Robert Gillette Photography: Blog en-us (C) Robert Gillette Photography (Robert Gillette Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:49:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:49:00 GMT Cool as a Cucumber... One of my favorite things about this past wedding was the way the bride and groom were so incredibly chill. Nothing was going to phase our bride on her wedding day. Sure, the groom got a little jumpy as soon as he go to the venue, but as soon as he saw her coming up the isle it was cake. It is funny to me how the more a bride seems to stress about the details of her day, the more things seem to go wrong. This was never the case for these two. I remember telling them, "...all that stuff doesn't matter. At the end of the day you WILL be married, regardless of the details and the how. That is all that matters." Boy did they take it to heart.


(c) Robert Gillette - (510) 427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette - (510) 427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette - (510) 427-7745

  (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745
(Robert Gillette Photography) Thu, 10 Sep 2015 22:34:07 GMT
Just make us look cool... Any photographer who has been in the business for a while has been approached for the band shot. Usually it is a group of younger guys who have no money and no idea what they want — other than to "look cool." Thankfully, that is never the case for the musicians in Small Town Society. I have worked with Paul on a few projects, and I love how unpretentious he is regarding his music. Both a brilliant musician and orator, he knows exactly who he is and what he is about. His album A Road Most Traveled is a beautiful social commentary on everything from social orphans, to to human trafficking, to the meaninglessness of a life built on professional success.

And since nothing in the music is about looking cool, nothing about that photos needs to look cool. Instead we went for a black and white, gritty texture that more accurately represents the gravity of the music. Each band member was photographed in front of a seamless white paper backdrop, about 4 feet from the subject. There is a small softbox behind the subject to the right and left, with a large beauty dish directly overhead, pointed straight down. 


(c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745

(c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745   (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745

(Robert Gillette Photography) Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:01:42 GMT
Video is Just Photography at 24 Frames a Second. "Video is just photography at 24 frames a second."

                                                        -Ernest Favis


I don't know if Ernest is the first to say this, but he was the first to say it to me. It isn't that he possesses an intelligence incapable of coming up with such a quote, but more the fact that it is such an obvious truth it couldn't have escaped colloquialism that long. I have always been a fan of cinematography, and it was only my previous experience with film that led me to choose photo over video. 

But this week, I got to play around with a GoPro for the first time. I have to say that I very much enjoyed the experience. True, this is no high quality production here. I will win no awards, and probably not many views. But there is something I take for granted these days when it comes to media creation. As a professional photographer, I don't always want to "work" on my days off by schlepping a camera around. Having the GoPro was just enough to make 24 frames a second (or in this case 30) a day at the beach, not the office. 


(Robert Gillette Photography) Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:30:00 GMT
Sink or Swim in a Sea of White (c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745

Back in June we had our first shoot with our newest client, whom I mentioned in a previous post. They manufacture wedding and bridesmaids gowns for wholesale distribution to Bridal Boutiques. I wish I had known about them when we were still in the bridal business, because their work is fantastic and at prices much lower than the big names.


The project originally called for about a half day of lifestyle photos near our house in Hayward, nothing too complicated. It seemed like a great get-to-know-you shoot. A week later we were planning for the complete opposite. Our simple lifestyle shoot had evolved into one of the most complex catalog shoots I have worked on. Two professional models, stylist, makeup, catered, and the kicker: the setup is white wedding dresses on a seamless white background. A floor-to-ceiling seamless white backdrop is hard enough to pull off under the best conditions, but in a living room with a white subject is basically like trying to defy the laws of physics. Lighting one white object properly, while overexposing another that is right next to it is somewhat problematic. After about an hour of setup, it was go time... ready or not.


The first fact I had to accept is that there was almost no way to get this perfect on in camera. I much prefer to get it as close to perfect in camera as possible, but this just couldn’t happen. Photoshop would have to be a close partner on this one. The second was that with over 50 dresses on the list, the pacing was going to be fast. Like, a dress every 5 to 8 minutes fast. No time to reposition lights and move the model. Once she is set, and the dress is arranged, that is it. 


