The metamorphosis from Dr. Suss to Calmin’ Ground continues
New name and identity? Check. Branding and logo? Done. The vision for future progress was fast becoming a reality at Calmin’ Ground, with the many members of the Branding Together team working hand in hand with the Lowensteins to help their business maximize its potential.
Stage 4: Photo & Video Shoots
Featuring Dani Diamond, Hudi Greenberger, and Gi Orman
The metamorphosis from Dr. Suss to Calmin’ Ground continues, with the elite of the Jewish photography and videography world capturing the serenity of Yossi and Leah Lowenstein’s bucolic paradise.
There’s something about an image that can tell a story like nothing else, and pictures and videos were going to be essential elements of Calmin’ Ground’s Branding Together transformation.
Putting together even a simple photo shoot is actually far more complicated than the average person might imagine. The first factor to consider is location. While some businesses may benefit most from being shot on premises, others may see better results from renting an alternate, more photogenic site. Outdoor settings can be magnificent, but while they also offer the benefit of stunning natural lighting, they can often be tricky to schedule.
“You’re at the mercy of the weather, and we had to cancel twice until we got weather that worked,” explains The Anelis Group’s Elisheva Perlman, creative director of Branding Together.
Other pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place too. Hire models or use people who are already part of the business? Which makeup artists and stylists to use? The right props and clothing can often mean the difference between shots that pop and those that flop.
Elisheva finds that music can put both creatives and their subjects at ease, and she always makes sure that everyone is well fed, because no one produces their best work when they desperately need a drink or haven’t eaten in hours.
“Little details make the biggest difference,” explains Elisheva. “Photographing a clothing brand with even minor creases, even really minor ones, makes the difference between an amateur and a professional shot.”
Elisheva recommends having a dedicated photographer taking behind-the-scenes shots for social media, although she doesn’t post them in real time so that she can be present in the moment and give her full attention to the shoot.
Additionally, waiting a day or two to put those pictures out on social media provides time to consider the best narrative for both the experience and the brand.
“After all, the shoot is not just about the end product,” advises Elisheva. “It’s about telling the story, and nothing can do that as well as creative social media storytelling.”
But perhaps one of the most important elements of any photo or video shoot is the shot list.
“People think that the photographer just goes and takes pictures, but while you need to give creatives the freedom to do their thing, at the same time, having a photo and video shot list is crucial,” notes Elisheva. “Going into a shoot, you are typically aiming for a certain theme, and it’s important to capture that particular shot or image.”
Still, Elisheva qualifies that she understands the importance of allowing moments to be captured organically.
“Sometimes I find that the one ‘not-needed’ shot is the magical one that captures the brand message, so it’s definitely important to have both,” says Elisheva.
And of course, no matter how well you prepare for a photo shoot, there are always things that can go wrong and lessons learned on the job. Elisheva recalls one indoor video shoot that turned out to be located underneath an elevated train line, underscoring the importance of having high-quality audio for every video job.
And when a child model got sick a day before a recent shoot, an Anelis Group team found themselves scrambling when the replacement hired wore a different size clothing and couldn’t wear any of the outfits bought for the photo session.
“You have to be prepared and just roll with the punches,” advises Elisheva.
Given the breadth and scope of Yossi and Leah Lowenstein’s rolling 25-acre farm, there was never a question in Elisheva’s mind that the Calmin’ Ground photoshoot would need to be broken down into multiple elements. On the photography side, there was the farm’s beauty and tranquility that instantly transported visitors to a peaceful oasis where the hustle and bustle of the outside world were replaced by the stillness of nature and the steady clip-clop of hoofbeats. Capturing the human element of Calmin’ Ground was equally important, showing typical children and those with special needs experiencing true joy and a sense of empowerment as they interacted with the farm’s four-footed residents. A video that combined scripted moments, natural interactions, and interviews added an extra dimension, hammering home the message that Calmin’ Ground is truly a place for everyone.
