Behind the Scenes With Faran Najafi / by Sohail Mamdani

I shot this video for photographer Faran Najafi a while back, and in the stream of all the things that have been going on this year, I never got around to working on finishing it. 

I worked with the always-amazing Suzy Fahmy, who did all of the editing, grading, and title/text effects. Having her handle it all kinda smacked me in the face with the fact that a professional editor can seriously make your video. My personal edit looks so laughably amateurish, it will never see the light of day. 

So without further ado, here's the video. Details below the embed, along with some important lessons learned.

Models: Lizzie Gunst and Omid Rod
Makeup and Hair: Sara Dashty
Stylist: Rebekah Carey
Cinematography: Sohail Mamdani
Edit: Suzy Fahmy

Vimeo version for those who prefer it

The technical details

I shot the video using a Panasonic GH3 and a Canon 5D Mark III. There were a variety of lenses used; the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, Voigtlander 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm f/0.95, and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II. 

Editing was done in Final Cut Pro 7, with grading in Lightroom (yeah, I blinked when Suzy told me that too). Title/text effects were in After Effects.

Lessons Learned

First: A good model will quite literally make or break your shoot. Lizzie Gunst, who is represented by JE Model Management now (Faran shot her the day before she signed on with them) was an absolute pro. Faran put her through all sorts of physical contortions to get the poses he wanted, and she hung tight through it all. The final images, available on Faran's website, absolutely reflect both her ability to deliver and Faran's skill as a photographer. 

Second: It was an absolute pleasure watching Faran work. I've worked in the studio before, have my own in San Francisco, but I can honestly say that Faran knocks the socks off most of the photographers I know and have worked with. He goes into a shoot knowing exactly what he wants, but is flexible enough to work with what the models bring to the party. Lizzie, for example, was rock-solid, but Omid was still new at modeling and not as fluid as Lizzie. Yet Faran was still able to pull some fantastic work from him that has got to be up-front in the guy's portfolio. 

Lessons about the technical stuff: The difference in "looks" between the GH3 and the 5DMK3 are really apparent to me. All the dreamy, shallow DoF stuff is obviously from the 5D, even though the Voigtlander lenses are capable of creating similar looks. The footage from the 5D just looks more film-like, so I'm not surprised that it's what Suzy used when it was available. 

There's this whole concept of detail vs sharpness that I'll riff on another time, but it really explains why I bought and then sold a GH4. For now, I'll say that I'm reluctantly back in the "larger sensor is nicer" camp for now, until something changes my mind.