Behind the page iv :: hanging on a wall…

Sometimes in this job, your heart sinks as you walk into a room, and you have to do a little lateral thinking to come away with something the picture editor might actually use…

A lot of my UK editorial work is education related, including regular stories for the Times Educational Supplement (TES) – not now in fact owned by the Times, or even a part of the Murdoch empire, but still the main education newspaper.

Three or four years ago I was commissioned to photograph some students at Sheffield College for the FE (Further Education) section of the paper, and shoot their new project, which was to redesign ten bottles (all, happily, green), to a brief from a ‘client’.

I arrived and was ushered into a rather unprepossessing classroom, with a round table, and ten 19 year olds looking up at me, each clutching their shampoo/beer/sauce bottle under a delightful fluorescent glow.

Well, it took a bit of work, and about 45 minutes, but this is where I ended up:

Ten Green Bottles :: TES FE section copyright Richard Hanson

Ten Green Bottles :: TES FE section copyright Richard Hanson

I’ve got two Lumedyne heads firing into the white wall (very handy…), with the bottles suspended from a backdrop paper roll on supports, about 1.5 m out from the wall, allowing the light enough space to spread relatively evenly across the background, but still allow a touch of fill to fall on the student’s face.

Lots of things to watch out for technically – too much light would give a ‘bloom’ effect around all the objects, too little and the wall would just have ‘hot spots’ visible, not spread evenly. Enough of the bottles had to be clearly green for the idea to work, so there was some thought in the placing and heights of the different bottles. I’d sort of worked out that this might end up as the shot, so I brought along a bunch of garden twine (green, natch) for the bottles – would have been stuck without it… But tricky, because once you’ve spent this long on a shot, there’s not a lot of time for variety – I couldn’t get another idea out of this, it was simply variations on this, so you’ve got to be pretty clear that this is something that’ll run in your publication (and that the editor will like).

So the main thing here was arriving with a concept that would illustrate the story, bring along the ‘extra’ bits (string, background stands), but then to persuade the people who I was meeting that this was something they should really, really spend their next hour doing…

Which they did – and the pic was on the cover of the FE section that Friday.