Moving Furniture

I used to get so nervous and sweaty photographing high-level executives on their home turf. Now, I just get sweaty.

During a shoot the subject depends on me to make them look their best. In this situation, I’m the expert. Top-level CEO or not, they need me to call the shots. This, to me, means moving furniture, lightening the mood and taking the reigns.

Christina Alfonso in Manhattan for Worth Magazine.

 

“Remember,” photographer Arnold Newman famously said, “photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.” I never did the math on that statement, but I certainly have moved a lot of furniture (hence the sweat). It’s part of creating a great image. I take books off of bookshelves, pull couches away from walls, reposition lamps, and clear off desks. This is usually happening right in front of my subject. I’m looking to remove distracting elements and frame the subject.

Lightening the mood typically starts with the furniture moving. I’ll say, “I’m going to take apart your office today,” or “I hope you remember where all this stuff goes.” I know this is a break from the norm for them, so I acknowledge the absurdity. I’ll probably make fun of myself for working up a sweat so soon. I’m usually having to dismiss claims of being un-photogenic with a smile. We’re going to get through this and you’re going to do great.

Real estate developer David von Spreckelsen in Brooklyn Heights for Worth Magazine. Real estate developer David von Spreckelsen in Brooklyn Heights for Worth Magazine.

 

Taking the reigns simply means that I’m giving this super-busy man or woman a mini-vacation from their day-to-day. It’s more for me than for them. I try to remember to take my time and do the work. The shoot is important and they’re not going to regret the few minutes they spent with me.

Rodrigo Niño photographed in the Prodigy Network's Wall Street office in Manhattan for Worth Magazine. Rodrigo Niño photographed in the Prodigy Network’s Wall Street office in Manhattan for Worth Magazine.

 

I mean no disrespect to Mr. Newman, but I would rework his ratios. His has an elegant simplicity. Mine is more complicated. Experience equals confidence in your craft. Your craft is the ability to control equipment, subject and location. “99% moving furniture,” is a nice thing to say to a subject. If you’ve done your job well, that’s all they will have noticed.

 

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