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|| News Item: Posted 2005-08-16

Trade Secrets: This is NOT Photoshop, this is real
Craig Mitchelldyer's PR shoot for Intel is the fourth in a series of features called "Trade Secrets."

By Craig Mitchelldyer

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Mitchelldyer used two softboxes, three grids, two reflectors and a bunch of black velour to pull this image off.
This image started off with a phone call on a Wednesday from a PR firm in New York asking me if I was available for a last minute shoot that Friday morning at Intel. All he knew was that the client wanted a photo of a person in a "bunny" suit next to a person with a laptop. Being from New York City and not familiar with Intel at all, they were a little confused about the whole bunny suit thing, but after I informed him that a bunny suit is what Intel workers wear in the clean rooms while manufacturing chips, it made a little more sense! After I quoted the job, he sent me the contact info and I called Intel's PR people to set up the shoot time and talk about this big announcement they wanted to illustrate.

The first question I asked was "Can you send me the press release so I can get a better idea of what we are trying to do here?" "Ummm, no...we can't tell you that." So I then asked if they could tell me what it was about, thinking it might have something to do with chips in Apple computers or something along those lines. All they could tell me was that the release had something to do with manufacturing, but not manufacturing processors. They had an idea to show the Intel worker and a regular consumer in the same photo, but were unsure how to do it. They wanted the photo to show the "aura and magic of Intel."

I picked their brains for a while trying to get every piece of info I could about the shoot and finally they mentioned wafers and sent me a photo of a wafer. It was then that I had the idea to shoot the wafer with an image of a person working on a laptop reflected in it.

On Friday morning I packed up every single light, backdrop, lens, camera, snoot, grid, basically every piece of equipment I own and headed off to the Intel Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro, Ore. I was a little worried as my assistant and I were heading out there because I had no idea what I was supposed to be illustrating. At this point my plan was to show up, look around the location for something interesting and just start shooting with my original idea and move along from there, making adjustments on the fly as needed.

I was hoping that they would give us a damaged or sample wafer to play with so we could try lots of different things, but no such luck, the wafer was real and real expensive, we had to be extra careful with it. The room we found to shoot in was a museum of the history of Intel and it had a lot of really cool things to use, like giant size computers and fake chips and processors, etc.

I talked with the client about my idea of the reflection and they seemed to like it, so I set up for that shot first. At first, I just rolled out some black velour and leaned the wafer up against it, then shot straight on with the model (an Intel PR intern from the UO) working on the laptop. It was ok, but the photo was missing the second aspect of the photo that we wanted to include.....a bunny suit. My next idea was to have Carlos, the Intel fab worker who was there to wear the suit, sit in front of the black backdrop, and hold the wafer and then reflect the image. This was ok, but we still did not like it. It was very boring. We were about an hour into the shoot at this point. We were close, but it was not perfect. I stopped shooting and everyone took a break. I walked around the room just trying to see something I had not seen before and that is when I saw the "chip wall". It was perfect for the background of this image, but it would provide a challenge. The wall was a mirror with the yellow chips painted onto it. It also had track lights right above it that caused a very nasty glare.

So now I had a background and a concept, but needed to basically start the shoot all over again in this new spot and fix problems one at a time. The mirrors and glare were the biggest problem. To solve this I put up black velour all the way across what would be the frame from ceiling to the floor so that the mirrors would be black. The next problem was the glare from the track lights. The client had no idea how to turn them off so my solution was to have my assistant hold a black reflector over the lights to mask them out of the frame. Now that the background was good, I added in the fab worker. I had him stand on a chair and hold the wafer straight down to give him a sense of power. I had a medium sized softbox to the left, this would be the main light and would light the fab worker and the wafer and spill a little onto the background too.

Next I added in the laptop user and moved her into a position where I could see her reflection in the wafer from my shooting position on the ground. She was kneeling on the ground right next to me. I had a small softbox to her right, pointed at her (and the camera), This is were digital is very helpful, being able to make a frame, then look at it right away to see what is working and what is not and fix it on the fly. After the first frame, the background was a bit dark so I added a 20 degree grid to the setup and aimed it directly over his shoulder to light up the background. We shot a few more frames, then pulled the images up on my laptop to see what needed to be fixed even further. It was a little humorous when I broke out the iBook and all of the Intel people on the shoot all at once made a comment about an Apple computer in an Intel building, but I quickly made a remark that it would be an Intel machine soon enough and all was well.

As we were looking at the images, I noticed that her face was a bit shaded, the laptop was hard to see and I was getting a bit of a lens flare from the softbox pointed at her. Carlos also had a pager on that we did not like and we did not like the laptop being viewed head on. We went back to the set and I added another light with a 10 degree grid to add some highlight to the laptop, I also had one of the PR folks hold a white reflector just over my head to bounce some light onto the girl's face and to shield my lens from the flare I was getting from the softbox. We also turned her to the left so we could see the keyboard of the laptop. I also added one more light with a 30 degree grid to add some light to his left hand.

The last thing I did was to add some more black velour onto the ground were she was kneeling so that the carpet would not show in the photo. I was shooting right next to Lydia (the model holding the laptop) with a Canon EOS 1D on jpg fine ISO 100 and a 16-35mm 2.8 lens at 35mm on f7.1. White balance was set on custom using a grey card. I used Pocket Wizards to fire the lights. I had to shoot the camera vertically with my left hand because if I shot normally, my arm would be in the reflection! This image is straight out of the camera, there is no levels, no sharpening, no color correction, no nothing, just cropped and sized for the wire. The whole shoot from start to finish took about 2.5 hours. The client was very happy with the image and said that it illustrated the announcement perfectly. I was pretty happy with the image too. Of course like any image there are some issues, I think the highlights are a bit blown out on the top of the bunny suit and I wish I would have turned the background light down just a hair, but overall, I am very happy with this image.

The PR folks at Intel loved it and I hope it may turn into more work with them. I'm pretty proud of this image from the standpoint of having an idea in my head and executing it, I'm also proud of the fact that the image is not Photoshopped or manipulated in any way. I hope the image gets good play around the world, if you see it in print, let me know.

The final step of this job was to add a caption and send it to the PR firm in New York so they could move it to AP with the press release. This is when I finally learned of the announcement: Intel will build a $3 billion wafer fabrication facility in Chandler, Ariz. to manufacture next generation computer chips for desktop and laptop PCs in 2007. I think this image illustrates that pretty good. I just wish they would have told me that from the beginning.

Craig Mitchelldyer is a freelance photographer based in Portland, Oregon.

"Trade Secrets" is a series of educational features where members reveal the inside-information about how they were able to create a specific image (or two.) To nominate an image for this feature, please send a message to the admin staff here: The admin staff reserves the right to accept, or not accept, any nomination.

Related Links:
Mitchelldyer's member page

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