“It took several extra hours to complete each shot,” says Neil Kremer of Kremer and Johnson about the challenges behind working with dogs on the set of a photo shoot. Even though the dogs were experienced and had a Hollywood trainer with them, they’d often do unpredictable things. Rolling up their sleeves and getting things done is second nature for this duo though. Despite the various hiccups, they pulled off a fun photoshoot and created a superb advertising campaign.
With so many commercial photographers out there, how does one set themselves apart in order to consistently attract clients? I suppose one good way is to create a strong portfolio of visually distinct but well-produced images. Kremer and Johnson seem to have done just that, with a mix of fun, well-lit, and creatively produced photoshoots. But Neil Kremer tells us why it was challenging to work with a handful of canines on a recent photoshoot. It was still fun though, as evidenced by the number of laughs they had throughout.
The Essential Photo Gear Used By Kremer and Johnson
Neil Kremer told us:
We could really use any brand, it just doesn’t matterNeil Kremer
The Phoblographer: Hi team. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
(Neil on behalf of) Kremer and Johnson: After the economy crashed in 2008, I found myself with a company that could no longer survive. I was a technical apparel manufacturer, and the orders just stopped coming in. I shut down and started looking for something new. Having always been interested in photography, I purchased a cheap DSLR and read the manual. I spent hundreds of hours learning to retouch, light and edit and I poured through thousands of images from the photographers that I respected and admired. I photographed anything and anyone that would let me.
I teamed up with a close friend that was in the same situation as me, Cory Johnson. One day, we got a call to shoot a magazine cover. While we were 60′ over sunset boulevard during rush hour, remaking the Eagles Hotel California album cover for an in-flight magazine, we looked at one another and said, “do you want to try and make this a career?” We haven’t looked back since.
The Phoblographer: Please share the idea behind the Calming Cabin Comfort series. What was the brief provided by the client? what ideas came up for the execution?
Kremer and Johnson: The first brief was sparse, to say the least. The agency didn’t really have any ideas. They scheduled an ideation call with us (which is not usual), and we loved the idea of being involved early in the process. After 3 one hour calls, we flushed out the concepts, and that gave us enough information to create an estimate and treatment. We were awarded the job after a couple weeks and started post-production immediately. We were excited to work with animals, and humor is our favorite type of imagery to create. Sometimes we have to take a break when shooting because everyone on set is laughing too much.
The Phoblographer: How difficult (or not) was it to get the dogs to relax on set? Were there many challenges getting them to pose?
Kremer and Johnson: It was incredibly difficult to get the dogs to cooperate. We used a major Hollywood trainer. We created sketches that explained the actions that we needed from the dogs. The trainer sent us daily videos of their training. By the day of the shoot, we were very comfortable that the animals would do whatever we wanted them to do. Then reality slapped us in the face when before the very first shot, a dog that was simply supposed to sit on a small raft in a pool jumped on my head, and my camera almost went under the water. NONE of the dogs did what they were asked to do. The backup dogs were even worse. At that point, we simply kept trying until it worked. We used trays, toys, loud noises, soft talking, and anything that anyone could think of. It took several extra hours to complete each shot. The trainers explained that this was typical, and after talking to other photographers about it, it is.
The Phoblographer: How many of your large crew were dedicated to just the dogs? On average, how long did each shot take to complete?
Kremer and Johnson: Including producers, assistants, art department, and catering, our total crew was probably 25 people. Another 5 people were dedicated to the dogs.
From the time we asked the trainer to bring the dog on set until we felt that we had the shot, it took around 3 hours.
The Phoblographer: Creativity plays a big part in the success of such projects. Between the two of you, who usually initiates the idea, and who then builds on it?
Kremer and Johnson: We both come up with ideas, then we spitball back and forth until we agree on something. It’s typically a conversation when we’re on another photoshoot or traveling together. Something like this “hey, aren’t you sick of seeing lifestyle advertising photography? Yeah, it’s just so fake. We should create a series that makes fun of it. We could show how absurd it is. Yes, do you remember the Twilight Zone episode with the pigface people that were beautiful because that’s all they knew? Yeah, we should hire one of the best makeup artists in Hollywood to make prosthetic faces. Ok, let’s start producing it tomorrow. We can call it Eye Of The Beholder, just like the Twilight Zone episode.”
The Phoblographer: Which of the images would you say is your favorite in terms of creating? which one was the toughest to execute?
Kremer and Johnson: The image with the dog and woman in front of the refrigerator is my favorite. It’s pretty much how I look around 2:00am every night. I also love the lighting, framing, and posing. I wanted it to feel like a Norman Rockwell illustration, and I think it does. The most challenging was the dog on the raft. After spending an hour grooming him, the trainer placed him gently on the raft, and as soon as he saw me, he jumped on my head and into the water. We had no choice but to shoot him wet. Another challenge was staying above water with my camera. I was on a ladder that wouldn’t cooperate.
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