The Fourth Wall Promos



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Meet the cast of “The Fourth Wall,” one of this summer’s productions by the New Vintage Ensemble.  The fourth wall, for those of you who may not be familiar with the phrase, is a performance term for the space between the performance and the viewers.  If a set has three physical walls, then the the fourth wall is what separates the actors from the “real world,” a fourth wall that is usually ignored, but is sometimes broken to good dramatic or comedic effect.

When I met with director Kimmie Leff and her cast last week for the promotional photo shoot, we had already decided to shoot the photos in a play off the idea of a fourth wall.  So when we began with the group promotional photos, we arranged the case in a series of setups that included an actual wall.

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Facing the wall, peering around the wall, against the wall – that last one is a little cliche, perhaps, but it’s repeated time and time again because it does work.  With these photos, when the cast is done with the show, they could start a band and have their first album cover!

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The real highlight of this shoot, however, is the actor headshots.  As a quick aside, headshots can be a bit formulaic sometimes; a lot of productions just want a nice, clean portrait of their actors against a while or colored backdrop.  Crisp and classic, and always a good look.

But sometimes you get to play and do something a bit more fun…

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This is what happens when you run into the fourth wall face-first!

As much as I’d love to take credit for this concept, it was Director Kimmie Leff’s idea, and it played out perfectly.  We were able to find a glass door for the actors to smush their faces against, and we had a lot of fun in the process.  It’s a fresh, creative take on the idea of headshots, and I love it.

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“The Fourth Wall” will open for a one-day engagement at The Cooperage Project in Honesdale, PA, on 10 July.

Keith’s Headshots



BRENT PENNINGTON Keith Novack photographed in the studio on the evening of 17 March 2016.

This is Keith, a local web developer and friend of mine.  He’s spent one night a week for the past couple of months meeting to teach me HTML/CSS coding, so when he asked if I’d be willing to do some portraits for him, I couldn’t have been happier.

Keith is a bit of a character, and he wanted his photos to convey that – nothing stuffy.  Something different.  Something fun.  So we setup the studio and grabbed a few shots.

BRENT PENNINGTON Keith Novack photographed in the studio on the evening of 17 March 2016.

BRENT PENNINGTON Keith Novack photographed in the studio on the evening of 17 March 2016.

You might recognize him from my NetDriven Christmas photos the past two years [LINK], as he appeared in several of those shots as well, and I’m pretty sure he recycled a few of those poses for his portrait session.

We may do another set in the near future, with more of a business-casual feel.  But in the meantime, this is a good reminder that portraits don’t have to be serious.  We don’t all have to look like a power-suit on the cover of Forbes.  Sometimes, it’s fun to just have fun.

BRENT PENNINGTON Keith Novack photographed in the studio on the evening of 17 March 2016.

The trauma of shooting portraits for my wife



BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of Mandy Boyle, photographed in the studio in Scranton, PA, on the afternoon of 19 March 2016.

This is Mandy, my lovely, brilliant, talented wife.  Mandy hates having her photo taken and is visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera, despite excelling as an actor.  After eight years together, I know better than to ask her to model for me, and she rarely volunteers.

But this spring, Mandy asked me to shoot some new portraits for her, for professional use.  And so began the day-long agony of a photo shoot that seemed doomed from the start.

The funny thing is, most people are a lot like Mandy.  No exaggeration, almost every single time I shoot portraits for a client, the client – who hired me in the first place! – will begin by telling me how much they dislike having their photo taken, and how bad they are at being photographed.  For real, if I had a dollar for every time someone says that to me, I wouldn’t need to keep working as a photographer.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of Mandy Boyle, photographed in the studio in Scranton, PA, on the afternoon of 19 March 2016.

Such statements are rubbish, of course.  The vast majority of people are actually just fine at having their photo taken, and many people even get into it, hamming it up a little, once the get comfortable.  And that’s the key, right there – comfort.  When I start a photo shoot with someone, I know that the first entire pose, the first 20-30 photos, are all throw aways.  Their only purpose is to let the subject become comfortable in front of the camera so they can act naturally.

