For some photographers, the time in between client projects can be a welcome opportunity to test new skills and expand portfolio work. Chicago-based food and travel photographer Morgan Ione sought to open a new pathway for her career by directing and producing a promotional video featuring food and beverage in a lifestyle setting.
I was looking to gain more experience directing video as I have a lot of clients asking for video along with stills for these types of shoots.
Morgan reached out to Dillon Schneider, a cinematographer based out of LA, who was similarly interested in adding this type of content to his portfolio. Together, Dillon and Morgan storyboarded concepts and brands, until they settled on doing some spec work for Teremana Tequila — a new spirit brand founded by Dwayne Johnson.
We chose Teremana tequila because it’s a new brand that matched well with the vibe and story we envisioned creating.
Morgan and Dillion decided to title their project “Summer Awaits” and sought out places that captured the sunshine and clear blue sky that would add to this theme. Due to the connections that Dillon had in the Chicago area, the team was able to utilize a garden rooftop and a sleek boat that added a genuine excitement to the project.
Dillon’s friends really helped us out! One happened to have a killer rooftop and another owned a beautiful boat.
When it came to both shoots, Morgan and Dillon had decided to capture the video and stills at sunset, to play with the light on the water and skyline. While this makes for a captivating set of images, it required expert planning given the short amount of time it takes for the sun to descend below the horizon.
We were working with a bare bones crew and mostly natural light, and once the sunlight starts going, it goes really fast.
Morgan also collaborated with beverage and prop stylist, Brooke Doyle, who worked hard to stage the set within these parameters and timelines. Brooke set up and styled all the close-up shots of the drinks in the rooftop setting to ensure every drink and detail looked its best.
Keeping the crew small was deemed essential when it came to working on the boat, as there was limited space for equipment let alone extra hands. Morgan mixed the drinks and directed each shot while Dillon captured the videos.
Different projects call for different levels of production. Thanks to an extended network of video crews, food, and prop stylists, I can make any shoot work, no matter the location.
Once the sun had set over Lake Michigan, the crew packed up and docked, eager to be back on solid ground. From there, Dillon and Morgan discussed the editing process, and how to make the most of the content they created. They reached out to a contact of Dillon’s, LA-based editor Ben Hess, who helped bring their collective vision to life.
He added sound and found the opening drone clip of Chicago that helped to set the location in the viewer’s eye.
This project was exactly the type of learning experience Morgan sought to create for herself. The videos required more detailed storyboarding before shooting, and in working out concepts and ideas, Morgan expanded her ability to craft an authentic brand identity from the onset.
I now have a better idea of how to light this type of work and working with the editor also helped me conceptualize how shots will fit together in post-production.
While Morgan’s commercial photography has always pleased her clients, she wanted to offer new skills and evolve her artistry into different mediums. In working with other like-minded creatives, Morgan’s collaboration was a successful experiment in utilizing her creative abilities and wealth of resources to bring this vision to life.
I enjoyed the shoot but seeing the first rounds of edits was probably the most exhilarating. I loved collaborating with new people and learning new skills through this project.
Photographer/Producer/Director: Morgan Ione
Cinematographer/Co-producer: Dillon Schneider
Beverage/Prop Stylist: Brooke Doyle
Video Editor: Ben Hess