Photographer Greg Gorman has the unique opportunity to capture some of the country's most famous people. From celebrities to politicians, Gorman must use his time wisely because his subjects are people without much of it.
His recent conversion to a pure digital darkroom has allowed him to save time often wasted by multiple photo set ups.
Speaking at the recent PhotoPlus Expo show in New York City , Gorman prophesied a bright future for digital as he addressed more the 200 people at the Canon Theater on the Expo floor. The participants, many of who stood and overflowed onto the convention floor, seemed in awe of the work done in such low light. But Gorman's photo sermon came with a caveat, "I don't think digital makes you a good photographer" if you're not one.
He began the slide show with photos taken in a pre-digital age, mostly with a Hasselblad , and spoke of the skills needed to be a top celebrity photographer.
"The right stylist or makeup artist can make or break you," he said. "Putting together a good team is essential" in this niche. The key to have celebrities come back to you for their shoots is making them feel "comfortable, safe and taken care of," he said.
At times, it can get difficult if a celebrity brings his or her own stylist who wants to highlight a person's "good" side, but there's a way around that, Gorman explained. Take the shot the stylist's way, then ask to take some shots using your own vision at the end, he told the audience. "Sometimes, it's not important to hide imperfections," he added.
Gorman's edge is that he looks for spontaneous moments within a set photo shoot infrastructure. Many times the subject is taken by surprise by the "chosen shots." They are taken on a break or breather, when the celebrity is resting for a moment.
One photo showed actor Christopher Walken during some down time as he stood staring at a wall. Another was of Richard Gene peering between the light and shadows of a staircase.
To Gorman, even more important than spontaneity is a consistent look that tells a story. "When I work with students , I look for cohesiveness," he said.
When first presented with a digital camera during the technology's onset in 1999, Gorman was not impressed. "I thought digital was a good excuse for poor photography," he said, adding that he wasn't even interested in learning Photoshop. But , a few years ago all that changed. He made the switch because he could finally "get the spontaneity of digital capture with the quality of a 35 mm...This made all the difference in the world," Gorman said.
Because he wanted to know how to handle his newfound images, he learned Photoshop and uses it exclusively. It finally "came together in a major way. Before [the 1Ds] it just wasn't happening for me. I would play with digital, but it didn't have enough information for me," he said.
Days before Canon announced its 1Ds two years ago , they offered Gorman to take it out for a test try. The moment of reckoning came on an overcast New York City day with no available window light at all. He played around and was impressed. He now uses the upgraded version -- Canon's EOS 1Ds Mark II.
"I could not believe the detail [in the capture] and how digital saw the light at such a low luminance. I could not believe the contrast. Film could never do that," he said of that day. "It was getting the light completely and it amazed me."
Despite his excitement, it was still difficult to completely surrender to digital and he was reluctant to use it for professional jobs until actor Johnny Depp came along.