Unfortunately, Mandy isn’t a part of that vast majority, and after several hours of shooting in the studio, she still wasn’t happy with the photos.  She was becoming frustrated and soured on the idea, and it was harder and harder to even try and help her relax.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of Mandy Boyle, photographed on the grounds of Marywood University in Scranton, PA, on the afternoon of 19 March 2016.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of Mandy Boyle, photographed on the grounds of Marywood University in Scranton, PA, on the afternoon of 19 March 2016.

So we switched it up.  Sometimes the studio just isn’t the right setting.  It may be too confining or too sterile, or it may be too intimidating to the subject.  So we threw some gear in a bag and took the show on the road, to Marywood University, where she was both a student and is now an adjunct professor.  It was her home turf, and there’s a definite sense of comfort that comes from being in a setting where you are familiar and in control.

She ended up like the Marywood photos better than the studio shots overall, although we ultimately agreed on a few of each as her final selection.  Including the one below, which she doesn’t like, but I love.

I love shooting portraits, but not everyone loves being a model/subject.  It’s my goal to make sure my subjects become comfortable with the process so we can make some great photos, and I offer up Mandy as proof that it’s possible.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of Mandy Boyle, photographed in the studio in Scranton, PA, on the afternoon of 19 March 2016.

Kimmy’s Senior Portraits



BRENT PENNINGTON Kimmy Pretko's senior portrait shoot, held at her home in Dallas, PA, and the nearby Lands at Hillside Farm on the afternoon of 24 October 2015.

A flashback to autumn, when it was still warm before the snow began flying.  I met up with Kimmy down in the Back Mountain for a senior portrait session, where she simply rocked the camera like a pro!

We began with a couple of setups around her home – she wanted all outdoor shots – including some great shots of her sitting in a rope swing under a maple tree.

BRENT PENNINGTON Kimmy Pretko's senior portrait shoot, held at her home in Dallas, PA, and the nearby Lands at Hillside Farm on the afternoon of 24 October 2015.

There are moments like this where a photographer couldn’t ask for more – and a full Hollywood design team couldn’t create a better setup.  A maple tree aflame with fall color, the lawn behind thick with leaves, an overcast day with perfect, soft light – it doesn’t get any better than this!  (Although we did have to run and stop Kimmy’s dad from using the lawnmower to clean up the leaves until we’d finished our shoot!)

BRENT PENNINGTON Kimmy Pretko's senior portrait shoot, held at her home in Dallas, PA, and the nearby Lands at Hillside Farm on the afternoon of 24 October 2015.

From there, we make a short drive down to The Lands at Hillside Farms and took advantage of the beautiful grounds there for a few more setups.  We stopped in the barn and grabbed the hay bale shot above, then worked our way along the creek and finally ended up inside the greenhouse for a few last, bright portraits.

BRENT PENNINGTON Kimmy Pretko's senior portrait shoot, held at her home in Dallas, PA, and the nearby Lands at Hillside Farm on the afternoon of 24 October 2015.

BRENT PENNINGTON Kimmy Pretko's senior portrait shoot, held at her home in Dallas, PA, and the nearby Lands at Hillside Farm on the afternoon of 24 October 2015.

There are folks who step in front of the camera and need a lot of coaching to feel – and look – comfortable for portraits.  And that’s fine, it’s part of the job and I’m always more than happy to help them get just the right pose, just the right expression.  It’s a fun challenge for both of us to overcome.  But then there are others like Kimmy, who step in front of the camera like the own it, and I spend the whole session yelling, “Don’t move, that’s perfect!”  They make my job easy.

Here’s to you, Kimmy – may your senior year be great!