Tapping into The Anelis Group’s network of talent, Elisheva identified creatives who were uniquely suited to each segment of the shoot, using their very specific skills sets to show the world what Calmin’ Ground was all about.
Name: Dani Diamond
Occupation: Fashion and
Location: Waterbury, Connecticut
Years of experience: 12
Favorite part of the job: Seeing my hard work boosting my clients’ sales
Dani Diamond was in business school and was trying to decide on a career path when he realized that fashion photography was an unmet niche in the world of Jewish business. Combining his business skills with a passion for photography that until then had only been a hobby, he ran several photo shoots for his father-in-law’s suit business, and as social media exploded, he found himself in high demand as sellers came to appreciate that they needed quality images in order to sell their products.
Dani is a big believer that good images translate into solid sales.
“Pictures are the gateway to seeing your brand and connecting with it,” says Dani. “When you choose the right photographer over your cousin with a camera, your sales will be ten, twenty, or even thirty times higher, which makes it pay to go to the best in the business.”
The idea of helping a client from A to Z during Covid resonated with Dani, who was a big fan of choosing Dr. Suss as the winner of the Branding Together challenge from the very beginning of the selection process. Spending time on the Lowensteins’ farm was an incredible experience for Dani, who relished the opportunity to get pictures of everyone — kids and adults — interacting with horses and chickens, running around, and just having fun.
“I love farms, and have done fashion shoots on farms on Long Island and in Connecticut,” says Dani. “I knew that this was unique and would capture a story that would connect with people and have kids connecting with animals. In a day and age where everyone is on social media, you won’t find a bigger fan than me on promoting hobbies and experiences other than electronics.”
As the father of twins, the shoot was all in a day’s work for Dani, who enjoys working with brands to create images that will further their reach.
“I have learned to work with kids and enjoy it,” observes Dani. “Whether it’s a group of four or five kids jumping on a couch, or a bunch of kids playing with chickens on a farm, it’s always a great experience.”
Still, things don’t always go as planned. Number one on Elisheva’s shot list was a picture of a little girl walking with a horse, the visuals of a small child leading the way and the contrast in size between the two conveying a powerful image that summed up the essence of Calmin’ Ground. But the model that Elisheva had chosen for that picture wasn’t completely comfortable around horses, a feeling that wasn’t lost on the equine in question, and the two just weren’t connecting. As Elisheva began contemplating a plan B, Yossi and Leah’s six-year-old daughter walked onto the set and inspiration struck.
“I asked Leah if her daughter was comfortable around horses and Leah asked me if I was joking, reminding me that she lived on a farm,” recalls Elisheva. “I had the hairstylist braid her hair, and as she stood next to the horse, it was clear how at ease she was, and that she and the horse were sharing a very real connection. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we had captured the winning shot, the one that we would be able to use to tell the brand’s story.”
Name: Hudi Greenberger
Occupation: Commercial, food, product, and architectural photographer
Location: Toms River, New Jersey
Years of experience: 9
Favorite part of the job: Mishpacha’s Family Table shoots, as well as being able to shoot something different every day
Hudi Greenberger never intended to become a commercial photographer when he bought his first camera. At that point in time, Hudi was a musician, and having decided to do online guitar lessons, he bought a camera and a basic video lighting kit. Impressed with the results, Hudi tried his hand at still photography using his own kids as models, an endeavor that also worked out well.
And when a neighbor decided to open up an Amazon store and needed someone to do product photography, Hudi stepped in with his camera to help.
“His sales tripled overnight, and I realized that I could really make a business out of this,” says Hudi. “At the time I was doing a mix of music and IT work. I quit my jobs and went into photography full time four months later.”
Going into photography isn’t just about taking pictures, notes Hudi, who enjoys capturing images of both food and products. In addition to having the actual photography skills, a successful photographer needs to know how to run a business, and have both plenty of patience and a willingness to fail in a process that is all about trial and error.
