It's Andy Goodwin's friendly, easygoing attitude and ability to think on his feet that brings him clients such as GM, Boeing, and Kraft for their annual reports and location photography. His planning is thorough, and his execution of the shoot as professional and efficient as possible. With a steadfast and reliable crew and a knowledge of lighting that makes other shooters study his photography with curiosity and envy, he's able to flex his creative muscles and consistently deliver images that bring the viewer to a halt and engage in the media it's been designed for-a facet he strives to deliver with each and every job.
Goodwin's Frankfort, Illinois, studio office offers him a wonderful launch point to Chicago and other points of global travel-and always assures he'll be setting up for yet another location portrait. Being on the road all of the time, from one varied set to the next, means that Goodwin has to plan well, estimate even better, and promptly deliver his photography to clients all over the world. His clients appreciate his efforts, as it further illustrates his professionalism and attention to detail-something they always want to know he's on top of, especially with their photo assignments.
"Getting started, I have to have a really good handle on what the shoot will entail," says Goodwin. "I start every job with an estimate, and I ask enough questions to really let the client know what will happen. I do my homework-finding the cheapest flights, arranging carnes for international travel. I can put together a smart, realistic itinerary that even lets me scout a little, think about things, and shoot fresh the next morning. This helps clients to understand and anticipate, and this really helps me in return-I don't want to go nuts when I arrive, chasing the job. The worst-case scenario is when I'm forced to hit the ground running after an overnight flight. I allow enough time on jobs to decompress and objectively think things through on location-and that shows."
Goodwin also remarks that, since he's often traveling, he's very careful to make sure his client understands prices he can control, and prices he cannot. "One of the conversations I always try to have is about how I'm going to put a lot of effort into the estimate, and that I'd hate to lose the job because of travel line items," he says. "I tell them, 'If you have another bidder saying something else, please judge on my other bid details.'"
Goodwin's expertise is not limited to estimating, though; he knows his clients appreciate his demeanor and personable presence. "I think clients come to me because I have a friendly, easygoing attitude and really express my enthusiasm for the projects," he says. "I have a knack for getting to a location and immediately putting people at ease, even if it's a large production. I can make it a fun process for everyone, from the art director to the subjects-and if it's fun, it's more productive and less stressful for all involved."
In the Mood for Creativity
Once on location, Goodwin is faced with the ideas of any client-based creatives, as well as his own experience. If faced with a bland office or a stale conference room for a set, he can pull out the creativity and make something-even when there's nothing to be made. "If the office is unattractive, I'll put them in an elevator to make a cool background if I have to," he laughs. "It's thinking on my feet, avoiding the 'going through the motions,' that ends up making a real difference sometimes."
While Goodwin shoots plenty of advertising and corporate-catered location photography, he also frequently handles annual reports, which require immense diversity. "With annual reports, you could be working with anyone from a factory worker to a CEO-the moods, the time frames, and the personalities all vary," he says. "The CEO shot is the most intense shot there is. There are so many ways that a shoot like that gets filled with anxiety by the CEO's handlers, telling you what you can do, can't do, what he likes, doesn't like. They're worried that their boss will be unhappy with them, which is understandable-so you have to keep it loose and relaxed and not let it get to you," he asserts.
"To keep a fun atmosphere, you have to convince them that we're going to have a great time. It's important that at that moment we've finished the technical aspects on the set and refined them, so we're relaxed and confident. This way, the confidence shows and transfers to the subjects. The worst thing you can do is have a photographer and crew fiddling around, making your subjects wait."
Goodwin involves his subjects-whether they're paid models or corporate staff-to keep the photographs interesting and fresh. He feels he keeps the subjects part of the process that way, which brings them into the creative process. Goodwin shows them the images on the laptop or the camera's LCD, showing what he likes and feels is working-which keeps the subject excited and often more pliable for more posing. "I'll often watch a person standing on set and watch for them to relax their posture, and exhale," he says. "Then I'll tell them I was watching them and loved how when they relaxed they did this or that-and then we're at a good place to start shooting again."
Goodwin admits that one of the toughest parts of posing people is what to do with their hands. "I try to always have a subject grounded, anchored-have their hands doing something, resting somewhere, or holding something," he explains.
Without a doubt, Goodwin's solid compositions pull the viewer in-and he's sure it's no accident. With years on set as an assistant with mentors, he brings experience and a careful eye to the shoot-looking at the whole frame when he's shooting. Sometimes, though, he has to sell his ideas. "If you're creative and have a vision, you have to be able to tactfully win your client over on that idea," he states. "If it doesn't work, you can always try something else-but don't settle for a shot just because the feedback is, 'Yeah, that looks pretty good.' Work at it until it feels right-you'll never be sorry you didn't give up."
Goodwin has been furthering his creative view by experimenting with lighting, and trying not only new things, but things very out of the ordinary-and he loves the direction it's taken his work. "I've been using fluorescent fixtures right off the shelf from home centers, and powerful flashlights," he says. "I use them just like normal photographic lighting, but it really sets the images apart from the rest of my work when it's done well. With color temperature a much smaller deal than it used to be, I can use fluorescent fixtures to add to my main subject, as opposed to using gels to balance lighting in a room that already has fluorescent fixtures. I love it."
Goodwin is not hesitant to praise his collaborators, either. He often employs the services of keen retouchers that can help refine his vision and deliver the edge that his clients are looking for. "I'm pretty good in Photoshop, but the fact is, there are people who are unbelievable in [it]-and I love to work them when I can," he says. "It's like taking your song out of the music studio and giving it to a producer to help you push the image over the top, making the result magical," he says. "We're not talking about swapping heads, but refining color. Folks like Jeff Tucker at billtuckerstudio.com and Robert Frolich at filtrestudio.com are my favorites-we really get some great images when we work together. Line items such as retouching are added to invoices; I just convince the client that 'I have a guy!'"
As a result of his collaborations and experiments, Goodwin's portfolio's continuity and careful selection bring together a book that speaks of reliability and consistency. There is Americana represented, as well a clear shift toward a more gritty style of shooting, a new direction for him-one he's obviously having a lot of fun shooting.
See more of Andy Goodwin's work at www.agoodwinphoto.com.
5 Tips for the Location Photographer
1. Bring backups for everything on location. An iPod can work great as an external HD.
2. Scout the job first whenever possible. You might find that bringing a prop or supplementing the wardrobe would improve the photograph.
3. Anchor the person to their environment. Have something for their hands to be doing or holding.
4. Don't be afraid to pull someone out of their office and into the stairwell, roof or elevator. If you approach each shot like you're shooting for your portfolio, you'll get something great.
5. When flying, make sure to pack bags as "kits" instead of all heads in one bag, all packs in another. This way, if a bag gets lost in transit you can still shoot the project.
Most Important Product for Productivity::
I am really into my Speedotron Explorer Power packs-they're 1500w battery packs that are just phenomenal. They're compatible with all of my Speedotron lights, old and new. My Speedotrons always hold up well to traveling, so they're a must-but the power packs have this great long-life battery as well as the ability to plug in and shoot. It makes all the difference when lighting on location-they just really do the job.
- Andy Goodwin
Andy Goodwin's Gear Box
CAMERAS AND LENSES
• Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EOS 1Ds
• Lenses: Canon EF 70-200 IS, 24-70; Tamron 28-300
• Speedotron 1500 w Explorer Battery Pack and heads, 2405 packs and 202 heads
• Chimera softboxes; Elinchrom Octabank
• Pocket Wizard
• Apple G5, Apple laptop
• Adobe Photoshop CS2
• Network based Terabyte drive
• Liteware cases; Gitzo tripod