Setting the Standard
by Liz Ream
Jody Horton is one of those photographers whose unique style and ability constantly catches my eye. Specializing in food and drink, Jody thrives on creating a scene and then shooting within that scene to capture moments that feel natural and spontaneous.
Last fall, Jody was thrilled to receive a call from a dream client of his, Jack Daniels, for a large campaign that would combine his food/drink skills with his love for shooting outdoors. It was a four-day shoot squeezed into two, working on plantations outside of Charleston to create images for use across print & social media platforms. The campaign is centered around the “high standard” that Jack Daniels claims.
Jody was recently honored in the Communication Arts Photo Annual for one of the images, and Jack Daniels has seen a significant increase in sales of the Single Barrel whiskey. Jody’s team was kind enough to share the images that have been released so far, and I recently caught up with him on the joys and challenges of such a large scale project. Enjoy!
What was your creative mindset going into this project?
Happily the client and art directors allowed us to have a great deal of input and creative freedom on the shoot.
What was involved in planning and preproduction?
Planning and preproduction was extensive – including all of the usual components of location scouting, casting, wardrobe, as well as propping and set design. Despite the relatively loose approach to production, each person, wardrobe item, prop etc. had to be pre-approved and included in a production book. We sourced and photographed props here in Austin, pulled large props surfaces and wardrobe and talent from Charleston and finalized our production schedule with all the moving parts on the day prior to the shoot following a tech scout with the art team and clients. It could not have been pulled off without final-hour heroics from a great team including my studio manager/producer Lindsay who did an amazing job keeping everything on track.
Were there any challenges involved with this project?
Logistics for large-scale productions in a remote location have many challenges. Good planning and having the right people on your team allows you to overcome almost anything. Gas-powered golf carts with mud tires – to shuttle talent, crew, and clients over rough terrain – were also extremely helpful.
What has the reaction to the images been so far? The Comm Arts win is awesome- anything else noteworthy?
Thanks. We have had a lot of positive feedback on the images. The agency guys tell us the campaign has proven to be a huge success and that sales of Single Barrel have increased tremendously. Of course the images are just a part of the total effort but that feels like a win too.
Did you learn anything through the creation of this series?
Yes. Because the schedule was so challenging and the plantations so vast I wanted to scout the front-running locations myself and was very glad I did. Even though it meant more work, I advocated for adding a second plantation after seeing it myself (the one where the canoe shot came from). If ever possible I will push for being able to scout top locations myself before a final location is settled on.
What advice would you give to young photographers- specifically food/drink?
Take the kinds of photos you hope someday to be hired to take. Because being solely responsible for creating your own projects can be tough, consider partnering with a local cook/ food blogger who needs help with photos. Even if the work is done for free its a great way to increase your skills, develop your style and build up a body of work.
For more of Jody’s work, check out his website.