Net Driven Christmas Party 2015



BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

I had the sincere pleasure of shooting this year’s Net Driven Christmas party earlier in December, and wanted to share a few photos from that fantastic evening.  This is my second year providing photographic coverage for Net Driven’s party, and I am just thrilled that they invited me back.  Throughout the past year I kept hearing about how much fun they were having with the photos from 2014, and that’s about the highest praise a photographer can get!

This year’s party was held at the Colannade in Scranton, an old mansion in the historic Hills Section that’s been restored to glory and now serves as an events space.  I can’t overstate what a lovely setting it was, especially done up for the holidays, which included at least three large, ornately decorated Christmas trees.  I was able to setup in the blue room, using the fireplace as a backdrop, and with the addition of a little photography lighting magic we had the perfect set.

BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

I think it’s a good tradition, having photos at a Christmas party.  It’s a way of recording a company’s history, or including it’s employees, but most of all it’s just plain downright fun!  Folks really get into it, and I had a steady stream of smiling models all night long.  I shot couples and friends, coworking teams and even whole departments.

And as they did last year, Net Driven provided a supply of props that could be used in the photos, everything from Santa hats and reindeer antlers to oversized sunglasses and silly signs.  The props are a big hit, and while I shot a lot of prop-less photos for people who wanted a nice holiday photograph, many of them then opted for a second, fun photo to indulge a moment of silliness.

BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

BRENT PENNINGTON Net Driven employees and their guests revel during the annual company Christmas party, held at the Colonnade in downtown Scranton, PA, on the evening of 05 December 2015.

Of course no party would be complete without some dancing and karaoke at the end!  And I made sure to grab a few photos of that as well.  Those probably aren’t the shots that will make the company newsletter, but I know that everyone will enjoy them!

Hamlet Holiday Photo and Headshots



BRENT PENNINGTON Promotional holiday group portraits of the cast members of the New Vintage Ensemble's production of "Hamlet," to open January 2016.

The New Vintage Ensemble’s winter production of “Hamlet” is fast approaching, and it’s been announced that they will be holding it at the amazing Scranton Cultural Center.  But amid an increasingly hectic rehearsal schedule, the cast took a few minutes out for another photoshoot with me.

We began our session with a group photo, which is a combination of promotional cast shot and a holiday greeting.  Conor is back in the center chair in his role as Hamlet, with the rest of the cast around him. I’m not sure if the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” concept at top was planned from the start, or if it was a spur-of-the-moment idea, but either way I absolutely love it!  “Hamlet” is a pretty serious story and there’s plenty of evil to go around, so the juxtaposition of the cast’s seeming innocence versus Conor’s nonchalance in the middle of it all is just amazing.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of the cast members of the New Vintage Ensemble's production of "Hamlet," to open January 2016.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of the cast members of the New Vintage Ensemble's production of "Hamlet," to open January 2016.

After the group photos, the cast began their nightly briefing session and I changed my setup for some headshots.  Everyone cycled through in the span of about fifteen minutes – I made the headshots short and painless, and am very pleased with how they came out:

As with the first batch of promotional photography, we knew starting out that everything would be processed in black & white.  It’s vital to know this ahead of time, so you can focus on tonalities instead of colors.  You’d never know that the backdrop wall in the headshots is actually a lovely blue that translated very well as a neutral gray.

BRENT PENNINGTON Headshots of the cast members of the New Vintage Ensemble's production of "Hamlet," to open January 2016.

The next time I see this cast, they’ll be on stage.  After almost three months of rehearsals, I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with.  Break a leg guys!

Broken Twig studio promos



BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

Meet Broken Twig, the creations of local artist and graphic designer Kathryn Bondi.  Crafted using branches sourced at the nearby Nay Aug Park, Kathryn constructs these stunning lights that somehow fuse a natural rustic aesthetic with a clean, modern style.  And the result is beautiful!