So I setup the backdrops using the now famous Zack Arias method, but without the reflective tile board. Instead I used a panel of 1/16” white polywall for the footing. The backdrops were lit on either side and I actually had to bounce some light off the ceilings to get the floor white all the way to the subject. Then I used a large soft box to light the top half of the dress, and a PLM to hit the feet. This gave me the ability to light the dress with 2 different zones, which turned out to be the key to making this all work. 


I could not have been happier with the results. Not only was I getting the blown out white I wanted, but I had control over how the dress interacted with both the background and the floor. And the talent… oh the talent! These girls were amazing. There were several times when I would ask one of them to move her arm, or her hair, and would have to ask her to move it back because by the time the words had left my mouth she had already done it. A good model is reading me as much as I am reading her, and it makes everything about a billion times easer. 


This was seriously one of the best commercial experiences I have ever had. The pictures are wonderful, the talent is happy, and the client not only loves her photos but asks me, “So how much more do I owe you, since the project is different than we discussed?”



Could anything else go right here?







(Robert Gillette Photography) Wed, 12 Nov 2014 08:13:00 GMT
Happy 4th of July!

Growing up in the East Bay, specifically Alameda County, fireworks are not something of which I am particularly familiar. I enjoyed them on the 4th of July and the occasional baseball game, but I have not really been an active part of the process since they are banned where I live. While it didn’t stop nearly anybody from celebrating illegally, mixing explosives and rebellion was just not something I longed to try. This past Fall however my parents moved to Modesto, a rural town on the Northern edge of Stanislaus County that has no problem with fireworks (unlike its hippy neighbor). As such, we were treated to a brilliant and somewhat chaotic experience. Loud, colorful, and coming from every corner of the sky, it was everything I could have hoped for. 


I also took the opportunity to buy my first firework. I was in the area, why not join the party. We didn’t have anything special, and in fact it turns out the people in our court had purchased much more than we did. After watching quite a few displays, I thought I might as well conduct the grand finale and light all mine at once. Once again, we were not disappointed.


(Robert Gillette Photography) Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:41:02 GMT
2,190 Good Morning's and Counting.

​June 28th, 2008 - the day I married my wife. It was (and still is) the most exciting, nervous, and blissful day I have ever enjoyed. This past Saturday, Karina and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary. It is somewhat odd to look at this woman that has been the greatest blessing I could imagine, and realize that some people already consider us an "old couple." Admittedly, we have been together for almost 11 years, but we still feel like newlyweds.

So to celebrate, we jumped on the ferry from Alameda to Angel Island, and spent the day riding our bikes on the shoreline trails. As we climbed up the hills and looked out on the amazing scenery, I was remind of a book I have at home by Chase Jarvis titled, The Best Camera Is The One That's With You.

I am not sure if Chase coined the phrase, or if he simply introduced me the the concept; but it is something that I believe but sometimes forget. For example, these photos were taken with my iPhone, while the superior-quality images from my Professional DSLR are still sitting in the camera on my kitchen table. Food for thought...

(Robert Gillette Photography) Wed, 02 Jul 2014 17:29:51 GMT
A Road Most Traveled. It was just after dinner in the spring of 2011. The sun hadn’t begun to set so it must have been late spring. Twenty friends and I were walking down Somerset Ave in Castro Valley, a small township crunched between larger cities just east of SanFrancisco. This small town is about as “sleepy” a town can get in the Bay Area. As we turned south on Chabot Rd, one of the main road well-traveled by some who are just passing through, our conversations were generally filled with laughter and exuberant personal stories. Quite suddenly, the leader of our expedition stopped. He was staring at a small building zoned for medical offices. A few dentists, a masseuse, and some other offices I don’t even take the time to recognize. This is a building I knew well, but was stored as part of the background images in my mind. I had driven by it hundreds of time, and it had as much weight in my mind as the trees and fire hydrant and driveway that make it the average property. I had even led worship once at the church across the street. I never would have imagined that this was where about a dozen women were held and sold as sex slaves.


