“Photography was something I originally picked up as a hobby when I was on the road,” says Lee Cherry. As a dancer, Lee toured Europe with a production of West Side Story. His fellow cast members began asking him for headshots, and as his photographic passion increased, so did his skill level. Almost entirely self-taught, Cherry devoured the Ansel Adams series. “I just applied it to people,” he says. “Book Two taught me the Zone System, particularly eyeballing the exposure. That helped me out a lot. I also asked a lot of questions at the labs I took my film to. Anytime I had something I wanted to achieve, I would ask. I gave myself assignments that inspired me.”
The pre-Google days were good for Cherry. Forced to interface with photographers who knew answers, he never stopped asking questions. When he got off the road, he felt he could do photography as a side business instead of waiting tables. “Because I was already in that world, I didn’t have to do anything,” he explains. “The headshot work came to me right away. I was in show business and I was taking pictures the way I wanted them taken of me.”
As his assignments got larger, so did Cherry’s knowledge. He soon discovered a strategy he still uses. “I give the client more than they ask for,” he says. This has paid off in terms of client loyalty. When he shot the Pussycat Dolls billboard, it got them their record deal. Now that they’re well-known, they still hire him for large-budget jobs.
Another tactic Cherry uses with his clients is “excellent customer service and excellent customer support,” he says. “If they want something, respond immediately. They’re paying good money. There’s no reason to hold their work hostage. Treat your customers the way you expect to be treated.”
Initially a film-shooter, Cherry shoots almost all-digital now after he learned clients were turning away from him because they expected digital photography. His body of choice is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. “With film, you have to be more of a sniper. With digital, you fall into the trap of being a drive-by shooter,” he laughs. “There’s nothing wrong with doing it, but you have to be mindful. The client doesn’t want to look through hundreds of photos. If you don’t cater to their attention span, it won’t work. People in show business have short attention spans.”
“I don’t like to shoot tethered,” states Cherry. “Of course I use PocketWizards. I can’t imagine not using them. I never miss a shot this way. I use the Plus II Transceivers. I’ve missed more shots from the camera not focusing than from PocketWizards not working.”
Regarding his lighting, Cherry says, “I’m a Profoto dude. When I started using strobes, I went right to Profoto gear. I’ve tried other brands, but I don’t like the handling required. I’m rough with my things. I’m not one of those delicate, handle my stuff with care-people. I’m one of those throw it in the bag and do it-people. Profoto’s gear is very accommodating to me in the way I handle my things. Everything’s very simple and I can move very intuitively with it. It always does what I want and it’s never failed me. I’ve never had a problem with anything Profoto, ever. I’ve never had to use anything else. I really love my beauty dish and grid. That’s probably my favorite. I usually use the seven-inch grid. Profoto’s reliability and the intuitive nature of how the gear handles is just so great. I don’t have to think when I’m using Profoto. It just does what I want it to do.”
Cherry also has a continuing project called the Zodiac Show, which he directs and produces. “Dance was my gateway drug into the arts,” Cherry laughs. “I was trouble-making kid raised in Brooklyn and used to chase girls into dance class. I don’t dance any longer, but I’m still into it, and love to direct it.” Crediting his experience as a dancer with knowing when to release his shutter, with Cherry behind the camera, dancers everywhere are happy to be dancing in front of his lens.
Trackback from your site.