Three lockdowns. Three photo shoots. One Absolute focus. Safety.
Shoot 1 – Edge Hill University
Faced with organising and art directing photography for a major new student recruitment campaign, we needed to shoot ten students over two days on campus, in typically unpredictable March weather. Due to lockdown restrictions, we were unsure which spaces would be available for use and if we were going to be able to get enough students on site in time to meet the deadline. Right up to the wire, all kinds of lockdown back up plans were tabled, from splitting the shoot in two parts in both on campus and in-studio, to lining up models to replace students as a last-minute contingency. Keeping our nerve (while keeping one eye on mobile phones primed for Covid-19 alerts), we finally got the news we wanted when the Government eased the lockdown on March 8th, two days before the shoot.
One of the most pressing challenges on the shoot was keeping all the surfaces people could touch, safely sanitised. With transmission possible at any point, we patrolled the shoot area with sanitiser bottles. The Edge Hill University team were amazing in helping to ensure that everything went according to plan, carefully shepherding us to where we needed to be to avoid contact with students and staff. The two-meter rule meant that the usual niceties of hair, make-up and wardrobe were effectively ruled out; in this instance, we had to rely on students staying on their spot and straightening things out themselves.
The post-shoot analysis
Any trepidation we felt in art directing the shoot on a spookily quiet campus was soon forgotten, thanks to the brilliant students, super-helpful EHU staff and the expertise and professionalism of Guy Farrow and his assistant Conrad. As the campus itself was effectively our set, the key challenge post-shoot was retouching out all of the Covid awareness signage. The social distancing tape in the spin studio could have been a particular problem but not for the skills of retoucher, Gary Roylance. Hats and masks off to you, Gary.
Shoot 2 – Carrs Pasties
Under normal circumstances, capturing the sheer enjoyment of the moment when people tuck into a famous, deliciously fresh Carrs pastie would have been effortless. Under Covid circumstances, it presented a particular set of problems which we had to overcome. First up, was the problem of keeping our models safe. Even at the best of times, getting families and especially children to relax and feel comfortable isn’t easy. In order to help capture the natural moments of enjoyment that are front and center in the campaign, we created a warm, welcoming environment, where children were made to feel as if they were the heroes of the day.
The time pressures of trying to maintain a Covid-safe set on what would have normally been a very busy one day shoot, meant that efficient people management was paramount. To ensure that the day ran smoothly, guests were given a full itinerary with necessary directions and safety instructions, while everyone else in the studio had a clearly defined role. With suppliers and models reassured, safety processes in place and social distancing measures carefully adhered to, we could press on with visually conveying how enjoyable Carrs pasties are. Timeframes for each model/ family were meticulously planned and preset to capture the perfect image. Afterwards, they were sensitively ushered to another part of the building, where live footage of their reactions was shot in slo-mo to convey the full Carrs experience.
The post-shoot analysis
The proof of the pudding, or in this case, pasty, rests to a large extent on the end product. The sense of achievement both the client and ourselves felt in safely pulling off the task while keeping everyone socially and photographically distanced was further enhanced when we received the final images from the photographer. Like the Carrs pasty experience itself, the reactions and expressions we’d managed to capture as our models enjoyed the gorgeously golden pastry texture, were particularly satisfying.
Shoot 3 – Manchester City Football Club
Our close and valued relationship with Manchester City over numerous seasons has led to many successful shoots, with members of the squad playing with seasonal gifts from the world-famous City shop. But in pandemic times, player availability was simply out of the question. With stringent bubble safety criteria in place, we had to improvise to get the best possible results for City. Once the concept and visual idea was created, the problem became one of both style and logistics, comping the player photography that City had taken themselves with our product photography to achieve the perfect visual match.
No players, but a strong line up of City merchandise meant that we had to tackle the problem of creating the images in a whole new way. Normally, having our own in-agency studio makes this highly convenient and cost effective for clients. But in this instance, because Covid distancing rules meant that we had to limit the number of people in the room, we had to transfer the main shoot to our reception area, which is large enough to accommodate key staff, safely. After that, replicating the lighting and achieving the perfect comp, became our primary focus.
The post-shoot analysis
Thanks to the expertise of our photographer and the experience of our in-house Creative and Account Handling teams in showcasing and handling product shoots, we were able to carry out a successful shoot. In the event, the absence of the players was something we successfully overcame. By simply setting up the images with scale in mind, both players and products were successfully harmonised within our campaign backdrop. An Absolute win-win all round.
View the full case study here.