Earlier that year, police had raided this and nine other buildings in the East Bay to break up a sex trafficking ring. Raids were conducted by officers from Hayward, Oakland, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, Newark, Danville and San Jose. Those officers saved the lives of women who suffered what might be one of the worst atrocities a human can face. It was a huge victory. But this victory pales in comparison to the fact that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. eash year.


Last night, Smalltown Society performed a private performance for some of the backers of their album, “A Road Most Traveled.” The lead singer of Smalltown is Paul Keim, the man who took us on that casual walk a few years ago. He and a few others looked at the world around us and decided that it was possible to make an impact, a dent, in the problems that plague our society. So they wrote and album, a catalog of the meaningless of life and the things that make it not so meaningless. This album is the culmination of dozens of people and ideas, a true collaboration. It is not the solution itself to the epidemic we see around us, but it is a start. Paul looked at what he could do, and he did it. He din’t fixate on what he couldn’t do, or fix, or affect. 

(c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745

This is one of the hardest parts about opening your eyes to the atrocities around us and around the world. Human trafficking, violence, commercialism, orphans, addiction... there is so much suffering. And in the face of all that suffering, the seemingly insurmountable mountain of injustice, it is often much easier to ignore the affliction than to push against it. The key is to start doing something where you have the ability and cultural authority to do so. Buy some McDonalds gift cards and carry them in your wallet to feed the homeless. Free up Ithat extra room for a single Mother and her baby. Go visit some people in prison who have no hope.


Paul recorded and album, because that is what he can do. I took pictures and posted this blog because that is something I can do. Think about it, what you can do?



(Robert Gillette Photography) A Road Most Traveled Smalltown Society concert kickstart Sat, 21 Jun 2014 15:43:00 GMT
Passion and/or Profession.  

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” 
                                          ― Douglas MacArthur

I have spent the better part of the last 4 years, toying with my photography business. Karina and I began photographing weddings in 2005, and since then the business has fluctuated between a hobby and a real money maker; between a crushing disappointment and an all encompassing passion. One of the things I have learned is that making your passion your profession can sometimes ruin both. Not to say that you shouldn't pursue your passion, you have to be very careful about how you go about it.  Because as soon as you start looking at your hobby through the eyes of marketing and cost/profit analysis, you start to loose track of why you enjoyed photography in the first place. 

(c) Robert Gillette 510-427-7745 So when I was approached by Wedding Dress wholesaler to work with their marketing team, I was a little skeptical. But I am a photographer, and the manager of the store if a friend of ours so I took the meeting. I could not have been more impressed, Vivi (the owner) really gets it. Her attention to detail and requirement for excellence is complimented by the fact that she will tell you exactly what she wants. If she doesn't like a pose, she will walk up and say "I don't like that,"  then rush over to the model and make an adjustment. A few moments later you will hear an enthusiastic, "Oh my God... so beautiful!!!" as she is sneaking a peak at the back of my camera. 

But most of all she understands that when she approaches retailers, these pictures are the only evidence they have of the quality of her products. Sure she could cart around 2 or 4 or all 50 of this seasons styles, but that isn't exactly practical and it certainly isn't scaleable. This is why I am willing to work with Vivi on a long term basis. Not because she pays me, but because she gets that quality - artisanship - is what people buy these days. Art is what sells, and excellence is what matters. 

I am an "old soldier" of a photographer, and I am grateful for people like Vivi; who keep my passion from fading away into profession. What about you? Are you an old soldier looking to stay inspired? Are you a new recruit still a wonder at your artwork?



(Robert Gillette Photography) Photography dress passion profession wedding Fri, 13 Jun 2014 17:22:00 GMT