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Ac0610 barston blanchfield


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Ac0610 barston blanchfield

  1. 1. Working the Curves The Many Manipulations of Steven Barston By Martha Blanchfield Spontaneous, motivated, confident, social: words Steven Barston tosses up to describe himself and his work. This Los Angeles- based commercial and editorial photog- rapher smiles and says he might also label himself distracted, or even a space cadet at times. But as he digs his heels deeper into building a successful career in a competi- tive market, it’s doubtful the space cadet moniker will stick for long. A 2000 graduate of RIT, Barston breezed through assistant photographer torial portraits, but mostly magazine work,” tress, moved to L.A. for improved career helped me land jobs. I soon learned that general vibe here and set myself apart.” Canyon and these stunning, natural envi- jobs for a few years, took on various small says Barston. “By the time I left, I had just potential. Then it happened: He had his a ‘too cool’ recipe wasn’t going to work to Expanding on his new identity, Bar- ronments.” Grunge and grit gave way to editorial gigs and shot a few hip-hop as- shot a McDonald’s ad for Leo Burnett [one first few rubs with California cool. With my favor professionally; my Chicago chill ston reveals that his signature look also glamour. “I also found clients were asking signments. His first full-time job was as a of the world’s largest ad agencies].” references to his persona, Barston says, “I was no longer a competitive advantage, so I started shifting. “My images became more for a lot more edit work to heighten the photographer of local restaurants and their thought I was fairly low key, but the natives changed strategy and went counter-culture. about beauty,” he says. “Instead of dilapi- fantasy and glam look.” owners for Chicago magazine. “I was cover- SoCal Shifts here put my cool to shame. In Chicago I became the most reliable, punctual, orga- dated hotels and edgy urban settings, I In his heart, Barston loves photography ing a range of everything, from music to edi- In 2002 he and his wife, a budding ac- I was labeled hip and laid back and this nized person around—to contrast with the found myself photographing in Topanga at its cleanest form and prefers to produce
  2. 2. While on set, Barston gave the client a sneak peek by using Adobe Lightroom to run a few files through presets. Giving a glimpse cuts down on overall shoot time and total number of files he has to pro- duce. “We were outdoors for about half a day and I took roughly 250 images. I am producing RAW files that process out as TIFFs of around 90MB each, so getting a perfect base photo in-camera saves time.” Barston favors clean and beautiful lighting, so the pool environment yielded great fill for his base image. “Trends and gimmicks come and go. Right now this hyper-reality feel, with its hard light- ing lines at the edge of the face, is fairly popular,” says Barston. “It happened that this super-edited look was just what the client wanted.” In post, Barston uses Adobe Lightroom to edit, citing its speed and intuitive inter- face. His Hasselblad files are processed through Phocus. When shooting with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, CaptureOne is employed for file work. He’ll enlist Pho- toshop to do rudimentary edits in-house, such as removing imperfections, smooth- ing skin, tweaking saturation and crop- ping. The presets favored by the client are relayed to one of his trusted retouchers (chosen depending on client, budget and project needs), who then takes the file through final edit steps. Digital Wizardry Barston’s tools of the trade are not el- emental. He owns a Hasselblad H3DII-31 and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. Lenses include his Hasselblad 50mm, 80mm, 120mm and 150mm, as well as his Can- a final image nearly in line with what he tural hair.” Barston employed a Hasselblad on 24–70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.2 and actually sees through the viewfinder. “But H3DII-31 camera and 80mm lens at the 70–200mm f/2.8. With lighting being so I understand the needs of the clients and brightest point in the day, intentionally important, Barston opts for Profoto 7a, 7b their desire to create new and different overpowering the daylight while underex- and Profoto Acutes. When needed for per- looks to attract buyers,” he shares. “It’s of- posing the ambient light in-camera to get sonal work and smaller jobs, he sets up this ten the client who dictates the call for cra- maximized highlights from light reflecting gear in downtown Los Angeles’ Brewery zy processed looks.” In a recent series pro- off water. This technique also added to the Lofts, a former Pabst Blue Ribbon brew- duced for client Janine Jarman’s Hairroin dreamlike quality of the series. “I always ery now shared by a community of art- Salon in Hollywood, Barston definitely try to shoot for a fairly flat curve, knowing ists. When he cannot shoot in this space, pushed his images toward the surreal. Jar- that the digital medium is not too forgiv- he rents. man required three images for entry into ing and I’d lose some detail in the blacks For a more complex ad campaign for a high stakes competition with the