Opportunities for photo-shoots can appear from strange places. Sometimes we craft scenarios in intricate detail, booking models, researching concepts and conducting extensive test shoots. Other times opportunities seemingly land at your feet, and it’s your job to pick them up and make them in to something great.
It was the latter of the two that applied to this ‘post apocalyptic’ styled shoot. A friend and colleague of mine Elliott Montello had started crafting costumes and tempting friends to model for him for a personal photographic series. As the scale of his project grew, so too did the expectations on the resulting images. Elliot recognised that this project needed to be photographed with the same level of attention and skill as he had put into crafting the outfits. It was at this point that reached out to me to take over the photography for this project in the hope that with my lighting knowledge and photographic experience together we could push the project to another level.
I decided early on to keep the lighting simple, I had to shoot over several locations in 2 days with only one assistant. We knew the end product would have a fantasy element, however we wanted it to also have a realistic edge. With so much going on in the costuming and dynamic posing it would have been easy to go over the top with lighting and make the image feel cluttered. Almost every image in the set is shot with one or two strobes either bare or with with a soft box mixed with natural light. This simplistic approach allowed me to concentrate more on the content in the scene and worry less about constantly changing modifiers. It also meant that I was using modifiers that I knew inside out, so I could use them in a variety of ways with different results. I had just bought the Sony A7r a few weeks beforehand, and I hadn’t yet purchased any native lenses so the whole project was shot on manual focus Canon FD glass. Our equipment was basic, but our aspirations were high!
We decided against professional models; there was no budget and Elliot knew plenty of people that looked suitable for style. It actually helped give us an interesting mix for the ‘rag-tag’ group shots and gave personality to the characters in the scene. It quickly became apparent some could pull off a screaming shot like they were in a war film, whilst others were at their best looking pensive and aloof. Getting to know your subject, and can make your shots much more believable, and also save a lot of time.
We worked as a small team which allowed us to be flexible. I had an assistant on the day (James Hendley) to help me with lighting and logistics, Elliott was in the role of art director and had also arranged a makeup artist (Naomi Lake) who would always be preparing the next model in line with gritty skin and beads of sweat. This small group meant that if plans, weather or light changed we could change quickly to adapt. By the end of the shoot we lost a small contingent from the team including Elliott who had trouble trying to retrieve a dune buggy prop which had broken down. Luckily I knew that we had plenty of content in the bag already, so we continued to shoot until there was no light left in the sky.
Having downloaded hundreds of shots from the day the arduous process of culling and selecting images began. Dmitry Zaitsev was kind enough to allow us to use some of the extensive stock he has built up to help enhance the backgrounds of some of the images. I combined this with some of the images of Morocco I had recently taken and we set to work editing. Elliott and I went through several stages of edit. By this point he had moved to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean so the next few months consisted of stuttered file transfers and revisions.
Eventually we arrived at the point where we knew we had to release images. Too much time had passed in post processing and it was clear that we could have easily spent months more going back and fourth….sometimes you’ve just got to let it go!
Whilst there’s plenty more I would have liked to have achieved in the edit, I’m really happy with how well received the project has been.
For more from the series you can catch it on
Insta/ FB: @jonrobertsphotography
Art Director / concept
Elliott Montello, Mark Brock, Emma Morgan, Nick Bush, Kane Fowler
Stock Photography & Assets
Models – Pete Butchers, Kanye Westeros, Nick Clark, Sam Bond, Steven Dillon, Emma Fay Morgan, Scott Woodside, Stefanie Groß, Mark Brock, Elliott G Montello
Behind the Scenes Video & Photography
Laurence Leeke, Alex Thornton
Gregory Edward Hind