Broken Twig launched this summer, and since then Kathryn has been featured in Scranton’s monthly First Friday art walk, and was also one of the vendors who took part in the annual Arts on the Square festival.  So of course being new, and building her own website, she needed some product photos.

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After discussing her needs, we decided to break the photo shoot into two parts: a studio session where we’d capture a series of well-lit detail and full-product photos, and a second later session, where we’d move outside and capture environmental beauty shots of each piece.

Starting with the studio made the most sense, as it allowed me to become familiar with each piece from a photographic standpoint.  We began the session with a series of tight close-up photos, rotating each piece through a white lightbox in order to capture the exquisite detail present in each.  One of the joys of Kathryn’s work is discovering all the little details built into each.  Even working closely with them the way I was, several times I was surprised to find a subtle element that I’d overlooked to that point, be it a piece of rope work, a charm, or a feather.BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

From the lightbox we progressed to using a red wall and my credenza as a shooting area, to capture full product shots.  The original plan had called for a more environmental approach, where we’d have the items in a well-lit room and capture them in situ.  But as we started trying to setup for that approach, we found that it simply wasn’t working out.  It happens, perhaps more often than most people realize – an idea that sounded great on the drawing board falls apart in reality.

The red wall was the solution; we shifted from a semi-environmental setting to a much simpler studio setting, and were able to get back on track and move forward.  Through the course of a couple of hours we photographed each piece, about eight in total, ranging from the bottle designs, to several hanging lamps and candle holders, which we suspended from a photographic boom and maneuvered into position.BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

In the red background shots, the plant and clay pot are actually items from my own decor, which we conscripted into service as props.  This happens a lot too.  In this case, it was a matter of putting the first couple of pieces – the whiskey bottle designs – onto the credenza against the red background, and realizing that there was something missing.

Although the whiskey bottles provide a sense of scale themselves, there was still an emptiness to the images – they needed something else, a subtle dash of color, something to accept the pieces (with without distracting from them).  So we grabbed an orchid and the blue pot, and swapped them out as we worked through the different pieces, and found that they gave the photos exactly the element that they needed.

BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

This last photo is one of my favorites, and all the credit goes to Kathryn, who thought to bring along some of her source materials in their raw form.  It’s such a simple image, but I know that I always appreciate it when artists show this kind of background insight – what did they start with? What did it look like before it became art?

BRENT PENNINGTON Product photos taken for Broken Twig - Kathryn Bondi in the studio, 28 June 2015.

There’s more to come in part two, when we’ll look at the second shoot – stick around!

Portraits of Love



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The absolute best reason to make a portrait is out of love.  Whether it’s the love one person has for another, or the passion someone has for a cause, or the sheer love of creating great images for a team.

The photos here feature my beautiful fiancee Mandy and they are portraits of love.  But not only because she – my love – is featured in them, but even more so because she agreed to work with me to make them.  Mandy doesn’t really enjoy having her photo taken, she doesn’t really enjoy modeling.  But when I needed a model so I could try out some new lighting ideas, she did her hair and put on a dress and stepped in front of the camera for me.

Now that’s love!

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TLCPoV Outtakes



BRENT PENNINGTON Kelly Farrell, Emily Maier, & April Holgate pose for the promotional shoot of "The Last Cocktail Party of Venus," held at The Vintage on the evening of 09 July 2013.

TLCPoV – which is the short way of saying “The Last Cocktail Party of Venus” – is coming up fast!  I shared some photos from the promo shoot in the original post a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to share some of the outtakes from the session as well.

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Pride & Prejudice Promo Shoot



BRENT PENNINGTON Promotional images featuring the cast of "Pride & Prejudice," produced for The Vintage Theater.  Session was held at Conor O'Brien's home on Saturday, 23 March 2013.

Wow – what an awesome shoot this was! I hooked up with the cast of The Vintage Theater’s production of “Pride & Prejudice” last Saturday for a themed promotional shoot. Well, it wasn’t just an absolute blast, but this crew rocked it in a major way.

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