Spring for Impact

May 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Once a month I do a free shoot for an artist or organization who is doing cool stuff. This month I had the opportunity to work with Impact Network for their spring fundraiser. The story goes something like this:

ImpactNetwork-6487ImpactNetwork-6487Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com ImpactNetwork-6950ImpactNetwork-6950Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com ImpactNetwork-6756ImpactNetwork-6756Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

I overheard Julia and Reshma talking about photographers one day at the Wix Lounge. Turns out they were hosting a fundraiser in May for their organization, and they were looking for someone to capture it. Before they left I made a point to give them a high five and tell them about this photographer I know...


A few weeks and several emails later I found myself on a rooftop with great food, excellent drinks, and lots of good looking people. Honestly the event was way better than most of the fundraisers I've been to in the past. I was expecting a small crowd of people awkwardly milling about, so when I saw a flood of enthusiastic people arrive (on time, no less) I knew I would have no problem keeping busy. I had a blast snapping pictures and giving out high fives all evening.

ImpactNetwork-6608ImpactNetwork-6608Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com ImpactNetwork-7080ImpactNetwork-7080Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com ImpactNetwork-6839ImpactNetwork-6839Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

You can see the highlights on Facebook and the full gallery here.


While you're at it be sure to check out Impact Network. They are on the forefront of eLearning in Africa by equipping teachers with a curriculum-loaded tablet and a projector. Pretty rad idea if you ask me.


Thanks for letting me be a part of your story!

A Decade of Memories: featuring United Way

February 21, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is the seventh of ten posts highlighting my favorite assignments from the past ten years. As a way of celebrating the first decade of Mud Productions I'm offering 10 special offers this month. Check em out, and play a part in the next ten years. Thanks for tuning in!

Smoke05Smoke05Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

Like most of my jobs this one is a story of one thing leading to another. If you've been paying attention lately you will recognize a few names mentioned on this crazy rabbit trail. It goes something like this.

I shot engagement photos for my friend Rose, which led to a wedding in Egypt, which led to another wedding in Grand Cayman, which led to yet another wedding in Las Vegas, which then led to the "Live United" campaign at United Way Worldwide. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I shot those engagement photos for free, which makes it the biggest payoff I've ever received from a free shoot. It's awesome when you get some favor and momentum working for you.

Anyway, I got an email from United Way, and I was instantly excited when I heard the details. The shoot featured NFL players and the photos would be used on billboards across the country. Like most of my other memorable assignments this one left me feeling excited and nervous.

My introduction to this campaign was something of a baptism by fire. There were about 10 NFL athletes in town, and I was given less than 30 minutes to shoot each of them. No chance for a re-shoot if something wasn’t working. Fortunately I found my stride early on and we rocked it out without a hitch. They even liked me enough to call me back a couple times.


Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

On one occasion I got a semi-frantic call around 2:00 o’clock saying that the final athlete to be photographed was available at 4:00 and they needed to send him to my studio. I promptly called my wife (who is conveniently a makeup artist) and the two of us got to work together from our home studio on a national campaign. Even though it was rushed we got some great photos and it was my favorite shoot that year, hands down.


Lessons Learned:

The Live United campaign has been ongoing for a few years, so there were very specific guidelines to steer me in the right direction. I also had their marketing team, a photo assistant, makeup artist, and logistics coordinator to make sure everything came together as planned. It's amazing how much different (read: better) a shoot goes when I don't have to do everything myself. Good photos are rarely the result of one dude with a camera.


Technically speaking the best photos I got were the ones I shot in my home studio. Previously I had rented $400 worth of additional equipment to shoot the players, but when they sent Navarro to my studio there simply wasn't time to pickup any additional gear. Fortunately my studio was designed to give me precise control over my lights (thanks largely to flat gray paint on the walls), so I was able to get a lot of mileage from just three small speedlights.

A Decade of Memories: featuring a Virginia Tech Wedding Video

February 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is the sixth of ten posts highlighting my favorite assignments from the past ten years. As a way of celebrating the first decade of Mud Productions I'm offering 10 special offers this month. Check em out, and play a part in the next ten years. Thanks for tuning in!

Smoke03Smoke03Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

I met Barrett and Katie at a bridal show. They were eagerly going to every videographer's booth and giving an elevator speech about an idea they had. A few days later I got an email saying "We think you're the guy for this..." I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into, but I liked their enthusiasm and the fact that it was different from usual.


Now, Barrett and Katie are what you might call die hard fans of their alma mater. At the start of every Virginia Tech football game, just before the Hokies rush onto the field, a video plays on the jumbo-tron introducing the players. The video changes from one season to the next, but the music is always the same. When the fans hear the famous riff of Enter Sandman they know things are about to get rowdy.


As Barrett and Katie were planning their wedding they decided to make a similar entrance to their reception. They played the following video and then rushed into the ballroom amid thunderous applause from their guests and fellow Hokies:



Lessons Learned:

I had a blast making this video. To this day this is one of the only projects where I utilized the breadth of my skill set. I got to do all the filming, photography, editing, motion graphics, sound effects, logo design, and even 3D animation. Nearly 10 years later it's one of very few projects that I'm still proud of. Sure there are things I would change about it now, but for a kid fresh out of high school with almost no experience I was pleased and my client was too. They later told me it was the best part of their wedding.


The only reason this project ever happened was because there were willing to take a chance on me. I didn't have anything like this in my portfolio, but they trusted my creative instinct based on their impression of me and my personal projects. They earned some mad respect in my book, and I hope it will inspire others to take a chance when they see potential in someone. In the end they were thrilled, their guests went nuts, and I'm still talking about it 10 years later.


