This new Conceptual Creativity series is a collaboration with my friend Daniel Mallard. Dan has been a photojournalist for a major Canadian daily newspaper for over 35 years. In this “Bed of Roses” edition, he is teaching (me and you) valuable tips and techniques on how to unleash our creativity to create state of the art images.
For this assignment, Dan has been asked for an upcoming spreadsheet to photograph Joannie Rochette, a bronze medalist Olympic figure skater. The sport made him immediately think about flowers people throw on the ice to congratulate athletes after their performance. As a great cinephile, that remembered him the famous scene from the “American Beauty” movie: The one where the actress is lying naked, covered with roses. He thought this concept would be meaningful for this image.
Communicating the concept with Joannie
As Joannie didn’t have an agent at the time, he’s been given her phone number and has been able to speak directly to her. He presented himself and asked her jokingly if a man ever offered her 12 dozen roses — to what she replied “No!” He then declared “Well, I’m about to do it, but you’ll have to be naked, wearing only your ice skates!”
She already did something similar, so she felt confident knowing it would be a respectful experience. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend and he was glad she did, knowing it would be best if both of them were accompanied (he was too).
As soon as the concept has been accepted, he contacted a flower supplier. That got him a phone call from his newspaper bosses … asking why they had to pay a bill for twelve dozens roses! They agreed to do the photoshoot at his home since he had a very high ceiling room with lots of natural light. He got a futon which he covered with a white sheet.
They first practiced fully dressed to decide angle, posing and lighting. This is Sylvie — Daniel’s wife — who was in charge of carefully placing the roses on Joannie’s body.
A mix of different techniques has been used to add dimension to the image like reflectors, flashes and ambient light. He kept on moving the reflector to the angles that brought the best effect. Daniel used a handheld Nikon D3 with 24-70mm lens at 42mm, 1/80s, ISO 200. He assured himself he was very stable with the slower shutter speed. That allowed him to have a more narrow aperture to make sure most of the image — including the roses — was as sharp as possible.
Dan used Photoshop to lightly crop and enhance red saturation and dodged some roses to make them a little brighter in order to add some more dimension. He hasn’t touched her skin at all — either on her body or face. This picture was to be used as a two-page spread so he also cropped it very lightly to make it fit perfectly.
It’s a wrap!
Both Joannie and Daniel were very happy with the final result. This image even became a “signature shot” for him. When he had to take pictures of reluctant athletes, he presented them this photo and — as they all saw it on the journal — immediately had confidence in Daniel’s abilities and creativity. When you do a great job paired with great creativity and great professionalism, remember that it can always open doors and lead to new projects!
More about Daniel
His impressive professional career required him to travel internationally on a regular basis. From covering Haïti earthquake aftermath photos essay to the Vancouver Olympics to being embedded in Afghanistan with the Canadian troop, Daniel proved himself being a master in his field.
Every time I sit down with him, I always learn something new — he’s like a walking encyclopedia. Even though he is now retired from his career at the Journal de Québec, Dan keeps on reinventing himself with new concepts and creative projects to fuel his eternal passion for photography. I decided to write and share what he taught me through this text so you too could benefit from his knowledge. Of course, all the images and ideas in this article are Daniel’s.
I hope this will spark your inspiration and creativity. Until next time! :)