Defining a university college

These are the assignments that I love to sink my teeth in. Multi-day shooting a campaign at a high pace. When I got the call from Kenneth, of former Modemuseum fame, to come in for a meeting at the PXL university college in Hasselt, I was intrigued.

Giving me a huge folder of magazines, the briefing was clear:

“We want you to re-shoot these, but with your style, and showing the craziness that is this massive school. You can show that people have fun here, it can be edgy, a tad silly, as long as the feeling is there.

Say no more! In total we shot 28 different study courses, spread over eight departments, in four days. For each course, we shot three campaign images, always using real students, in a school setting.

Before we started shooting, I made some rules to create and maintain a certain style. First of all, no smart- or whiteboards and use as little laptops as possible. Since every course all get lessons on a laptop and use smart boards, there would be nothing that separates a music student from a business student, apart from the style of their clothes perhaps.

I insisted on using as many props as possible in a setting that would look natural. This again wasn’t the easiest of choices, because it’s easy to give a music student a guitar or keyboard, but where is the difference between someone studying fiscal management and someone studying to be a translator?

Another rule was that we would have a consistent feeling of light as well, meaning we would light everything with strobes. In total I used six Nikon SB-700 speed lights. I used a mix of a Walimex 180cm umbrella, two Lastilite 24″ Ezyboxes and small shoot through umbrellas, depending on the shot.

Camera wise, I used my trusted Nikon D5 and a Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 and the Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4. A few shots were made with the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 G

There are ‘some’ images that I want to talk to about specifically here, so, let’s go!

PXL Healthcare

PXL Healthcare. This doll was creepy! It doesn’t only give out vitals and measures CPR, it even moves, breathes and makes noises. Very Doctor Who like. Lit with the massive umbrella.
PXL Healthcare. This baby was just eight days old!
PXL Healthcare. Nailing the focus on a moving baby’s foot isn’t easy.
PXL Healthcare. The interaction between a disabled person and an assistant can be shown in many ways. Helping her out of the wheelchair wasn’t a strong image, so we opted for this post. The bedight is also lit with a strobe and a warm gel.
PXL Healthcare. Real life pregnancy. Notice the blackboard in the background to show it’s still an educational setting. We flashed from the left, and reflected from the right. The hallway was also lit by a single flash.
PXL Healthcare. I never laughed as much as I did during this ‘delivery’. To get the correct angle I was laying on the ground, with the entire staff and fellow students around me. The ‘baby’ came out with a mixture of laughter and simulated screams. I almost had tears of laughter during this moment. I wish every shoot could be so much fun.

PXL Education

PXL Education. Lit with a massive umbrella on top, a subtle backlight behind the trampoline,  and a strobe all the way in the back lighting up the back wall. I laid on the mat, waiting for the exact moment. Because the flashes were giving full power in the back, I could only shoot one frame per jump. But the students did great!
PXL Education. Sometimes you can look for a shot all you want, but when a real moment happens, you just aim and click. Next shot!
PXL Education. We raided the storage room for anything that would look visually interesting, in this case, these globes.

PXL Business

PXL Business. The inclusion of the headsets indicate that they’re translators.
PXL Business. The briefing for this shot was Jerry Maguire. Followed by blank stares. I should’ve known better than to talk about a movie that came out the same year as they were born. Anyhow, the quote “Show me the money” did ring a bell.
PXL Business. Student interaction for me was the most important thing for me. Meaning that everyone looks like they’re having fun.
PXL Business. The sun shining through the windows is completely fake. A warm gelled flash on a long tripod outside the window, and a big umbrella in the front. Easy.
PXL Business. A scanner, and a red gelled flash.
PXL Business. For once I really did want the beamer to be on, as it gave a nice practical light to add a bit of extra color to the room.

PXL Music

PXL Music. I love pretty lights and vintage hardware. So I put this guy behind the mixing desk. Lit his face with an overhead gridded softbox, and a pink gelled flash left. Drag the shutter, move the camera, and boom.
PXL Music. I love shooting musicians.
PXL Music. They had their own light contraption made from some light bulbs in the mixing room. The light had character, so I kept it there.
PXL Music. Just get the class together, let them talk and have fun, and in the meanwhile just shoot. I attached a flash on a magic arm in one of the cool lighting fixtures.

PXL IT

PXL IT. A bunch of clever geeks, all together in a building. I never felt so much at home. Completely gelling an otherwise boring white room with strobes, I managed to get a very cool shot of this robot.
PXL IT. The computer on the left had red LED’s in it. So why not emulate that with a red gelled light. A pink gelled light gave color the the wall, with a splash of white light coming through a softbox.
PXL IT. It can’t all be technology, so we got another collaboration picture. Lit with a small umbrella as a main light, and a bare flash in the back left to pop some extra light on the board and use is as a bounce.

PXL Media & Tourism

PXL Media & Tourism. This isn’t an outside location, that’s their wallpaper. Crazy.
PXL Media & Tourism. With the massive heat from the day earlier passed, I added splash of gelled sunlight in the back. The practical LED light didn’t gave a lot of light compared to my flashes, but it looks cool.  Extra detail: none of these students ever used this exact gear, so I had to coach them.
PXL Media & Tourism. What a great colourful jacket!

PXL Tech

PXL Tech. It was raining during this shot, but nothing a CTO gelled light can’t fix.
PXL Tech. With a rim light in the back, we isolate our great subject here, and a softbox gives a soft even light, which makes it look like all the light comes from practical sources.
PXL Tech. A green gel gives a splash of color to an otherwise colourless image, plus it really offsets the red part.
PXL Tech. Switching my white balace to incandescent, and slapping a CTO to the main light, turns everything blue, giving it all a very high-tech feeling to an otherwise boring technical installation.
PXL Tech. CTO gel. What else.
PXL Tech. These students weren’t part of the original plan, but when we saw them take samples, they got shanghaied into service. While they were about to re-do their sample taking, we found this tiny frog. Change of plans again. But I love how this came out.
PXL Tech. Shoutout to this girl with a BB-8 tattoo! And to the CTO gelled flashes of course.
PXL Tech. When their professor told me they had a DNA viewer or something that emitted blue and orange light, I immediately used it. And of course added a CTO and CTB gel to some flashes, adding a whole lot of extra drama.
PXL Tech. Just having a lot of fun in the lab.
PXL Tech. Liquid. Nitrogen. 🙌🏻.

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