Photographer Clint Davis is based in Charleston, South Carolina, but his work ethic, persistence, and creativity grant him access to projects nationwide. This year he had the opportunity to travel to Troy, MI to shoot the first non-CGI photos of the brand-new Cadillac XT4.
The significance of the Cadillac XT4 is much greater than a storied luxury brand’s first attempt at a compact SUV. As the Detroit News puts it, the XT4 is “Cadillac’s millennial-bait. […] Small SUVs are among the most popular products with millennial buyers, a more active generation that looks for both fashion and function in their vehicles.” Before unveiling the XT4, Cadillac had only two models, the Escalade and XT5 — both classified as SUVs, but neither is considered a crossover.
In context, the non-CGI images, set to debut the brand-new Cadillac XT4, had a lot riding on them. Thankfully, Davis prides himself on consistency in quality with automotive and vehicle photography — a testament to his vast experience shooting in this field.
For this project, we implemented a no-corners-cut mentality and hired some of the best assistants, studio, and gear for the shoot. On top of that, the agency gifted me with two full days to execute a relatively short shot list of eight images per day. That yielded plenty of time to be precise and creative. Initially, it was to reveal the first non-CGI photography images to the public via their official magazine and shortly after evolved into a full buyout to be used worldwide at Cadillac’s choosing.
How did you get involved in this project?
This particular client came from the fine people at the agency Campbell-Ewald. I’ve been shooting various projects involving Cadillac and Chevrolet with them for the past three years and love the creative freedom they offer.
What planning was involved in this shoot?
The agency had a pretty clear vision for the shoot with a grey vehicle on a similar colored backdrop. We would use heavy accent lighting to showcase the brand-new vehicle. After showing some inspiration images from my handy-dandy inspiration folder, we were both pumped to move forward with the concept. After that, it was about securing a studio, the appropriate lighting equipment, and trusty assistants.
How did you make use of all of that studio time in the actual shoot?
In an increasing creative world of producing as much content as possible in a 12-hour day, I absolutely love shoots that focus more on a quality over quantity. Considering the modest request for eight shots per day meant we could perfect each angle. For this shoot, I experimented with fluorescent tubes, combined with hard shadow hot lights.
In what ways did you go above and beyond in this shoot?
Cadillac specifically noted not to do a top-down shot of the vehicle. Whenever I hear a client specifically request something like that, I see it as a challenge to convince them otherwise, if I truly think it’s a good idea. So, when the shot list was complete, I spent the last hour remotely rigging the camera to the roof of the studio for a top-down shot. Turns out it was easily one of the client’s favorite shots and was used as the opening spread to the magazine feature. And oh yeah, that’s me in the picture!
What was your favorite moment from this project?
The feeling of seeing your vision come to life on the tethered screen, with the clients elbowing their way forward to take snapshots with their phones — [that] was my favorite part of this project.
What responses have these photographs provoked?
Unfortunately, since it’s tough to track down where the images were ultimately used, it’s difficult to gauge the reception (so far) of these photographs. However, the fact that they were elevated to a full buyout from the initial editorial licensing means the reception from the client was enthusiastic.
Is there anyone you would like to thank in particular?
Mostly the folks at Campbell-Ewald, specifically Associate Creative Director Cassidy Zobl. Such a joy to work with, and she made an Oreo cake! Also, Madison Ford, the owner of Midcoast Studio, was a treasure trove of advice with a huge appreciation for 20th century photography. I was blown away when he invited me over to have dinner with his wife and dogs, surrounded by Henri Cartier-Bresson signed prints. And of course, my assistants, who had a vast understanding of studio lighting experience. They helped tremendously to bring the vision to life.
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