For JP’s 27 anniversary, we wanted to honor the tradition of our annual team photo with a concept that celebrated togetherness. And after a long, mostly remote working period (thanks to our friend COVID-19), we needed some time together – outdoors, of course! A few brainstorming sessions later, we landed on a theme: backyard barbeque. We would compose a shot where our entire team looked like they were coming together at a backyard barbeque.
So we got to work.
One of the first steps in planning this photo was to find location options. We asked if any team members wanted to volunteer their yard. We scouted a backyard or two and picked one that visually had the feel of a typical summertime hangout. After reviewing some test shots, we nailed down where to place the camera. Next, we brainstormed and wrote down a variety of poses we could have people in throughout the frame. Without everybody physically standing in the yard, we could only get so close to an idea of where people would be placed.
This year’s photo proved to be one of the most challenging ones to execute. To get everyone in, there was a lot of distance between the people in the foreground and people in the background, and the wide-angle lens accentuated this distance even more. On top of that, the camera was mounted about ten feet high, so it required standing on a ladder to see through the viewfinder.
Once everyone was directed to their spot, it still took some more time rearranging and swapping people in order for everyone to be visible from the camera’s point of view. When I was happy with the overall layout of our team, I snapped a bunch of shots with everyone in the frame. I left a space for myself to stand in the background.
At this point, I started dismissing people from the frame according to their placement. I started with the first “layer” of people directly in front. After they walked out of frame, the layer of people behind them was now completely visible. I did this layer by layer, all the way to those standing in the very back. I learned this method from past team photos (it gives me each person’s full body showing in case I need to shift them around in the editing phase.)
Editing a complex photo like this comes with many challenges. My initial concern was, “I really hope I got all of the shots I need.” As I dove in and pulled all of the usable shots, I felt confident. The initial steps of compositing can feel intimidating because of the amount of organization required. I named, grouped, and color-coded all of my layers in Photoshop in a logical way so I can quickly go back to a layer if I need to fix it.
I ended up cutting out almost all 29 people individually due to having to pick and choose specific shots of people from the multiple stills. These were all placed on top of the empty background layers. For the final steps, I applied some color correction and added sharpening for the final print.
236 photos and 50+ hours of labor later, we think the final photo encompasses everything we love about a good ‘ole backyard barbeque — and captures the lasting bond our team shares.
Oliver Greenbarg | Motion Graphic Designer