After 20 years of hard work, I am finally enjoying my rewards. Petrocelli Photography moved to a newly renovated studio in 2005. We have 2,200 square feet of space, and I put a lot of thought into designing that space. Everything we do, all of our marketing efforts, reflect the same look and feel as our studio.
Studio visitors are amazed at the red, white, and black color scheme that’s part of my branding. The world of a photographer is 18 percent gray, but I like to operate “outside the box.” I rarely use a light meter or histogram, shoot mostly JPEG, and I can produce a flawless 40x50 print from a 24MB file shot with my Canon EOS 1D Mark II.
Although I photograph 30 or 40 weddings each year and numerous commercial shoots during the week, I’ve developed a strong motorcycle following. Shooting for most major motorcycle magazines, the Discovery Channel, and appearing on “American Chopper” has propelled my name in the world of motorcycle photography.
Like my studio, website, business cards, and promotional materials, my motorcycle shoots are simple and fun. With music playing on my surround-sound stereo system, we turn up the 8x20-foot homemade light bank that’s loaded with four Calumet Elite flash heads, powered by two 2400-watt second Elite power packs hanging from the rafters, one on each side of the light bank. PocketWizards eliminate our tripping over cords during the shoot.
One motorcycle shoot stands out from the rest. The father of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2005 asked me to photograph a bike he had commissioned to be built in memory of his son and three friends killed in Iraq. We contacted the local Reserve unit and asked if four Marines would join us for the shoot, to represent each of the fallen Marines. They did.
The Marine bike shot (above) came from one single exposure that required very little Photoshop. We shot the bike under the light bank, keeping the studio dark and covering the lens on the camera. I brought the Marines with a flashlight, moved them into position, then did light painting with a 500-watt quartz light with a snoot. I desaturated the flags slightly and darkened the lower half of the Marines to create the effect of the Marines fading into the background.
I take an easy approach with everything I photograph, using lighting and a little extra gear when necessary. When the director of a hospital tells me I only have 30 minutes to photograph a mother, daughter, and premature baby, I don’t have time to set up a lot of lights. Clients really appreciate the fact that I arrive with minimal equipment and get the job done.
I use Calumet travel lights as needed, or a Metz, which my assistant handles, and my Canon 550EX Speedlite, generally powered down 1-2 stops.
In addition to my Canon EOS 1D Mark II, I use a 10D as a backup. I have a G4 PowerBook for location work, and a G4 tower in the studio, with a 20-inch Cinema Display. My main programs are Photoshop CS and Extensis 6. This equipment has never let me down.
I designed my 45x65x18-foot studio as a place where my clients and I would be comfortable and to convey a professional atmosphere. I built the light box for less then $300 and I have a 24-foot cyc wall. I don’t spend a fortune on advertising. I do a little direct mail, have an ad in the current Black Book, and I get a lot of buisness from my website.
I have always maintained an “open-door policy.” I remember how hard it was to break into the business and I am grateful to the photographers who gave me a chance and helped me learn. Now I am happy to share what I know. Stop by next time you’re in the Albany area!