|Kelley Armstrong on the porch of her writing cottage|
I am no stranger to photographing successful authors, but it was a particular thrill for me to have the chance to photograph New York Times best selling author Kelley Armstrong for the third time, since by this time I had become completely enthralled by her Rockton thriller series. The other thing that made this my favourite Kelley Armstrong shoot yet was getting to visit her country home where she creates the characters, stories and worlds that populate her varied and, thankfully, growing bibliography.
To my great joy we decided, this time, to go with a much more casual vibe, and capture Kelley in her natural habitat, so to speak. In the past we had gone the more traditional route, working with hair and make-up artists and creating styled in-studio portraits. Funnily enough, it wasn't really until this shoot that I realized Kelley has freckles; we both agreed that we did not want to cover them up, which made the sometimes risky idea of not hiring a make-up artist an easier choice to make.
Initially, in order to save Kelley money (not that she requested this!), I decided to dispense with scouting the location, Kelley's place being at least two hours away from Toronto. However, my experience and instinct kicked in and prevented me from making the mistake of skipping this important step.
|Kelley's writing cottage|
Although Kelley writes in a few different spots around her home, as soon as I saw her writing cottage I knew we had to shoot there. I shot the test shot above at around 11:00 a.m. and as cute as it looked with the sun beaming down upon its front wall, it was immediately apparent that we would need to schedule shooting there some hours later when the sun would no longer be shining right into her eyes.
So we planned a 12:00-5:00 p.m. time frame, with the exterior of the cottage selected as the final location. As such, even though we did get a nice sunny shoot day, by the time the sun was angled for a nice exposure on Kelley, its angle was slightly less ideal for the actual cottage, and the sky photographed pale and overexposed, requiring the addition of a hint of one of my archived skies during retouching.
|Left: as shot - blown out sky, Right: new sky added in|
|The final version of this shot featuring a slightly stylized look (with the vignette)|
Kelley's awesome husband even mowed the lawn before we arrived. I actually wouldn't have minded the longer grass, partly because it may have covered the empty planters. We couldn't find anything to put in them on the shoot day, and I couldn't bear them looking empty, so I ended up scouting around my studio until I found this solution:
|Photo of some random, suitably innocuous plants down the street from my studio|
|Above: empty planters as photographed, Below: planters filled in the final image|
Actually we were very lucky to get this sunny day, because as the shoot date was approaching, the weather was bouncing all over the place. Indications were that the weather was going to be awful on the shoot day but nice the day before. As circumstances had dictated no scheduled rain date it was understood that we would just have to deal with whatever weather we got. However, in reality I was not OK with skipping shooting outside. Thanks to Kelley's and my assistant Julia's flexibility we were able to switch the shoot date fairly last minute and shoot a day early. Disaster averted!
The other big bonus regarding scouting ahead of time was that I had the luxury of being able to choose all the locations and pre-visualize set-ups for the three main images we intended to create, rather than having to make these decisions on the day. Scouting also gave me the chance to pre-select Kelley's wardrobe with her, so that the right pieces were cleaned and pressed for rapid deployment in the appropriate scenarios on the day. And final bonus, I had the chance to meet her pets and think about the possibility of including one in a shot, which we did. Great call, since just after our shoot an editor doing a feature on authors and their pets requested a photo.
Of course we chose the Bengal who was so pretty and regal looking when not climbing up and displacing the screen on the window (which may have happened during the scout).
|We also did a version of this shot without the cat.|
While we did a few different ambience shots we also, of course, did the requisite headshot.
|Kelley in her home|
We had set out with a modest goal of netting three final winning shots, but managed to get six, even excluding the one set-up inside the cottage that Kelley ultimately didn't love:
|Not a select. Would have looked better with a fire in the stove.|
At the cottage, the first set-up (before the wide shot shown at the top of the post) was actually almost entirely out of the sun on the porch. I shot wide to include some of the cottage face in the background for flexibility.
|This is slightly cropped from the way it was shot. Lost of space around Kelley leaves room for graphics, etc.|
|I like the shot better cropped tighter. I provided both versions to Kelley.|
As we reset to complete the final shot of the day the wind machine (the actual wind) kicked into gear at exactly the right moment, from exactly the right direction, giving a lovely little lift to Kelley's hair, just as it was starting ever so slightly to lose its volume from the heat and humidity of the day. I just had to remove a few slightly crazy stray hairs during retouching so the windblown look didn't go too far.
I can't wait to do Kelley's next round of portraits, but in the meantime, if you need professional photography or know someone who does please get in touch.
Thanks for reading!