Tamron: An Inside Look at Preparing for an On Location Commercial Photo Shoot

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As I announced last week, I had the incredible opportunity of shooting a Fall Ad for Tamron USA using their award winning travel lens (the 18-270mm) on my Canon 40D.

For the Tamron Lens Commercial shoot, I had the following goals:

  • Scout a location where in the middle of summer (end of July) the scene would look like Autumn
  • Find props and clothing to give the feeling of Fall
  • Bribe (convince) my children to be the models. Tamron said I could hire models but their 1st choice was to use my twins. My girls are very excited they chose to cooperate.
  • Photograph images to show the two biggest strengths of the AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) LD Aspherical (IF) Macro18-270mm lens – the wide angle to telephoto zoom capabilities and the Vibration Compensation which helps stop shaking.

Scouting locations:

I started this assignment by brainstorming ideas for a location. Things to keep in mind – fall appearance, ability to show close and far away shot by standing in same location, and fit Tamron’s image of “fun.”

My ideas ranged from:

- Football Field

- Bus and School Building

- Apple Orchard

- On a porch drinking hot cocoa from a mug (not my idea but one given to me)

- Covered Bridge

To start, I visited each viable location and/or thought of limitations and issues with them.

For the football theme, I visited 3 high school fields. In the end the Tamron lens almost seemed to zoom too much to show what I needed to.  High schools here have relatively small bleachers.  I could not get back as far as I wanted to show the 270mm shot. The other issue was at 2 of the schools, there were goal posts and nets on the field that were too heavy to be moved. I assume they use them for practice and other sports over the summer. I could have kept checking for more schools in the area to make this work, but decided it did not feel right.

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Next idea, bus and school.  Turns out Tamron had done this idea in a past year.  It may have been hard to stage anyway, plus I would likely have needed the permission of the school district and help lining up a bus…

Apple Orchard – in Michigan, Fall means apple orchards and cider mills.  This would convey fall for sure.  I scouted a few local Apple Farms. I took pictures at 18mm and 270mm. But I ran into 2 issues.  One, while apples were growing, the areas are not groomed in the summer so the grass is tall and hard to get to the trees.  The other dilemma, everything looked so green. No bright red apples since they were far from being ready.  That usually happens in the fall (September and October).

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Hot Cocoa – this sounds fun.  But I could not think of anyone I know with a porch that would work.  And hot cocoa in 80 degrees…  I could not make my kids do that.

Last idea… And it really was my last one.  The covered bridge.  There is a small park in a wooded area by my home.  I love taking pictures there, but for some reason it did not jump out to me at 1st.  And the best part is that while it is more green in the summer, it still has some trees with other colors and also some dead trees.  Basically, it always looks a little fall like there. So I went and did some test shots.  And as soon as I did, I knew this was the spot I wanted for the shoot. I took test shots from 3 vantage points so I could decide.

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Clothing and props:

Once I knew the location, I needed to decide on props and clothing that might fit the scene.  We decided on jeans and tees.  It is harder than I thought to find Fall clothing in July. I knew back to school clothing was coming out, but most was still short sleeves.  We needed long sleeves. I went to Old Navy, Gap, Marshalls, Justice, Nordstrom, and a few other stores.  I looked at Kohl’s and Gymboree online.  Nothing that seemed just right.  I knew we wanted bright and fun. I did not want turquoise or green as it would not pop enough.  I really wanted red.  Nobody had red tees.  I am guessing red is “out” for this Fall…

I decided that I needed my girls with me to pull this off.  So we went to the mall.  We started at H&M. We left with a bag of cute clothes, but nothing for the photo shoot.  Then a few other stores.  Same outcome.  At last, we went in Children’s Place. Ellie and Jenna did not want to dress the same.  They did not like the same shoes or pants/skirts.  So we went for looks that coordinated.  Embroidered jeans for Ellie and a denim tiered skirt for Jenna – a lightweight long sleeve tee for each (orange for Ellie and hot pink for Jenna) – mary jane shoes for Ellie and tights and boots for Jenna – and lastly the denim vests they both fell in love with. Done!

We went to Target and looked for potential props and found a cute polka dot umbrella.

Day of the shoot:

I had my assistant pick up sunflowers to use as a prop too. I also threw in the girls’ point and shoot cameras for another potential prop.  With my Canon 40D camera, extra battery, and reflector in hand, we hiked over to the covered bridge and set up shop. There were a few challenges over the 2 hour shoot.

- Weather –the forecast was for isolated rain and clouds. As usual it turned out that the weather people missed the “partly sunny” conditions.  It went from sunny to cloudy to sprinkles and back to sun.  My assistant’s job was mainly to watch for when we would have light cloud cover.  Full sun and an umbrella do not mix well. It was brighter than expected outside, and squinting was a problem.

- People – another challenge was people.  This area is a public place. People were on walks.  One guy stopped for 10 minutes on the bridge with his dog…  We took breaks when this happened.

