Studio Photography & Design - Tamron

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Studio Photography & Design - Tamron

◆ PROfile: JOHN LANGFORD

embacing the

X FACTOR

JOHN LANGFORD Goes with the Flow

A

stampede could be heading

straight for his shoot-site . . .

the celebrity he booked could

suddenly fall ill during a major ad campaign.

. . or his backup camera could

inexplicably go south moments after his

main camera. . . still Texas-based John

Langford would figure something out.

His easy-going approach and flexibility

combine to enable Langford to quickly

adjust to any situation. This uncommon

talent for coming away with fun, whimsical

photographs that really give a sense

of who the subject is—no matter what

else is going on—gives this commercial

and editorial photographer a decided

business edge. Clients such as Tamron,

Whole Foods, and Keller Williams simply

can’t get enough of his capture style.

“Being able to roll with the punches,

and think on one’s feet is a crucial personality

trait,” Langford explains, “The

nature of the photography beast is that it

is constantly changing, and if your ideas

are set in stone it’s just going to be a miserable

experience.”

TEXT BY LAUREN LOCHETTO

IMAGES BY JOHN LANGFORD

To Capture Whimsical Photos

ACTION, REACTION

On a recent editorial assignment for

Texas Monthly, any other photographer

might have fallen victim to what

Langford calls the “X factor,” something

about the subject or the shoot that he has

no control over. The photo titled “Cutter

of Locks” (right) is a good example of

what happens when the X factor moves

into action. This shoot was to be one

of 24 Langford had scheduled within a

three-day period. When he arrived at the

salon selected for the image, the subject

hadn’t lined up a model as agreed, hadn’t

left room in his schedule for the shoot,

and women were everywhere—waiting to

get their haircut. Langford calmly assessed

the situation: “I saw this tall, statuesque

woman emerge from the salon. She

looked perfect for the shot, so I chased

her down the street and explained my

situation,” he says.

It was at this point Langford’s ability to

connect at high speeds enabled him not

only to convince her to get in the car with

him, but also to try on clothes. “We drove

to a woman’s clothing store nearby and

I charged $600 worth of clothes, shoes,

and accessories with the understanding

that I would bring them back in an hour,”

he recalls. As it turned out, the woman

happened to be a model. According to

Langford, “She was the perfect substitute

because she was so tall and he was so

short, it added a comedic edge to the

photograph.”

Or take the photo of Kinky Friedman

(bottom left), a Texas icon, singer, songwriter,

and candidate for Texas governor.

Things started out a little rocky and progressed

in accordance with Murphy’s Law.

Langford recalls, “I had never met Kinky

before, and when I arrived at his house

there just wasn’t anywhere inside that was

going to work. His whole entourage was

there and a million other distractions.”

Shortly after deciding to move the

shoot outside, it started to rain. “I dragged

Kinky onto the patio and he was just pacing

back and forth like a caged animal,”

Freeman recalls. “Keeping him in my

viewfinder was like trying to hit a moving

target. Meanwhile, I’m just trying to

avoid being electrocuted by my high-voltage

equipment.” Finally, with raindrops

clinging to the brim of Freidman’s hat and

him sporting his patented, go-to-hell look,

Langford captured the real Kinky. The

photo generates the same response from

everyone who knows him: “Oh, that’s

Kinky.”

BEST LAID PLANS

The irony of is that Langford does more

than enough planning to put each shoot

to bed smoothly. He starts by getting as

much information from the client as possible,

regarding their vision. “Sometimes

the client has a specific image in mind

and I’m the technician just trying to give it

the John Langford flavor. Other times, he

or she will only offer the vaguest details

and it’s up to me to come up with the

concept,” says Langford.

After 10 or 15 email exchanges, 15

to 20 minutes on the phone, or both,

48 Studio Photography ◆ May 2006 imaginginfo.com imaginginfo.com May 2006 ◆ Studio Photography 49


“The key is not to

take yourself too

seriously. This isn’t

brain surgery.”

B U S I N E S S T I P S

4SURVIVAL TIPS

FROM

JOHN LANGFORD

1. BE RESOURCEFUL—Extend your

creativity into other areas of your business

besides shooting pictures.

2. BE TENACIOUS—Maintain your vision

and your passion, especially when times

are tough.

3. BE HERE NOW—There’s nothing like

sucking the juice out of this moment,

right now, to energize your work.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL—This

includes everything from preparedness

to being on time to courtesy toward

everyone you encounter.

Langford has what he needs

and is able to shift his attention

to other affairs.

“We have to put things on

the calendar, and sometimes

that means booking photoshoots

before we even know

exactly what we’re shooting, or

how much time they are going to

give us.” But Langford takes it all

with a grain of salt. “The key is

not to take yourself too seriously.

This isn’t brain surgery.

No one is going to

die if it doesn’t work—

which is not to say we

don’t bring our best

effort to each photo

shoot.”

Last, but

perhaps most

crucial to

any shoot, is

the talent.

Langford narrows

down

the pool of

people, based

on head shots

sent to him by the talent

agency. Then he makes a point

of seeing the candidates in person

before the day of the shoot. “Lots

can change,” he explains. “Sometimes

they’ve gained weight, cut or dyed their hair,

or look much older. This is particularly true with

children. Maybe you’ve found a picture of the perfect

six-year-old, only now he’s eight. That’s a reality.”

A TANGLED WEB

Speaking of making plans, Langford made a strategic

move when creating his website, purposely

turning his “about me” section into “a

glimpse of the bubbling crock pot of

crazy stew that’s in my head” to screen

out clients that would think his work is

too strange or too kooky. “They either

get it or they don’t. If they like what

they see, we have a match. Otherwise

we don’t,” says Langford.

He and his staff are in the process

of marketing his work regionally and

nationally through an online mailing

list he subscribes to at adbase.com.

“For $1,000 a year, I can have

access to all the photo buyers in

North America. We’ve just sent out

2,500 post cards and are following up

by contacting some of those folks,”

explains Langford.

He also generates considerable business

from word of mouth. Yet another

“X” Factor that just works ◆

JOHN LANGFORD’S GEAR BOX

CAMERAS

Canon EOS 5D and EOS 20D

with Canon lenses:

24mm and 100mm

Tamron lenses:

14mm, 17-35mm, 28-75mm, 180mm

LIGHTING

Dyna-Lite packs and heads

Hensel packs and heads

Photoflex softboxes

COMPUTER EQUIPMENT

Apple Mac G5

Apple G4 PowerBook

La cie 40GB hard drive

Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer

Apple Cinema Display

50 Studio Photography ◆ May 2006 imaginginfo.com

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