North and whites. I know what I want when I go hair care company got2B’s new Magne- American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA). into a shoot, and I try to get as much in- tik hair gel, Barston rented a larger studio “We used three models in a swimming formation as possible into my file so that I in L.A. On this spacious set, he was able pool—each with fabulous coif,” he says. have more to work with in post.” For add- to work some weird science and digital “We were going for a Greek siren look [see ed contrast, it helped that the models had mastery. Shot on a completely white back- Page 49] with porcelain monotone skin a heavy layer of body makeup to smooth ground, Barston manipulated eight models contrasted against ultra deep-toned, sculp- their skin. and a team of four hairstylists, two makeup
  3. 3. artists, several assistants, a digital tech and ston adds, “Thank goodness for having shoot with impatient and assertive Floyd a retoucher. He dives right in by starting to my retoucher on hand for such a complex Mayweather is a case in point. describe the coffee spill—a very small piece work. Not only were his eyes on the indi- A challenging personality, Mayweath- of the picture puzzle, yet one of the tricki- vidual shots, tracking consistent camera er’s session took place at his Las Vegas est: “Twenty-four times my assistant had placement and continuity for lighting, but mansion. The champ was in town prep- to toss a cup of coffee onto the floor. And he helped me quickly throw together a few ping for a big fight and was revved. Says I actually used a composite of four files to rough composites while on set during lunch. Barston, “I showed up at his house. We get it to look just the way I wanted.” This allowed the client to view progress.” drive past an Escalade, Aston Martin, a Over the course of a full day, numer- The retoucher later built a compos- Bentley. King magazine had given me a di- ous composites with a cast of characters ite image from the best shots. Wizardry rective to snap bravado pics, a key image were obtained to produce the assignment. was needed to place the client’s favorite being the champ looking directly at the “The advertising vision has the scientist representation of each character into the camera and screaming—pure attitude.” guy surrounded by all his fantasy women— exact right position. The extensive work Barston met Mayweather, decked out convincing, Barston nabbed the shots with commercial/editorial photogra- message being: use Magnetik and attract,” paid off; the contract yielded both vertical in an ‘I heart money’ T-shirt, mixing it King wanted, but thanks to his own cool phers, is going fine. Barston keeps his cool quips Barston. “I started by photographing and horizontal looks that got2B has been up with his manager about an upcoming and calm he managed to come away about L.A. attitude and traffic, the com- the guy standing alone in several poses. using for two years now. basketball game. Voices rose and May- with several personal, artistic images petition and the client. “I’m completely Then I added one woman to the right, then weather grabbed $17K in cash from his for his portfolio. Even against a 39–0 aware there are really great photographers one woman to the left. Next I shot the same Throwing Money Around duffel bag and shoved it at his manager: champion, diplomacy and a calming out there—some better, some worse; ALL PHOTOs COPYRIGHT © sTeven bARsTOn woman without the scientist. Striking a balance between the old, “Throw this on Cleveland!” he wailed. character prevailed. some older, some younger. There’s a lot “Pulled together in a final, we’ve got a cool and laid back Barston and the new Barston was sure that this was the bit of diversity. I, in no way, think I’m the unique sense of motion and energy here “reliable, punctual, organized” Barston is of attitude he wanted for the shoot. He Around the World only photographer for the job, but I try to because the majority of the players were turning profitable. “Many of my clients could also see this might be a tough one. Barston covers a lot of ground doing distinguish myself through not only great side-by-side acting out the shots. I wanted talk about how difficult photographers To add to the confusion, Mayweather production work in San Diego, Las Vegas, work, but also by having a great personal- the energy to really come across in the look, are to deal with,” smiles Barston, “so I was under the impression he was doing a Chicago, Shanghai, Boston, Arizona and ity that’s very easy to work with.” so I felt the best way to obtain spontaneity make it as pleasant as possible to work fashion shoot and was less than amicable New York City for clients such as BBDO, would be to have elements happening live with me. I still attribute a lot of my suc- when Barston had to convince him to Vidal Sassoon, Leg Avenue, Modern Martha Blanchfield is creator of the Renegade Photo Shoots ( and a and at once. All the ladies—including the cess to the fact that I remain easy going.” stand for the typical pose: greased boxer Salon, and Excel Sports Management. freelance marketing and public relations con- rope model—were together on set.” Bar- Barston’s adroit execution of an editorial in shorts and gloves. Diplomatic and These days business in L.A., a city filled sultant.