I recently photographed a series of advertisements for ExxonMobil Chemical at one of their technology centers. We worked with a fantastic team from McCann Erickson in New York, and they did a great job of conceptualizing the final ads. The comp we were presented with showed a black and white image of an ExxonMobil scientist working in a lab environment with a detail breakout photo of a macro subject from their lab.
The labs were very tight and cluttered spaces – lots of scientific equipment everywhere, lots of hoses and pipes, and very few clean simple backgrounds. We decided to shoot several different lab techs and scientists working with their respective equipment on white. This was a serious challenge, as there was not ample room to do a normally lit white background. We settled on placing a 6 x 6 scrim jim behind the subjects, just to de-clutter the room, and give the retoucher clean images of the subject and foreground equipment to work with. This worked well, but it was a very tight squeeze all day. To look good in B&W, the light needed to be fairly dramatic and contrast-y. We used gridded softboxes, a Wafer 100 and a Wafer 75 in some cases, both with Lighttools 30 degree grids.
We also had great fun creating the macro images. Kelly Clark, our art director, would work with us to pick out various interesting pieces of scientific equipment, and we would then set up lighting and photograph details, often with the Canon 100mm macro, which is just an incredibly sharp piece of glass. It was interesting to create tight abstract views of everyday science equipment.
One of the cool shots we did, came about during the scouting trip. We noticed that several of the scientists would write in wax pencil on the plexiglas cover of their lab enclosures….math formulas, notes, etc. We decided it looked pretty interesting, and ran out to Home Depot to get a clean new piece of plexi to recreate the same look on white in the lab. (Apologies to Neil Leifer and his iconic Bear Bryant portrait. )
Andrew Loehman did a great job digital teching for the day, and Nathan Lindstrom assisted. Juan Guadiana, a stellar Houston-based retoucher did a masterful job of cutting out our subjects with their equipment for the final ads. These were not easy to do. Andrea Kaye, the art buyer at McCann Erickson, Valerie Sena, the account manager, and Kelly Clark, the art director were wonderful to work with, and we were able to enjoy a fantastic Tex-Mex meal with our ExxonMobil client at El Real, a cool new restaurant in the former Tower Theater during their brief visit to Houston.