“Every product is different and a good photographer has to know not just the technical aspects of the shoot, but how to turn that item into art, taking pictures of items that sell for $7.99 and making them look like $1,000,” explains Hudi, who is launching a full-scale photography studio geared toward Amazon e-commerce sellers. “When people shop online, they can only read a description and see a picture. You have to convey touch, weight, everything in a photo.”
Hudi was all in when Elisheva reached out to him to be part of the Branding Together odyssey and was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her handpicked team of creatives. Having had a nearly lifelong obsession with things that fly, he had already been doing drone photography for several years, and it was clear that aerial shots were the ideal medium for capturing the full breadth of Calmin’ Ground and its incredible landscape.
Photographing animals was a completely separate process, and as an animal lover, Hudi enjoyed every moment spent getting up close and personal with his subjects, who were clearly accustomed to being around people. Both the horses and the goats Hudi photographed came right up to him; it was likely the first time in his professional career that he ever had to wipe goat breath off his camera’s lens.
“After the shoot I got on the Branding Together chat and told everyone how it felt like I was in a different world,” said Hudi. “Here I was, so close to Lakewood, and I went from high traffic and everyone rushing, to total calm and serenity. It was the perfect place to get lost in yourself.”
Name: Gi Orman
Occupation: Filmmaker, director, producer and content creator
Location: Far Rockaway, New York
Years of experience: 17+
Favorite part of the job: Meeting people, story-telling, and seeing the results of a successful campaign
Like so many other Camp Simcha volunteers, Gi Orman found himself assigned to a job he knew nothing about when he first arrived in camp in the summer of 2000.
And like so many other Camp Simcha volunteers, Gi learned on the job and discovered that he had a knack for his assigned task of videography, so much so that after several summers in camp, he decided to enroll in film school in order to truly master the craft. By 2006 Gi was doing film professionally, working off of his kitchen table and doing his own directing and editing, and today his production company has three full-time employees and multiple freelancers. Over the years, Gi has worked with multiple corporations and Jewish organizations, and he has done full-length documentaries, marketing campaigns, and film work for Project Witness.
While the pandemic has been catastrophic for so many businesses, Gi has been busier than ever as virtual production has become increasingly popular. He sees videography as a way of telling a story, and it was evident early on as Branding Together unfolded that the Lowensteins’ farm had plenty of emotion and an abundance of heart.
“This was a business that was both unique and interesting, and while it was definitely struggling, it had the ability to succeed with the right plan in place,” remarks Gi. “It was gratifying to see how much they appreciated having our whole team coming together for them.”
Working with a script provided by The Anelis Group that depicted the contrast between the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the tranquility of Calmin’ Ground, Gi took advantage of the farm’s stunning visuals in his videos, conducting one interview on a tractor and shooting a particularly memorable scene in slow motion as the sun was going down. While some shots were just there for the taking, others proved to be more challenging.
“We tried to get the sound of a horse crunching on hay, something that is apparently very therapeutic,” says Gi. “I practically had to stick the camera in the horse’s mouth in order to record that one.”
Editing a full day’s worth of footage down to just a few moments for the final cut is always one of the most daunting tasks of video production, and it was particularly difficult for the Calmin’ Ground shoot, with so many spectacular scenes captured during the day. Ironically, it can actually be harder to shoot a 60-second commercial than a two-hour movie.
“You have to cut, cut, cut, and so often companies want to say everything on their print and digital collateral, but you need to have one message that resonates,” observes Elisheva. “When you find that one message, that one niche, and tell it well, your business will soar.”
One of the most poignant moments of the shoot involved a severely autistic boy who came on set with two shadows. While the plan had been to film him interacting with the horse, there was zero connection between the two as the cameras began rolling.
“Yossi handed him a brush and had him start petting the horse, and all of a sudden he was totally transformed,” recalls Elisheva. “He was smiling, leaning into the horse, and giving it a half hug. Seeing how that interaction changed everything had me tearing up.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 875)
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