Pam Franics Shoots Real People
"I focus on photographing the real person in the best and most natural setting possible," says tall, single, Texas shooter Pam Francis. "Our team adjusts belt buckles with our hands, not software."
Her sass, charm, and southern-gal appeal have helped Francis land plum assignments from McCann Erickson, Hal Riney, GSD&M, and The Richards Group. Her color-soaked, surprising, on-time and on-budget images keep Francis in high demand year round.
This graphic designer turned photographer set up shop in 1989, in an historic building near downtown Houston, where she remains today. Whether shooting in-studio portrait projects for magazines and advertising agencies or out on assignment, Francis relies on her Rollei 6001 and Kodak E100VS film to create her images. Her photos are created in camera. "About the only digital editing done is to enhance the sky or other minor retouching," she says. For these tweaks, she draws from a Texas-size personal stock collection of clouds and sky images.
Looking in the Rear View Screen
Early on, when Francis was experimenting with various techniques and effects, she discovered rear screen image photography and became enamored of its drama and depth. The process involves a background image projected onto a large projection screen with the subject placed in front and lit by a short strobe. The background image is burnt into the film for an average of four seconds.
Says Francis, explaining the process, "The man in the yellow slicker (p. 30, right), was shot against a rear screen with a touch of added light to convey an ominous feeling." This approach was perfect for the client, integrated energy company Entergy Corporation, which wanted to convey to the customer that they'd be there in time of need. "The technical challenge is to keep him lit without blowing out the rear projection image."
For the image Goldilocks (p. 30, left), created for a pharmaceutical company, Francis used the rear screen projection once again. This time to convey an innocent, warmmood. "We used more fill so the image is very open and clean," says Francis. "We had the dress custom-made to harmonize with the model and background."
Visit any Francis shoot, and you'll see a studio crew that tackles production collaboratively. "From the initial phone call to delivery, we do production in-house as a team," says Francis. "I feel I've got a better handle on things this way. To deliver top results, our studio books the talent, hires the stylist, hair and makeup, and does travel arrangements"which sometimes includes satisfying quirky food demands of celebrity subjects. "Every detail is important and I know I can rely on my team," including her studio manager, production designer, graphic designer, assistantand Daisy, the dog."
Realizing early on that she liked the look of everyday people in her images, Francis founded her print talent agency in 1995. She explains,
agency in 1995. Explains Francis: "Real People Models grew out of a personal need for regular folks, not expensive, trained bodies. Access to this talent on the Web became a great bonus for us when bidding against other photographers from New York and California. The talent was more affordable and local, plus use of the talent is royalty-free. Today my models are hired by other photographers from all over who come to shoot in Texas."
Pam Francis' Gear box
Rolleiflex 6001 and 6006
Kodak DCS Pro
Linhof Master Technika 4x5
Chimera light boxes
Super Pro large, medium, and lanterns
Elinchrom light box
74" light bank
Bogen/Manfrotto 3078 13-foot stand
Comet Power Packs CX244A
PMT 1200 and strobe heads
Kodak E100VS (E-6)
Apple PowerMac G4s
HP Photosmart 7150 printer
Custom studio software made with Access
Gitzo Tripod 6472 3-way
Tamrac cargo cases, camera bags, backpacks
Digital Imaging Group in Houston
After a shoot, the film is generally sent to Houston Photo Imaging for processing and editing before it's shipped to the client or back to the studio; retouching is the client's responsibility. When schedules permit, and if the client asks for retouching, Francis outsources to Houston's Digital Imaging Group. Upon client request, images are uploaded to an FTP site for viewing.
When working an assignment on extreme deadlineor for clients who want to avoid the cost of scanningFrancis will depart from her color-saturated transparencies and shoot digital. She bought a Kodak DCS Pro SLR last summer, favoring its large file size output and the fact that it's compatible with her Canon 28-150mm lenses.
On the Range
For Francis, Texas-natural is a way of life. "I like shooting an editorial assignment with just plain folk, those who let you know it's a really big deal. Whether it's for Time, Private Club, Fortune, or an industry trade magazine, the shoot means something to them."
When choice of subject is up to her, Francis scouts for the perfect person. She's been known to approach strangers in dry cleaning shops, on the street, and in restaurants. For her "down home Harley rider" (p. 30, top) Francis enlisted a very special model: her dad.