Sean Hagwell (seanhagwell.com) is a celebrity and entertainment photographer who at a young age has started collecting a strong portfolio in the record and related industries. His work has appeared in Boston Magazine, Huffington Post's magazine "Olympic Issue," and for many companies including Sony Records and soon-to-be-released content for Warner Entertainment/Word Records.
CONCEIVING THE PARACHUTE SHOOT
"The Parachute image was a result of my 'list'. To make a long story short, I realized early on in my career that without a reputation in the industry or even a decent portfolio, artists weren't going to find me on their own. In response to that, I grabbed a notebook and started writing down the names of people I wanted to photograph in my lifetime [The longer version is here]. These were people who caught my attention for a variety of reasons: they were from a good movie, had an interesting career, or had made a hit song that got stuck in my head. After hearing Parachute's 'Something To Believe In' way back in early 2011, I decided I was going to get that shot by any means possible. I started sketching out concepts while thinking about their style, tone, and personalities based on interviews, etc. I had no idea how the logistics were going to work, but if it's a good idea it'll go one way or another.
"So for the next six months, my producer kept a close eye on their tour schedule. It turned out they finally had a show here in Denver around September/October of 2011. I immediately called their manager, sent him my treatment, and took him through what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, it turned out their time in Denver was short and that it wouldn't allow for a shoot.
"After taking another look at their dates, it turned out that their next closest show to us was Austin, Texas. On that particular date, they had an entire afternoon open, so we packed up and took a 16-hour drive. The day of the shoot arrived, and it couldn't have gone smoother. No art directors, no management...just myself, my producer, and the band. We grabbed some food and drinks and turned the shoot into more of a relaxed gathering as opposed to a business transaction. That mood allowed me to get what became the final image.
EXECUTING THE SHOT
"On a conceptual level, I wanted something fun. Every other official photograph I had seen on Parachute's end was either extremely serious and consisted of the "V" band formation. In reality, they are extremely funny and laid back guys. So I threw up a single Paul C. Buff Zeus flash head inside a 46" Photek Softlighter and put it in the corner of the room "replacing" one of the wall lights above them. I semi-arranged the guys sitting down on the couch/chairs and told them to simply hang out, talk, and have a few drinks while I did the rest. They were a little taken aback at first having been so used to the typical "stand here and don't move" kind of shoot, but they were more than happy to relax. We must have fired off 200 shots over 10 minutes. I wasn't even looking through the viewfinder or at the back of the camera. I just hit that shutter over and over while watching everything play out in front of me. About halfway through, Will (lead singer) grabbed his guitar and started quietly singing their latest single 'Kiss Me Slowly' while coming up with new off-the-wall lyrics from their day. The whole vibe was relaxed and lighthearted. I've had Parachute fans tell me they felt like they got to see a side of the band that they never have a chance to see. That always reminds me why I do what I do.
"After the shoot was over they asked if we wanted to stick around and hang out to see the show. They were relaxed, comfortable with us, and didn't feel the need to be "on" so to speak. In turn I was able to capture some photojournalistic shots which ended up becoming the first in the 'Green Room' series. Needless to say, by the end of the night I had some great content, great conversations, and even better memories. We continue to keep in touch and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again sometime soon. I remember sending the image off to them a week later for retouch notes and everyone from management to the guys themselves said that it was one of the best photos they've ever had taken.
POST-PRODUCTION OF THE FINAL IMAGE
"In terms of post-production, it came down to bringing some of the warmer tones onto the same palette (guitar, table, jackets, etc) and a little sharpening trick I picked up from my good friend/photographer Ian Keaggy. Otherwise, it's pretty much out of camera."
SEAN'S EQUIPMENT FOR THE SHOT
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8
Settings: ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/30th of a second
Other: White balance set to flash. Handheld (I was holding my breath). Paul C. Buff Zeus 2500 Power Pack with single Zeus flash head at 1/16th power. This was through a 46" Photek Softliter on a C-stand.