- Changing my shooting style… I usually shoot with prime lenses.  I am use to zooming with my feet and shooting wide open (or around 2.2 to 2.8).  For these I needed to stay in one place and to shoot between f9-f16. Background blur and bokeh were not a priority.  I needed to illustrate the incredible zoom and anti shake capabilities of this lens.

The fun began. I had a variety of poses I already discussed with the girls, so they tried them out.  I would shoot some at 18mm and then some at 270mm.  We did the poses with the umbrella and a few without.  We also used my last minute prop, the point and shoot camera.  I took pictures of them photographing each other and even chimping at the back of the screen together.

At this point it was full sun so we went to a shady area. I needed to get 2 similar shots – one with the Vibration Compensation on and one with it off.  These needed to be taken at a low shutter speed (1/13 – 1/20) and at 270mm.  Normally at that length I would be at 1/500 or so.  All I can say is I was impressed.  While I would never shoot with that low a shutter speed in real life, I was able to get in focus shots with the VC on – amazing.

Here are a few photos from the shoot that did not make the cut (taken at 270mm with VC on).

This was with NO props.

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And this was my fav of the girls checking out pictures they took while I was shooting.

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And in this one they are giving me the “are we done yet look.”  Anyone recognize it?

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So after 2 hours and back and forth taking shots and breaks, and with my kids dressed in Fall clothing in 70 something degrees (we went in the morning purposely), we were finished. It was such an amazing experience.  I have found the ad in Popular Photography (across from the table of contents) and Shutterbug (on page 31).  And look forward to seeing it in the other 4 or so magazines soon.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the “inside look” at my commercial shoot.  Feel free to ask questions or comment below.

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 Tamron: An Inside Look at Preparing for an On Location Commercial Photo Shoot

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and teaches Photoshop to photographers across the globe.

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10 Comments and 1 Replies



  1. 1

    [...] 1 votes vote An Inside Look at Preparing for an On Location Commercial Photo Shoot As I announced last week, I had the incredible opportunity of shooting a Fall Ad for Tamron USA [...]

  2. 2

    I loved reading about this shoot you did this summer. So interesting. Did they tell you exactly how many pictures they wanted? Did you have to run your location by them at the end to make sure they approved? The girls are GREAT models!

  3. 3
    MCP Actions says:

    They did not have a set number. I knew they would eventually need 4 (the 18mm, the 270mm, and the one with VC on and off.)

    After the shoot I sent 3 or so of each – so maybe 10-15 shots. I cannot remember exactly.

    I had a lot of freedom, but actually sought out approval and ran the spots by them. The last thing I wanted to do was do a whole shoot and then have them say they did not like the environment. So 2 days of scouting locations with camera in tow was my idea, not theirs. But planning really is important for this type of shoot. Preparation is the key!

  4. 4
    jean smith says:

    awesome…thanks so much for sharing this!!! i will look for the ads in my magazines…

  5. 5
    Iris Hicks says:

    I’ve seen the ad and I think it is terrifically well done. Your twins are perfect models and so colorful and so adorable. They did a great job. I do wish they had given you credit with your name and your business logo. I use the earlier version of this Tamron lens for my walk around lens. I haven’t taken it off my camera in over a year now.

  6. 6
    Kris says:

    I printed out specs for this lens last week after you had posted the first time. After reading this today – I think this will be the next lens I add. I’ve been waiting to see what I want – I know what I want the Canon 70-200 2.8 but the budget won’t allow it unfortunately.

    I think this will be the perfect lens for me – at least until I win the lottery!

  7. 7
    Kristie says:

    Love, love, love the stick people!! Thanks for sharing …. I think people don’t often realize the work that (sometimes) goes into preparing a good shot beforehand. I hope you and your girls are really proud of the ad — you should be!

  8. 8
    Julie Bogo says:

    Hi Jodi, thanks so much for sharing so much of your life with us – personally and professionally – you really are a blessing to this community. What i want to know is what your impressions are of this lens – I am a zoom girl and am seriously considering buying it in the next week or so and you input is highly valued.

    • MCP Actions says:

      This lens would be a terrific travel lens. I used its full frame counterpart (the 28-300) a lot on my summer vacation. It was flexible and fun.

      The quality is really nice and as you saw the image stabilization (they call it VC) is amazing.

      The only downside is the aperture, especially when zoomed in. This lens would not be as good in super low light since you cannot open as wide as with many zooms or especially primes. And obviously you get slightly less background blur when you are not as wide either.

      I plan to carry this (the full frame version) plus a few primes as I travel about – this way if I need the reach or flexibility, I have it.

  9. 9
    TidyMom says:

    I LOVED reading about all your prep and your thoughts on what would and would not work!! —-I’m also glad to hear I’m not the only one who has to wait on people that are also using the space where I want to shoot! LOL

    Your girls are just adorable!!
    ~TidyMom

  10. 10
    Jenny says:

    Hi!
    I finally saw the ad with your girls in Popular Photography!! Super cool!
    Jenny



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