Magazine Article


Eye Appeal

Turn for a moment to the eye-catching image that opens this article (p. 18). Casting was done for this contact lens cleanser client to find someone with pretty eyes.

The model's eye was photo-graphed first and then the fellow hanging from the swing was positioned in front of a piece of blue Plexiglas. A photo was taken of him and his reflection in the Plexiglas and the two shots were superimposed on one another. Digital doctoring accentuated the streak, cleaning the eye. The man on the swing was actually taking a squeegee to a plain piece of plastic.

No job is too big for Steve Grubman Photography, Inc. Look at the energetic image he created for the annual Chicago marathon (below) and La Salle Bank. For this mural, which soared three stories high on the side of a downtown building, Grubman did casting for actual runners in local parks. "Back in the studio, we shot 150 runners in groups of 15 to 20, over a couple of days. To be able to recognize everyone's face, we shot with film. Then for the three hero winners in front-models who also run-we shot digitally."

What else determines his use of digital or film capture? "When I'm doing a project for a client, very often I've got a pretty tight layout I'm shooting to, so it becomes a question of what's the best way to accomplish a desired result? Digital is another tool to me, like deciding what kind of camera to use or do I want to use quartz lights or strobe lights."

In addition to a terrific work ethic, great eye, good people skills, and thick skin, Grubman stays competitive and keeps his studio in the buyer's eye by shooting new samples, creating innovative direct mail pieces, advertising in directories, and relying on the energetic efforts of his agent.

His website is primarily a resource for clients rather than a marketing tool. "I just finished shooting a project for Dr. Pepper in Dallas. You can see three outdoor billboard shots on the website's Work in Progress section. There was quite a bit of digital work to do when we returned to Chicago. The Work in Progress feature allows clients to see the images evolve as we work on them."

Operating with a bare-bones staff, Grubman notes that almost all crew members on a given project are freelancers, which keeps overhead down and allows him to select a crew with suitable skills.

Besides himself, the full-time staff includes photographer Dave Kreutz, who wears the additional hat of digital artist; Robin Sloan, his studio manager; and Carolyn Somlo, his agent, who joined 16 years ago as his studio manager. The crew often travels to other locations and rents a studio wherever they're working.

"I know that making images for advertising is not going to solve world hunger. So why not have fun with it?"

For more Grubman images, visit

Steven Grubman is one of the best on a short list of people with a reputation for working well with animals.

"I love animal shoots where the animal's behavior dictates what the final ad looks like. It requires that everyone keep an open mind and stay flexible. It's a challenge to capture some behavior that the client has specifically asked for, but I like to cover other behaviors, as well. Then we've got some options after the shoot."

Getting members of the animal kingdom to cooperate while taking an effective image can be tough. Communication is the key, and Grubman's passion for animals gives him an edge. He communicates well with them and jokes that "It's like working with people, without the egos. Animals don't bring that excess baggage to the shoot!"