AU NZ

Events, photo walks, talks from the masters, in-depth workshops. Expand your horizons with one of our many events across Australia.

Starting Never Ends is the one place for all Sony camera mini-sites. Learn about all new Sony camera products in a fun interactive way.

Events, photo walks, talks from the masters, in-depth workshops. Expand your horizons with one of our many events across Australia.

Starting Never Ends is the one place for all Sony camera mini-sites. Learn about all new Sony camera products in a fun interactive way.

AU NZ
Sony New Zealand
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Event Host

Alpha Creator Project: Hey Toyota Campaign by Lee Howell

11 Jul 2022
Sony New Zealand
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Event Host
Image: Sony New Zealand, Alpha 1 (A1)

Auckland-based advertising photographer Lee Howell (@leehowelldotcom) has a knack for connecting with the people he photographs, and as a result, his portfolio is full of engaging and evocative portraits. So, when top advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi went looking for a photographer to capture stills off the back of their people-orientated “Hey Toyota” TV commercial campaign, they knew Lee would deliver the goods.

 

 

The campaign showcases Toyota New Zealand’s new messaging platform, a progressive two-way communication experience between customers and the company. Each TV commercial addresses a different question that a Toyota customer might ask – e.g. “What actually is a hybrid?”

This was a large-scale production, with six 30-second TV commercials shot over six days at numerous locations across Auckland. As the stills photographer, Lee was responsible for capturing six hero images and a selection of additional shots for use on Toyota’s social media accounts. “It was a moving beast that was really cool to be involved in,” he says.

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens. 1/4000 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/400 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

 

One of the advantages of shooting stills for such a big campaign was that Lee had the support of a full TV production crew. There were stylists, makeup artists, prop designers, lighting experts, caterers, and safety officers all working collaboratively to make sure each day ran efficiently and smoothly.

However, his days on set didn’t come without their challenges. One of the main obstacles Lee had to navigate was the limited time he was given to take photos. In some instances, he only had a couple of minutes to capture a hero image before being ushered off set. For film crews, stills photography is often seen as a low priority – even when those photos are essential for effectively executing the finished campaign.

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 35mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/6400 sec, f/1.8, ISO 125

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 85mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/2000 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

 

 

The Gear

Lee shot the “Hey Toyota” campaign stills using his Sony Alpha 1 and a combination of four Sony G Master prime lenses: the FE 24mm f/1.4 GM, FE 35mm f/1.4 GM, FE 50mm f/1.2 GM, and FE 85mm F1.4 GM. He knew from the outset that he would need a camera with a high-resolution sensor and the ability to shoot at a very fast frame rate.

While Sony’s Eye AF feature is fantastic for capturing pin-sharp portraits, it wasn’t just facial expressions that Lee wanted to capture; body language was equally important. For this assignment, Lee needed to portray each subject as if they were in the middle of asking a question, so he used the Alpha 1’s electronic shutter and 30 fps burst mode to catch the perfect moment.

Each hero image also needed to be used across a wide variety of advertising media – in both horizontal and vertical formats. This meant that Lee had to deliver ultra-high-res files that could be cropped heavily in either orientation. To achieve this, he created a special tripod rig that allowed him to quickly capture multiple images of each scene, which were then stitched together in post-production.

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens. 1/2000 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800

 

 

Parting Advice

Lee’s advice for aspiring photographers is to build positive relationships. Developing a good rapport with the client, crew, and talent is crucial to achieving optimal results. This is particularly important for large projects, where there are many moving parts that need to work together. Lee always goes out of his way to meet the talent before picking up his camera, to create a genuine connection and make them feel more comfortable. This also gives him a chance to tell them what kind of photo he wants to capture before they get out on set.

Proper preparation is also vital. “The bigger the job, the more prepared you need to be,” Lee explains. He tests his equipment thoroughly in the days leading up to a big commercial job, to ensure that things run as effortlessly as possible and that he doesn't have to tinker around with the settings on set. This allows Lee to shoot with more confidence and avoid potential technical issues that would otherwise cause him, and his client, a lot of stress.

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 85mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/320 sec, f/1.6, ISO 640

 

Photo by Lee Howell
Sony Alpha 1 with FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens. 1/200 sec, f/2, ISO 250

 

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