and totally deserted.


By the sea; high tide or low tide can make a huge difference.


Empty or closed?…some areas have booms or fences that close the area off for the weekend or at night.


Damp or dry?….make sure your gear and the clothes and accessories are kept clean and safe.


The more you know about the location and how it changes in different lights, weather, days etc. the lower the risk of having to cancel the photos shoot, or having to work uphill trying to work around the problems….problems that could have been easily been avoided with some planning.




Studio, hotel, factory, ruins, beach, city, museum, under water, vehicle, church, barn, home, bar etc.


There are endless possibilities:

First you need your imagination, a good contact net can be very useful and for some places you need to have cash as well.


Ami at work. In a castle, in a restaurant, in a house, in a hotel.



If it is just a personal project it can involve you and any and all of the following:

Photo assistant, model, stylist, stylist assistant, make up artist, hair stylist.


If you work for a client the list can be a lot longer: art director, photo agency, advertising agency, producer, client etc.

Depending on the nature of the photo shoot it can also include more specific people like: a set designer, chef, lather expert, handyman, security, pet owner etc.


In other words the team can become very big…and the team have needs….everyone needs to eat and drink, be able to go to the toilet, the models need to be able to change in privacy and not freeze to death etc.



A checklist is always good to have. It’s very frustrating to be out in the countryside ready to shoot and you realize that you have forgotten the memory cards at home. This list works well for me, but these days it’s an internal check list that happens automatically…. you can add or remove things to make it fit your needs. It’s just to get you to start thinking.


Photo equipment: Camera, lights, reflectors, tripods, extension cord, batteries charged, battery charger, extra battery, memory cards, extra hard drive, laptop

Bits and pieces: Clamps, safety pins, needles, tape roller, nail polish remover, translucent powder, wet wipes

Energy: Food and drinks or check before where to refuel

Protection: Blankets, hat, sun block, umbrellas, right shoes, knee pads, protection for your equipment and the people

Logistics: Transport to and from location for everyone involved, filled up car, trolleys if the location is far from your transport, keys, passes, phone numbers, phone with battery

Legal bits: Model release form, property release form

Shoot enhancers: Props, music, clothes, accessories



You might wonder about some of the points, but I can tell you that I have been in many situations where all of these things have proven to be important….very important actually.

Imagine that the model shows up with black flaky nail polish when you have set out to do a clean natural health shot.

Hot summer day, far from the nearest kiosk…and you have forgotten to bring water.

Clothes are too big and everyone forgot to bring pins.

You show up at the building, doors are locked and you forgot the number to the owner/security guard.


You got to be one step ahead all the time and have back up plans. You don’t want to stuff up your first big job because you forgot to think. With practice this becomes second nature and actually quite fun.


Ami at work. In a greenhouse in Sweden, on a beach in Sri Lanka, climbing the Sicilian mountains, in a hangar and under a bridge.



This is just as important as the first question of why. It doesn’t matter if you have worked out that you want the photo shoot to take place in Madagascar a misty morning in an open field with lemurs and 5 naked women on motorbikes. You might also know what lights to use and even the name of the nearest hotel where you would like to stay…if you don’t have the budget for it (or the right contacts or a lot of luck).

A feasibility rapport is good to establish;

Is it doable? Is it worth it?

If the answer is yes, then you can start to plan how to go about doing it.


Transportation – Of the team and all equipment

Budget – What does it all cost? Can you afford it?

Who do you know? – That can be useful

Practically – Identify obstacles beforehand

Planning – Is it doable? How to go about it?

Access -Keys, codes, gates, private property, crowded?

Contact persons -Get names and numbers of everyone




Production is all about multi tasking. You got to think and keep thinking of the following


Planning: the why, when, where, what, who and how


Direction and Communication: with models, hair and make up and artist, stylist, assistant…(art director, client etc.)


Keep checking: the light, exposure, pose, expression, clothes, hair, make up, alignment and angles


Basic needs: Safety (for people and equipment), food and drinks, temperature, time, toilet



It’s recommended to start with smaller projects and then work your way up to more elaborate ones.


Hopefully  this proves to be useful for you


What are you waiting for?….start planning that next shoot!

Sri Lanka; The Fishermen of Talalla

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Travel & Adventures


Talalla in south west Sri Lanka. Photo: Ami Elsius


Imagine a place where time holds it’s breath and the hustle and bustle of modern civilisation seems eons away: A quiet place, peaceful and tranquil far away from stress, noise, traffic, news and information bombardment. Imagine a tropical paradise: clear turquoise blue waters, an almost deserted golden beach lined with swaying coconut palms and huge banyan trees. Giant sea turtles lay their eggs at night and the king fisher skilfully catches crabs during the day. Random cows stroll aimlessly down the beach as shiny white cranes catch a free ride on their backs, hoping to get a mouthful of insects on the way. An iguana takes an afternoon stroll while squirrels and monkeys watch from the trees.


Cow taking a stroll down the beach. Photo: Ami Elsius


Here you will find breathtaking beauty in hues ranging from a pale Cerulean to deeper Prussian blue, framed with fresh greens and golden sandy tones, highlighted by deep red hibiscuses, purple and magenta coloured bougainvillea and the white and yellow so sensually scented frangipani.


All accompanied by the most exquisite tropical symphony consisting of various colourful birds and insects, the gentle breeze caressing the treetops and rolling waves breaking in perfect tubes. The sky is clear, sun high in the sky and no one to be seen.

This could very well be the deserted paradise beach of your dreams…for a few hours a day, before the scheduled scene change.