A Decade of Memories: featuring Cayman Islands

February 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is the fifth of ten posts highlighting my favorite assignments from the past ten years. Each post includes lessons learned and a special offer to celebrate Mud Productions' 10th anniversary. Thanks for dropping in!

Smoke07Smoke07Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

During my trip to Egypt I met Bogi and Mike. Bogi was a friend of the bride, and Mike, her boyfriend, was the only other guy in our group. He had recently gotten a new camera, so naturally we became friends as we spent the week together. As the trip was coming to an end we parted ways with the usual intention of keeping in touch, but Mike's follow through is a step above average...

Several months later I got an email from him saying he and Bogi were getting married in December, and they wanted me to shoot their wedding. Oh! and it was going to be in the Cayman Islands (which is a place I've wanted to go scuba diving since I was about 8 years old). Let’s just say it wasn’t a hard decision for me.

Like any good destination wedding we all arrived a few days before the wedding to enjoy a little vacation before the big day. I got to know their friends and family, and we had a blast long before the wedding ever began. They made it clear that they wanted everybody to enjoy themselves, including me. By the time the wedding came I was just as excited to celebrate with them as any of their guests. I was no longer the photographer but simply a friend with a fancy camera.

The day after the wedding Bogi wore her dress one more time as we did a sunset bridal shoot on the beach. It’s hard to go wrong with a setting like that, not to mention the pressures of the wedding were already behind us. Some of my favorite shots have come from times like this when I have time to get creative.



Lessons Learned:

Initially I imagined myself taking candid pictures of everyone at the airport and every step of the way, but it just didn’t feel right for some reason. What I realized is that there’s an important “get to know you” process that must be nurtured on a trip like this. They all knew each other, but I was the new guy. The more I got to know them the more they would let me inside their lives and the better my pictures would be as a result. Knowing when to take a picture and when to refrain comes with knowing who you’re shooting.

The clients that treat me like family are the ones that end up with the best pictures. Granted not every shoot lasts a week or includes the possibility of world class scuba diving; but when I’m given time and space to enjoy myself I work that much harder to make sure my client is happy.


CaymanSunset-6933CaymanSunset-6933 BeachCookout-6563BeachCookout-6563 BogiMikeWedding-7125BogiMikeWedding-7125 BridalBeach-0073BridalBeach-0073 StingraySnorkeling-6826StingraySnorkeling-6826 BridalBeach-8623BridalBeach-8623


Special Offer:

For the rest of the month I'm offering to film and edit a behind-the-scenes video for $300. It could be behind the scenes of a photo shoot, indie film, artist studio, or just about anything really. I'm antsy to play around with video again, and if I can help tell your story in the process then we both win.


*Video shoot is limited to one day. It can take place any time this year, but must be booked before midnight on February 28th. Travel expenses may be applied if filming is required outside the NYC metro area. Can be transferred or used as a gift.

A Decade of Memories: Movie Posters

February 16, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is the fourth of ten posts highlighting my favorite assignments from the past ten years. Each post includes lessons learned and a special offer to celebrate Mud Productions' 10th anniversary. Thanks for dropping in!

Smoke04Smoke04Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

When I first launched Mud Productions in 2004 I was primarily filming weddings. It seemed like a reasonable place to start considering that I ultimately want to make films. After a couple years of "I do's" and first dances I felt like I was hitting a glass ceiling. It's difficult to do event videography well as a one-man band, and the end result didn't reflect the cinematic look I wanted. I had no desire to make a career of it, so I made a change. That's when I started taking pictures.


My friend Tim called me up one day and said he was looking to tie the knot. I'm not sure if he knew I had never really photographed a wedding before, but he trusted me just the same.


As I was preparing to deliver the photos I realized I had a unique opportunity. As a videographer I had always delivered my work on DVD, and I was always frustrated that the DVD cover itself looked cheap. First impressions are a big deal, so I always felt a twinge of shame when I delivered my work. Tim's wedding was different. For the first time I had a lot of great photos to work with. I didn't even have to deliver them on DVD, but I knew it was a chance to over deliver and make a killer first impression for once. That's when I realized I was doing something no one else was doing.


Elzea_DVDCoverElzea_DVDCover Fraser_DVDCoverFraser_DVDCover Angela_DVDCoverAngela_DVDCover Keck_DVDCoverKeck_DVDCover


Lessons Learned:

I went on to make several more movie covers after that, most of them for weddings. It was never required of me, but I did it because I wanted to use the work I was getting to propel me in the direction I wanted to go. Even though I'm not shooting weddings any more I'm still using these images to find new avenues for work. To this day these posters are on a very short list of work I'm still proud of. 


Ellen_DVDCover-2Ellen_DVDCover-2 Missy_DVDCoverMissy_DVDCover Ellen_DVDCoverEllen_DVDCover


Special Offer:

Today's offer is merely a continuation of the work described above. I still love designing a good poster, and I want to do more of it. For the rest of the month I'm offering to shoot and design a movie poster for $250.* That's less than I would charge to shoot a promo still, much less edit and design a poster. Do me a favor and tell your filmmaker friends about this offer while it lasts. If there is one goal I have with photography it would be to shoot and design a poster for a major motion picture. Please help me check that off my bucket list.


*Shoot and design can take place any time in 2014, but the voucher must be purchased here before midnight on February 28th. Voucher's are fully transferable.