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Best of ASMP 2008

To add a humorous spin to the notion of “newspaper home delivery,” photographer Brian Beaugureau recruited his art director’s dog to pose with a rolled-up copy of The Chicago Tribune gripped solidly in her canine mouth. And to provide an alternate vision for the client, Beaugureau shot separate images of a prop explosive and a flaring fuse. He then used his Photoshop skills to massage and merge smoke, fire, dog and dynamite.

Brian Beaugureau — Park Ridge, IL

Web site:
Project: Attentive dog holding lit dynamite sticks in mouth.

© Brian Beaugureau
All images in this article © Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

BB: 20 years.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

BB: 8 years.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

BB: I enjoy shooting so many different things, so I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into any one category. I shoot a lot of food, a lot of people, still life, product and just about anything relating to advertising. This really keeps me excited and fresh creatively. I am never bored. I also really enjoy working in Photoshop. In my opinion, Photoshop has become another part of the photography process, just as using a light, a scrim, or a reflector are parts of the process. They are all tools that we as photographers can use.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.

BB: Originally, this was shot for The Chicago Tribune and the item in the dog’s mouth was a newspaper and not a bundle of dynamite. It was shot as a direct mail piece advertising delivery of the Tribune to your house. When shooting this photo we pretty much shot it conventionally. The dog in the shot is art director Tim Neher’s dog “Hope”. She was just the sweetest dog you could ever work with! She really made our job much easier. Tim would tell Hope to stay with the newspaper in her mouth, and Hope would ask Tim how long he wanted her to stay. OK, she didn’t really ask , but she DID stay as long as we needed her to. The newspaper did get a bit crunched and wet from saliva so we shot another newspaper in the same set in the same position. We then merged the 2 shots in Photoshop.

The version shown here with the dynamite was something I thought would be a bit humorous. The dog is trying to please his owner by retrieving the dynamite and the owner doesn’t have very long to figure out what to do next!

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?

BB: I guess I would have to say my cameras. Without a camera, I could think of great ways to make photos, but I wouldn’t be able to actually make a photo. Over the past 20 years, we have amassed an arsenal of equipment and gadgets that allow me to efficiently create the photos the way we (the client and I) envision them.

ASMP: What is unique about your style and approach, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

BB: My style is always changing, I guess. If there is a trend or a look that I really like, I will make it a point to shoot some things with that particular look. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy shooting many different things. I also enjoy being able to shoot with different looks and feels. Being able to comfortably achieve these looks probably is one reason why my established clients come to me for a variety of projects.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Please talk about the client who assigned this project and the context for this shoot. Have you worked with this client in the past?

BB: The client who I worked with on this project is The Townsend Agency, an ad agency specializing in direct mail advertising. The art director was Tim Neher. The end client was The Chicago Tribune. I have had the pleasure of working with Tim almost from the very beginning of my career. Tim is particularly great to work with because he has great ideas and likes to work as a team.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: You mention that this image was an alternative version of what you shot for the client. How often do you piggyback your own versions onto client shoots? Do you discuss this with your clients beforehand?

BB: Typically, when I do an alternate version of something, I am doing it mostly for the client’s benefit. The client usually has a vision of what the photo should look like. I always try to achieve the client’s vision in the photo and sometimes I feel that it could possibly look great if we try something else in addition. I will always ask the client if they would like me to do an alternate version before I proceed. Sometimes we end up shooting another version and sometimes we just need to proceed with the shoot as scheduled. I would say that at least 75 percent of the time the client likes the alternate version better. I think it is part of my job as a photographer to let the client know what my thoughts are regarding a photograph. Of course, I only suggest things and never try to insist that my vision is any better than their vision. It’s best to work as a team where everyone respects everyone else’s ideas and isn’t afraid to voice their own views.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Do you find that a client’s perception of you changes when you piggyback your own versions onto their projects? Please elaborate.

BB: If I am working with an existing client, they pretty much know what to expect from me. If I am working with a new client, it is almost always appreciated when I “go the extra mile.” They realize that my primary concern is making their images as striking and memorable as possible and they typically appreciate it.

ASMP: Have you ever run into resistance from clients when wanting time to shoot your own version during a shoot?

