Monday, April 29, 2013

Q&A with Videographer Danny Hastings

On May 2nd from 1-3pm, photographe and videographer Danny Hastings will be at Foto Care to talk about his work in the photo and video world! He will also show two of his latest music videos that he shot using the Canon C100

Foto Care: Tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Danny Hasting: My name is Danny Hastings and I've been a professional photographer for 20 years now and a filmmaker for about 15 years. I got into photography in high school where I was the director of my yearbook. One of the responsibilities was to use the school 35mm camera to take candid photos of students and group shots of all the classrooms and teachers. I loved the responsibility and walking with a camera at all times; it gave me a certain power in the school that other kids didn't have. I was the man in high school! Everyone wanted me to take their picture. Little did I know I was on my way to become a professional photographer. In NYC I acquired a Canon A1 and started to shoot as a hobby, my hobby became my passion and my passion became a career. I signed up for a correspondence photography school, and with the knowledge I gained there, it helped me get a photo technician job at one of the most popular colors labs in NY at the time called SPECTRA LABS. After I became a professional photographer about 3 years in my career, I took classes at NYU SCE in the Film Production program and started to offer film and video services to my clients.

FC: What was your break out job that help launch your career?
DH: It was definitely shooting the album cover for the first Wu-Tang Album "Enter the 36 chambers", which was then quoted one of the 100 most influential records of our times by Billboard Magazine. This record went platinum (1 million units) the very first year. After landing this gig, major hip-hop artists wanted me to shoot their album cover. In 1994 I shot 35 album covers, almost an album cover every 2 weeks.

FC: What has been your favorite assignment(s) to date?
DH: There are so many... It's hard to choose! In photography I have to choose the Nas "I am" album cover. I must admit I'm not too crazy about what the client did with the design, but that is another story. The reason why I love this project is because I discovered how good I really was under pressure. This job was a real challenge that I was not prepared for, but I had all the photography skills and knowledge in me to make it happen and I pulled it through. This was Nas’ 3rd album; he had 2 prior platinum albums so he wanted to go big. The idea was to recreate King Tut's golden sarcophagus, but with Nas’ likeness. It was 1998, early Photoshop, so thinking 3d rendition was not even a thought for me. We had to physically build this thing and shoot it. So I hired a sculptor and we set out to build a Nas version of an Egyptian Tomb. The sculptor did and amazing job. He took a cast of Nas’ face first and sculpted the rest of the piece made out of clay and wood. He even carved little pieces of porcelain glass to recreate the little stones of the original piece. He hand-painted the piece with a gold reflective paint and, it was not only such a beautiful piece, but it looked like a real museum treasure and looked exactly like Nas. But, there was one little BIG problem I was not anticipating: this piece was a golden reflective work of art. I was basically shooting an irregular golden mirror. After 5 hours every shot was bad, nothing I was doing was working. The art director was nervous. The piece didn't look like Nas. How could that be? His face was casted, it was a mold, it was definitely his face. What was wrong? Then I realized that it was impossible for me to define his face because a reflective surface cannot produce shadows on its own reflective surface. Eureka!!! I had it! I had to create the illusion of shadows and highlights by creating white and black reflections with white and black cardboards strategically placed between the golden piece and the camera in areas where the reflection would be in place of a shadow or highlight. It took me 11 hours to get the job done and save the day! Everyone was happy.

For video, it has to be my latest job. A music video that involved shooting in a racetrack, a mansion on top of a mountain, a Bugatti (1.2 million dollar car) and a real African Lion walking towards the camera. Oh, and I forgot the sexy models on set. 

FC: Where do you draw your inspiration?
DH: I draw my inspiration from art. From classic photography, paintings, films and music. I study a lot of the great classic photographers and borrow elements of lighting, angles and framing. From painting, I take color applications and concepts. From film I take the story, sometimes style and fashion inspired by a period piece. 

FC: What do you do to market your services?
DH: In this business one cannot get too comfortable, you snooze, you lose! And you cannot just let the work get you business. You must take action and market your work. People hire people that they know and re-hire whom they love to work with. So it is very important that when you market yourself, you also build relationships with those clients. I send postcards, emails and keep a log of periodic phone calls to keep in touch with clients. I also like to go to conferences where I know potential clients are going to be. I meet them face to face, sometimes a hand shake could solidify that next gig. I'm big on showing face. Also, OUT OF SITE, OUT OF MIND. Live by those words.

FC: Do you use social media as part of your marketing mix? Do you think is effective?
DH: I do use social media, and is it effective? Yes. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You have to stay connected and propagate your work constantly. It's effective, but you have to go massive. You have to be constantly sharing your work. It can't be one post today and another one in a month. Social Media is so saturated now a days that you must engage your fans and clients with something different than just posting a picture. Share a story, or share tips on how you did it a particular image or video effect. If you want NEW clients, social media is a perfect tool for this because you can create an incentive, some sort of promotional discount for first time clients to hire your services. There are so many things you can do. I think of social media as free advertising for my work.

FC: How has your work change over the last few years.
DH: Over the last few years, for photography and film, my work has gotten very stylized. I pay attention to detail more than ever. I think I also have gotten a lot faster all around. What used to take me a long time to get  done, today I do it quicker. Certain things today are second nature. I experimented so much in my early years that today I know what type of light I'm going to use, camera, lens, etc. for a specific project. And also today, never second-guess myself. I have one speed and one direction and then it’s just GO!!!

FC: Where is your work heading next? Where do you see yourself in the future?
DH: Without a question is movies. I see myself directing more movies in the years to come and one day before it is my time to check out in this lifetime, I will have a nation wide release in all movie theaters across the nation. Mark my words.

FC: What equipment are you currently using to produce your work?
DH: For most of my photography jobs I use the Canon 5D Mark II, for higher-end work like advertising and billboards I use a Hasselblad digital camera and for my music videos I'm using Red Epic, Arri Alexa and recently I used the Canon C100.

FC: What equipment would you most like to own but don't have yet?
DH: Red Cam or Canon C100 or C300. 

FC: How do you choose your locations?
DH: I choose my location in different ways. For video I tend to use a location manager or a scouter. For photography I do it my self. Sometimes the client chooses a location.

FC: When did you first hear about Foto Care? 
DH: I can't quite remember when I first heard of Foto Care. In my memory Foto Care has been there for me from day one. I know for a fact has been 16 years, since that is my oldest son's age and I remember there was a picture of him as a baby in the old Foto Care location.

FC: What is it about Foto Care that brings you back?
DH: Foto Care's team is really knowledgeable when it comes to photography and new video equipment. It is because of Foto Care that I got to test the newest toys in the market. More than that, Foto Care is like an extended family, they really compliment my career by working with me and advising me on what is the best tool for me to rent and so I cans execute my job even better.

To view some of Danny's work, head on over to his website. To register for this event, visit our events page.