Software is another critical detail. I use and highly recommend Phase One's C1 PRO software, which is compatible with many digital SLRs. Canon shooters can also use Canon's Remote Capture software, and other tethered options exist for other camera brands. However, nothing comes close to matching the quality of C1 PRO with regard to the user interface during capture, and the advanced image processing options. Those features make it an indispensible production tool.
3. Schedule, Shoot & Process
Models should be scheduled throughout the day, and staggered to reduce the number of people waiting inside or outside the studio. For example, a recent casting schedule was as follows: men ages 30 to 40 (9a.m.-noon); women ages 20 to 30 (12:30-3p.m.); and women ages 40 to 50 (3-5:30p.m.).
Both the Coca-Cola and Wyeth casting photos were shot in RAW file format with the Canon EOS-1Ds. The C1 PRO software is optimized for RAW capture and processing. Once my camera was connected to the computer, I shot a gray card, performed a gray balance and created a slight contrast curve in the software to be applied to each image. I then set up processing to final JPGs. During the shooting session, images appear on-screen in C1 PRO with a customizable contact sheet layout (Fig. 1). We were careful to make sure that the proper file name is entered for each model as we are shooting, so that individuals can be contacted quickly if needed. A label can also be worn by each model for their first shot, with a corresponding number or name to help keep things organized.
After these castings, all files were immediately backed up to an external FireWire hard drive for safety. Then the producer, photographer and I reviewed the images. We eliminated the talent that did not fit by editing from within the CI software, and made a tight selection of the models we liked, based on the storyboard and any suggestions from the client. The RAW files were then selected individually and in groups and quickly tweaked prior to conversion. Color balance, exposure adjustment, and a bit of sharpening are generally set before batch processing the RAW files.
A "Horizontal Gray" Photoshop Web Photo Gallery
Recently, C1 Pro 3.5 introduced "QuickProofs" (see the menu bar on the left side of Fig. 1). It's a fast way to output to JPGs, and is perfect for digital castings. The process takes only about two seconds to process each image on a Mac G5 2.0GHz dual processor. I typically produce 5x8-inch JPGs at 96 PPI, and I always embed an sRGB profile because the files are almost always used for Web galleries on the Internet. sRGB is also suitable for making digital C-prints, or even inkjet or dye sublimation prints. If this had been a final job for publication, files would have been processed to 16-bit TIFFs at full resolution (64MB each in RGB mode) and embedded with the Adobe RGB (1998) profile.
4. Post the Files & Burn a CD/DVD
After the files were processed, I organized the JPG images, and prepared a Web Photo Gallery in Photoshop CS. Photoshop is great for this type of work because it allows you to customize many parts of the Web gallery. The gallery choice I favor is Horizontal Gray (Fig. 3) because it is easy for clients to navigate and make choices. I usually use 100-pixel thumbnails and 500 pixels for the larger images.
Posting files is just a matter of uploading the finished gallery folder to a Web server. For example, if my Website is www.vonthomas.com and my Web Gallery folder is called CocaCola1, I will upload the folder "CocaCola1" into my main directory using the application "Fetch" (www.fetchsoftworks.com) and I will then give my client the following link to click on via email: http://www.vonthomas.com/CocaCola1. This will launch the Web gallery in an Internet browser as long as the client is connected to the Internet. There are many ways to upload images to a Web server, and there are also other ways to post files to the Internet for client review. This system is fast, flexible, inexpensive and efficient.
Many clients also request a CD or DVD with all the JPGs from the shoot, and the Web Gallery folder can even be copied to the same disk for offline viewing on any computer with a Web browser.
5. Deliver and Relax!
At that point, the casting is generally done because Web delivery is all that is usually required. However, there are occasions where the client wants hard copy prints, (usually 4x6-inch glossies). In those cases, I recommend outputting a separate set of batch processed files at a higher resolution (200-300 PPI) and exactly 4x6 inches (or as close as possible). These should also be embedded with an sRGB profile. Then just send them to a one-hour photo service for processing either on CD, or via FTP transfer. Many labs are now set up to receive and print files automatically over the Web.
C1 PRO allows me to set up batch processing for both the small Web JPGs and 4x6 JPGs at the same time, which is a major time saver. With digital casting, in many cases I've been able to deliver more than 200 4x6 prints and upload an entire day's shoot to a server for client review-all in the same day. You can too!
Von Thomas is a New York City-based photographer, digital technician, educator and lecturer. His casting clients include Dom Perignon, the Campbell Soup Co., Nestlé, Clinique, Pantene, Sears/Kenmore, Tampax, and Grey Advertising. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.