Going out for the first catch of the day. Photo: Ami Elsius

In the early morning hours or in the late afternoon the setting changes tremendously; a new scene is rolled in for another story. This story is as old as mankind itself and has had little variation over the past centuries. It is the band of 20 fishermen that work here everyday the same way their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers did before them; it’s a story of patience, strength, endurance, trust and teamwork.




Looking for some movement in the water, to indicate where to lay the net. Photo: Ami Elsius


A nearly toothless man with a body that looks weak and fragile, gazes out over the ocean; skilfully scanning the surface for jumping fish. Once the fish shoal is spotted, a group of 6-10 fishermen drags a very narrow 2000kg canoe out in the waves and start rowing her out. No motor, no sail, just a wooden stabilizer on one side. The canoe is not made to sit in; you either sit on top of the bars that hold the stabilizer in place or stand up, but watch where you put your feet; a 700 metre net is nested in the belly of the canoe.


You have to be very quick and alert to not get tangled in the 700meter net, as it's swiftly laid out in a big half circle around the shoal. Photo: Ami Elsius


It wasn't entirely easy to stay out of the way, keep the camera safe and not fall overboard. Photo: Ami Elsius


Splashing water, moving boat, oars in all directions, 8 men moving around and a 700m net and I with the camera, trying to booth stay out of the way and get some good angles for photos.....all together in this narrow boat. Photo: Ami Elsius


The net is swiftly laid in a big half circle around the shoal before the boat returns to the shore, surfing in on the waves. People on the shore help to drag the heavy boat back up on the sand while others start pulling the net. Two groups team up in a tug of war with the ocean, pulling on the ends of the net. Passing villagers of all ages help the team of 20 in their 2-3 times daily struggle. What starts out as a huge half circle with the two teams far apart eventually ends up, with a lot of pulling and walking, on the beach and out in the waves, as a narrow U. The fish get channelled in to a snout and pulled up on the beach.

Some days the net is full but far to often the net is empty or sparsely scattered with fish. You can see the big trawlers on the horizon that are out for months on end, like giant vacuum cleaners pulling up every shoal they can see on their echo-sounder. Small-scale manual fishing has and is increasingly becoming harder to survive on.


With the big trawlers going up and down the coast like a giant vacum cleaners, it's not much fish left for the hard working locals. Photo: Ami Elsius


As soon as the net in its entirety is up on the beach, the snout part where the fish have been caught is separated from the rest of the net.  The 700m fishing net is spread out on the beach in a huge zigzag pattern and is scanned for tears.  Mending takes place on the spot if needed and this precious tool is neatly folded and stored on the boat again after some drying time.


The net is checked for holes after every use. Photo: Ami Elsius


The net is layed out in a big zig zag on the pattern to dry. Photo: Ami Elsius


The nets are treated with outmost care and attention. Photo: Ami Elsius


I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius


The fish is sold right on the beach, as soon as it gets out of the water. I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius


Two wooden oars are pushed into the sand, handle down and a third oar is tied in between them creating a big H. A balance is tied to the crossing oar and a locally made rattan basket full of fish is hooked on to the scale.


A scale is made on the spot with two oars and a rope. I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius





Good-sized tasty fish is sold for about 200 rupees per kg (slightly over 1 euro) just minutes after its been pulled out of the sea. The owner of the boat takes half the money and the rest is evenly shared with the other 19 fishermen. They alternate between 5 different boats, each with it’s own net.



Even though the daily rowing, dragging of the boat and pulling of the net is physically challenging even for the fittest of men, you will find old bony men and young boys alongside broad shouldered men with big bellies.  Many need to supplement their catch by solo trips in smaller canoes, weighing 500 kg. A hand held fishing line, some cut squid pieces, a bottle of water and a home made lantern looking like a coffeepot for late homecomings is their only gear. It’s hard work with a calm sea, but during the monsoon season the ocean gets rough and the rowing and tugging becomes totally exhausting.


Many need to supplement their catch by solo trips in smaller canoes, weighing 500 kg. Photo: Ami Elsius


The fishing village was badly affected by the 2004 tsunami: all buildings were greatly damaged or totally washed away, and 25 people died, mainly women and children. One of the fishermen lost his wife and 3 children.


From dead calm to full blown tsunami; the sea has as many faces as man does. Photo: Ami Elsius


These men know that the ocean gives as well as takes life; sometimes it is generous with its fruits and other times it leaves you empty handed. Sometimes it’s still like a mirror, other times rough as hell…just like life. Even though it is hard to make ends meet, none of the fishermen would care to change their profession. It’s in their genes, it’s who they are, it’s their heritage, and hopefully their future. Humility, humbleness, acceptance, gratitude, hope and genuine team spirit are all qualities that the fishermen of Talalla possess. They are dedicated and proud family fathers, reliable friends, hard working and skilful, resilient and genuine men.


Theres always time for some quiet meditaion. Photo: Ami Elsius


More and more of us hit the wall, burn out, and suffer from depression, panic anxiety, a mind that is never quiet and a body that doesn’t know how to fully relax. As the whole world is speeding up and joining the information age it is becoming increasingly important to preserve pristine communities and unspoiled nature.


Everything here circulates around the boats, the beach, the ocean...and a great sense of community and team spirit. Photo: Ami Elsius


We all need to keep our eyes open, and take responsibility for our actions, just as much when we are travelling. Something seemingly trivial to you can be the snowball that caused the avalanche in a new place. If you want to appreciate your journey and genuinely help minimize your footprints along your travels, the best is to donate money to a village conservation fund or a reputable aid organisation. You can make all the difference!


Pristine communities and unspoiled nature are hard to come by these days. Photo: Ami Elsius