May 2, 2013

If you’ve ever seen an episode of ABC’s hit show ‘Modern Family’, you already know Nolan. Nolan plays everyones favorite son Luke Dunphy. I recently had the pleasure of working with him and here’s how his portrait was made.

CONCEPT // I had been a fan of Nolan’s character on ‘Modern Family’ since its first season but the last thing I wanted to do is create another photograph of Luke Dunphy. That’s a job for the marketing department over at ABC.  After we green lit the shoot I began doing my homework. I quickly found out that Nolan is nothing like his character. Not only is he a member of Mensa with an IQ of 150 but he tested out of high school when he was 13. On top of that he plays somewhere around a dozen instruments.

Knowing this only reinforced my initial decision to push his shoot in the opposite direction of his television persona. Mature, intelligent, and well-dressed. I had been watching movies like “Skyfall” and “To Catch A Thief” in the week leading up to the shoot which ended playing a huge role in things. Backgrounds with deep texture. Tuxedos. Loose bow tie. Sand.

Time to scout.

SCOUTING // With “To Catch A Thief” on my mind, the beach was my first thought. Fortunately Santa Monica not only has a beautiful beach but a great pier. It would be the perfect classic background. I walked the beach for about thirty minutes before I found my ideal angle. I snapped off a few frames and things looked decent. The sun never really burns off the morning clouds until noon or so and given that we were shooting on a weekday chances were things would be fairly quiet in terms of crowds. Perfect.


VISUAL TONE // With those references in mind and under the assumption I could get him in a tux, soft neutral tones with desaturated colors in the pier would be the end goal. I didn’t want Nolan to be smiling either. Maturity was key.

SHOOTING // The day of the shoot came and we arrived an hour early to prepare. Since I was rocking this shoot with nothing but myself and my producer, there was no set to build or crew to direct. I put together my basic setup of a Profoto head and a Photek on a rolling C-stand and made my way down to the location. I nailed down camera settings for the conditions and Nolan arrived moments later.

We made our introductions and my producer sent him off to makeup which took all of two minutes. It was time to shoot. Turns out Nolan is incredibly chill to work with. What’s more is that at the time he was taking a college photography course which gave us some common ground and offered me some freedom in terms of spur of the moment ideas.

Including this one…


The shoot as a whole took about an hour but that was largely because once I nailed my portfolio shot in the first five minutes, Nolan and I got sidetracked sitting in the sand and jumping off lifeguard stations.

LIGHTING // Without my lighting tech I opted to setup a stationary spot for lighting and had Nolan continually walk back and forth as I fired off frames. I wanted to keep the light as natural as possible which meant choosing the lowest power setting and placing the umbrella a few feet above Nolan. I like to replace the natural environmental light source with my own and this was no exception.

Pretty simple as you can see below;


POST-PRODUCTION // This one was pretty intense in terms of post. Not necessarily a major overhaul but more so in the details. The wrinkles in the shirt, the black hues in the suit, and the palette of the pier in the distance. Basically a lot of brushing in and out color balance masks.

THE REVERSE PHOTO SHOOT // I end the shoot and we shake sand covered hands. As I I start to tear down Nolan pulls me aside. He tells me that he’s currently working on a project for his photography class that revolves around photographing people in their “natural environment” and asks if he can take my portrait. It was a fun opportunity for both of us to switch up roles for a second. So that being said here is, well, me photographed by Nolan Gould in Santa Monica, CA.