From Tech Support to Digitech: Reflections on Headshot Mania 2

Posted by: on Mar 26, 2020

Many of you know me – perhaps you’ve emailed or called in seeking a bit of help with your tether gear once or twice over the last several years. If you have, it’s likely that you communicated with me. My name is Catherine Slye and I manage all Technical Support at Tether Tools. Once or twice a year, I have the opportunity to step out of the office and work with our customers, plus our pros and dealers firsthand at trade shows and events.  

Last month, my colleague, Josh and I headed to Las Vegas, eager to be one of the featured vendors at Peter Hurley’s Head Shot Mania 2 (HSM2). Read on for my experience recap.  

HSM2 was held at the newly remodeled Sahara Resort in Las Vegas, February 19 – 22, 2020. Over the spam of four jam-packed days, attendees were treated to the unique Peter Hurley SHABANG! style hands-on learning experience.  

The days were filled with educational sessions on head shot techniques and tethering workflows. At night, attendees would be energized and motivated during the “Rumble Room” sessions where each photographer could practice the skills and techniques learned that day in their own shooting bay. These nightly photo shoot sessions were incredibly collaborative and supportive – each photographer had the opportunity to tap into the minds of their peers, their mentors as well as Peter Hurley and his Head Shot Crew. 

More than 125 enthusiastic photographers from around the world had gathered to learn from the best in the business. Tether Tools was honored to be one of the vendors, alongside B&H, Canon, V-Flat World, and X-Rite Photo. 

Before and between each learning session the vendor space was open and available to the attendees. This gave photographers an opportunity to get images printed by Canon, color calibrate their laptops and stop by our booth to learn about our products and test drive the latest tethering and power workflow solutions, and to ask us anything! 

It was amazing to chat with so many passionate and committed photographers! Nearly everyone we spoke with had already been tethering for some time, so I took this as an opportunity to walk them through how to build out a mobile workstation to keep computers powered – workstations that can easily and efficiently go from studio to location at a moment’s notice. Josh focused on demonstrating the new Air Direct Wireless Tethering System, showing shooters how to connect wirelessly to their tethering software.  

On Friday, I partnered with portrait photographer and educator Walter van Dusen. We wanted to demo a portable tethered portrait studio. Within minutes, Walter set up his lighting with two V-Flats and three Stella Pro CLx’s to create an adjustable and flexible system.

While he was setting up his lighting, I quickly got his workstation ready to go. I loaded his MacBook Pro with Smart Shooter 4 and connected his a7RIV to his laptop with a TetherPro USB-C to USB-C cable. I then powered his MBPro via our ONsite D-Tap Battery with V-Mount connected to the ONsite D-Tap to AC Power Supply mounted on an Tether Table Aero using the ONsite Aero V-Mount, all securely connected to a 3-Legged Thing tripod.

Walter is a gregarious and friendly pro, eager to share experiences and knowledge with each photographer he shot. While Walter was shooting, I acted as his digitech. I customized his Smart Shooter 4 interface for his particular needs – what he wanted to see and what he wanted his subjects to see. I made the largest window in the Smart Shooter previewing interface his SS4 Loupe pane for a close-up view, and one of the smaller windows the SS4 Preview pane for the overall subject’s view (viewable in the black & white behind-the-scenes shot below). This allowed for a close-up view of his subject’s eyes and a smaller full-body view, which kept the focus exactly where he wanted it – not only the camera’s focus but his subjects’ focus too.

Walter explained to me that his subjects tend to get excited (read: distracted) when they can see themselves on screen during a photo shoot. To avoid this,Walter prefers to have only their eyes visible. This approach limits their distraction, which allows him to continue working efficiently as possible.

Walter shoots portraits with a Sony a7RIV and a Zeiss 55mm,1.8 at f/4.5 1/125, ISO200. He utilizes the Sony Real-Time Eye AF Tracking. This in-camera auto eye tracking feature coupled with using the Smart Shooter’s Loupe pane with a close-up view aided Walter’s visual confirmation, and guaranteed the eyes were always tack sharp.

Walter mid-shoot with Photographer Lauren Lieberman; Photo Credit: Catherine Slye

On Saturday, the final HSM2 day, I again set Walter up to tether with Smart Shooter 4 and powering his laptop with the ONSite Power Workstation and he got to work shooting. Together, we had a great time engaging with each photographer.

Walter’s final portrait of Photographer Lauren Lieberman. Photo Credit: Walter van Dusen

By the end of Saturday, I could tell that each attendee was “filled up” – their eyes a little glittery and glassy, a little tired, but most certainly their reservoirs of learning experiences filled to the brim if not overflowing. They were ready to go back to their studios to put into practice all that they had learned, and ready to forge ahead in their careers as Head Shot Mania portrait photographers.

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