Understanding the Photo Shoot: Behind the Scenes

28 Feb

September 2012 9 AM. It was a good sunny day in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bataan. The photo shoot set was good-to-go, the cameras were ready to roll, and the photographers were ready to shoot. All is well for my sister and her fiancé’s pre-wedding photo shoot. And it’s also about time for me to start my mini adventure in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a heritage resort that showcases Philippine history, customs and traditions in its every detail. Its rooms are named and designed after historical landmarks such as Paseo de Escolta, the strip of commercial structures in Escolta Manila during the early 1900s.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bataan

Paseo de Escolta was my sister’s first choice for their photo shoot but unfortunately there’s another team scheduled to do theirs in the same location. My sister and her team had to transfer to Casa Lubao instead but Gab, my sister’s good friend, and I decided to stay in Paseo de Escolta. From Paseo de Escolta, Gab and I walked leisurely for a few miles when we saw the other set. It took Gab a couple of minutes to realize that it was Jason Magbanua’s team doing the shoot, Gab’s old boss.

Jason Magbanua @ Work

Gab casually said hi to Jason and he waved back in return. When we were about to leave, Jason shouted to ask Gab if he could be part of their group since they’re shorthanded. Gab agreed and even brought me in with him, thinking that I’d be willing to help also. In an instant, Gab was back to his old self and I became part of the team as a personal assistant.

Before we start kicking our ass off, Gab left me a small reminder saying, “Sarah please always stay composed”. I took this reminder lightly and didn’t pay much attention to what Gab really meant. Prior to the start, I had no fear of joining the team. I was even kind of confident, thinking that they’ll just ask me to hold lights for them, nothing really hard and demanding.

As soon as everyone started to work, the set became a big mess. The clothes were scattered everywhere, people were shouting all over the place, the director was lying on the grass, everything was just chaotic and not on their original positions. In an instant I was completely lost. Things were going too fast. I couldn’t understand what’s happening anymore, once someone asked me to hold the lights, the next time they wanted me to hold the fan and then random people were giving me instructions.

Regardless of all the mess and disorganization, there are also amazing parts of the shoot. It’s surprising that in the midst of this chaos, these people seem to know where to position themselves, what to do, and even know what to ask me to do. They make sense out of their own mess. These people can understand each other without even talking. It seemed like they have their own language, culture and world. I can still remember the instances wherein the director would snap his finger and his assistant would quickly switch the focus of the camera or turn on a new camera. Without saying anything, the assistant already knows which angle and which camera to use. And every time the director would clap his hands twice, they’re done with that particular set and costume.

Aside from these hand gestures, the director is also a man of few words. His directions were mostly just one-word accompanied by few hand gestures like for example when the director says “lights” and a twinkle hand gesture, he means more lights but when it’s paired with a shrinking hand gesture, he means control the light exposure. When the director says “change” he wants the stylists to change the outfit or the hair of the clients because they don’t work. And at the back of the cameras, the stylists would quickly just pull up the hair or curl the hair of the bride, and immediately put on more and more powder. I find it uniquely weird how the members of the team connect with each other. They don’t even have to talk to get things done perfectly.

At some point, the shoot was too much for me to handle but it’s only through the errands that I felt I belong. The group worked with me with no special treatment even though I didn’t have any background, even though I’m one ignorant child and even if I had a fair share of fails moments. I can still remember when the photographer asked me to move the lights to the left but I moved it to the right instead. There was also this time wherein I move the light board either too high or too low, because I don’t know the light direction the team was saying. I felt lost because the photographers, directors and stylists seem to have their own world and language but thanks to Gab who was my translator, interpreter and guide. Whenever I can’t do a task well Gab would come over and help me finish them, and whenever I don’t understand he would translate the instructions to me or explain the point of doing so.

Through out the day, everyone worked non-stop, there weren’t much breaks in between. The first time I checked my watch it was only 9 AM. In a snap of an eye, it was already 7 PM. It was already a wrap for everyone. The day that I thought to be chill, and only a travel experience turned out to be one of the most physically demanding days I had. I might not have the chance to explore Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar but I earned myself a learning experience. I started off pretty confident that I can manage the work and experience but at the end I was proved wrong. It wasn’t easy, and wasn’t a no-brainer as well. In reality, the work demands focus, concentration and passion. All of these efforts are worth it because to be a part of a couple’s special event, to be part of the team that will help them reminisce all the memories in the future, is truly an experience. Many people might say a picture paints a thousand words but after this experience I must say that a picture paints a thousand words but what happened behind this picture leaves thousand of struggles, hard work, creativity and memories.

Word Count: 1088


I would just like to share the story of the couple (Mara and Elo) we shot. The couple was special not only because the groom (Elo) has dwarfism but more of because both have a touching and genuine story. For those interested in their wedding on-site video, here’s the link:

Mara & Elo


Sarah Jane Cua SA21 (P)

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


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