BB: I typically don’t get any resistance in wanting to shoot an alternate version. As I mentioned earlier, we are usually working as a team, so if I come up with an idea and the client doesn’t think my idea is the greatest, I will not ask the client if they would like to shoot another version. The version of the dog with the dynamite was done later, after the shoot and on my own time. Pulling off an alternate version like that during a shoot would just be too time consuming. Plus, it wouldn’t have done my client any good.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Do you market or derive income from any of the alternative shots you make during client shoots? If so, please describe the networks you have in place for this purpose.

BB: I generally do not pursue marketing the alternate photos we make. That’s not to say we don’t ever derive income from them. I sell some stock images but I don’t really market them. I suppose I should, though.

ASMP: Please tell us how you got the look of bright-eyed attention on the dog’s face.

BB: As I mentioned earlier, “Hope” was so good at listening that she made our job relatively easy. We would just whistle or snap our fingers and she would get that wonderful attentive look.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Where did you get the dynamite sticks and fuse? Was this planned for in advance (eg: ordered from a prop maker or prop house)?

BB: We first looked at prop houses and suppliers but everything looked kind of cheesey. We decided to make the dynamite ourselves. First, we cut a piece of pvc pipe to the correct length. For the graphics on the stick, we made that in Photoshop and printed it out on our Epson ink-jet printer. We then wrapped the paper around the pvc pipe and sprayed it with a semi matte finish. The fuse was a piece of thin cotton cord that was spray painted green. This gave us exactly the look we wanted, even more so than the actual fuses that we located. My 10 year old twins thought the “dynamite” was just the coolest thing ever and asked me if they could have one. Since I made a couple of extras I gave them each one. It wasn’t until the next morning until I realized that I better tell them that they couldn’t bring them to school. Somehow, I don’t think the teachers would have appreciated it quite as much as my twins. They were a bit disappointed, but they got over it.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Describe how you captured the lit fuse and the techniques used to insert the fuse into the main image.

BB: Since the fuse for the photo was a piece of painted cotton cord we needed to light a real fuse for the “burning” part of the fuse. Also we used this image for the smoke. Merging these images, and making it look right was probably the most difficult part of the image, technically speaking, because the fire is so similar in color to the background.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Do you work with a digital technician/retoucher or do your own digital postproduction? Please describe this aspect of your business.

BB: For the most part, we do the digital retouching and comping ourselves. My assistant Ryan and I enjoy this part of photography greatly and we have become very good at it. If we don’t have time, we will have a retoucher give us a hand. I would rather do the Photoshop work in studio because we can get it done quicker than having to explain it to someone else and have them do it. Also, it’s fun.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: How do you structure your fees for digital retouching or other postproduction work? Is this billed by the hour? The image? Other factors?

BB: The way I structure my post-production fees varies just as any other assignment. My clients ask for estimates in different ways and we try to do it as they want it. Sometimes we bill by the hour, sometimes by the job, and sometimes by the image. We also do a fair amount of Photoshop work on set as we go along. This is an extremely cost effective way of doing it in many instances.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: Your photographic interests cover a wide range of subject matter, what is your favorite subject to shoot and why?

BB: When it comes down to it I probably like to shoot things that the average non-creative person can appreciate. I enjoy shooting technically difficult things, such as reflective things, but I really enjoy someone saying, “WOW, that’s cool” or ” Now that’s making me hungry”.

© Brian Beaugureau

ASMP: You describe yourself as a great problem solver. What is the biggest problem you solved for a client?

BB: Actually, that was someone else who described me as a great problem solver, but I do think that is something I am known for. I think you need to be a good problem solver to be a good photographer. One thing that comes to mind is when we were shooting a chef in a kid’s wagon on location outside. We knew that storms were supposed to be coming through the area at about 1:00pm so we scheduled the shoot nice and early so we could finish before the storms arrived. We had all of our testing done and ready to shoot by about 10:00 am. The model and client and crew were all ready to shoot but the “end client” hadn’t arrived yet. He was the one with the custom chef’s outfit with the proper style, logos, etc. He ended up arriving just as the sky was turning black and the rain was starting. The client was unable to reschedule the shoot and wanted to shoot in the studio! I suggested trying to do whatever we could to make it work outside on location first. We ended up very quickly re-lighting everything since it was now pretty much dark outside. We held an umbrella over the head of the “chef” and it looked like it was a nice sunny day out on the image. It’s still one of my favorite images.

© Brian Beaugureau