Ten minutes or less with Taylor Lautner
Reuters had been approved for a ten-minute portrait session with Taylor Lautner, the heartthrob of millions of teenagers, my editor Sam Mircovich informed me the day before the shoot.
Reporter Alex Dobuzinskis had a one-on-one interview with Taylor scheduled ahead of the premier of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” Before the release of a film, the production company organizes press junkets in which the cast is available for media interviews and occasionally for a quick photo session. Photo access is rare so whenever it’s granted to us, it’s welcomed.
Not unlike other press junkets, this one was held at a prestigious hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel had been rigged and retrofitted for these types of media events.
My shoot was slotted in for 3:15pm on a Saturday. I arrived one hour early, as I always do, to check in, set-up and think about my shots.
Two important things to remember during these portrait sessions are: to create an environmental portrait with no backdrop, and to create a unique look that extracts the subject from the actual hotel setting. I always aim for these two different looks.
To shoot a traditional portrait, I use a medium size Chimera softbox, a Dynalite uni400 head plugged into a jackrabbit battery and a wireless connection with pocket wizards transmitters as I prefer not to have any cables running along the floor. I am able to move around the room freely with my lighting self-contained.
Furthermore, I often mount the flash head on a magic arm with a clamp, which allows me to place it pretty much anywhere. For instance, when I shot portraits of Benicio Del Toro, I secured it to the railing of the hotel room patio.
But for Taylor’s shoot, I had room to mount the head on stands. To create a traditionally lit portrait, I place a light to the right of the subject. This works well when shooting males as it gives a more moody atmosphere. It worked well with Taylor too, giving me the opportunity for a straight-forward shot and one from his left, which was more moody. I used a 24-70mm lens at f11.
For my second look, I always prefer to find a location in the room where I can shoot using available light. Also, shooting with an 85mm lens at f1.2, the look is very unique. Shooting at f1.2 dissolves the background so it’s not as distracting, and the photos have a natural feel to them.
Running right on schedule, Taylor came into the room where Alex and I had been setting up. He was accompanied by a studio publicist, personal publicist and a hair & make-up artist. We had 25 minutes of his time.
After introductions and a few stylistic touch-ups, I got the shots I needed in approximately 5 of the 10 allotted minutes. This pleased his publicist, as they are always happy to gain precious time during a busy day.
I have been lucky in my career to gain one-on-one time with many celebrities. I always try to come up with images that can differentiate our coverage. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s equally rewarding to get captivating and eye-catching pictures despite the limited options a hotel setting provides.