The Perfectly Powerful Peanut

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

“Willing to work for peanuts?” – from the very first email exchanged with our new friends at Lawler Ballard Van Durand, we knew this ad campaign was going to be a good one.

Last October we hopped on a flight down to Atlanta to spend a few days in the studio shooting portraits for The National Peanut Board. The final product; a hybrid of photography, illustration, and stellar design work showcases what you can achieve when you collaborate with top tier creatives and artists. As always, we’re excited to share more than just the final product. Keep reading for the story of how this campaign came together…

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

The final product you see above is a result of combining our photography with incredible design and original botanical illustrations commissioned for this campaign. In addition to shooting portraits, we also photographed individual pieces of the peanut plants to work into the final pieces, seamlessly transitioning between photograph and illustration. These ads really show what can be achieved when top tier artists collaborate.

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

In terms of lighting, we needed to strike a balance between keeping our overall light open and bright in order to match towards the botanical illustrations but also subtly highlighting the great emotion and motivations that each of our subjects brought to the table. No easy task, huh?

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

To make this happen, we opted for a combination of octabanks and gridded soft boxes, using the gridded boxes at a slightly higher output to create a more focused shape and tone on the models. The rest was filled in and shaped by the ocabanks. With both octabank and softbox functioning as our key light, the overall scene was filled in by an exta large octabank behind camera. Gotta keep those shadows in check.

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

The ratio between the key lights and fill was a delicate balance and required tinkering for each subject. Fortunately the pace of our shoot afforded us time to really hone in on the best light for each subject and work out a wide range of options. We were very lucky to have over an hour with each talent, working through dozens of different motivations and options trying to find the perfect shot. Trust me when I say that editing down our selects was no small task.

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

Technical work aside, the real beauty of this project was brought to life thanks to the collective efforts of the creatives, stylists, talent, and production behind the final product. Although these ads look deceptively simple and organic, they had to be executed so precisely as to not feel unfinished or overdone – every subtle styling detail, every small tweak of a smile or expression in the talent, every piece of design and typography placed correctly.

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

chris crisman national peanut board advertising

Chris and our team worked closely with the creative minds and LBVD, making sure we translated their concepts as faithfully as we could while making beautiful photos. In essence, this is the type of project that image-makers dream of; collaborating with some of the finest minds in the industry to create a final product unlike to anything previous.

And of course we couldn’t think of a better way to translate this shoot experience without capturing it for ourselves with a time-lapse. I didn’t think it’d be possible to compress this entire shoot into just over 2 minutes, but it happened. Enjoy!

Our final thought: unique work is hard to come by these days, let alone create – we’re proud to be a part of this process. Thanks again to everyone involved.

Questions, comments? Let us know your thoughts below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!

15 replies to “The Perfectly Powerful Peanut”

  1. Great stuff! Shows what the process can look like when you attract top tier talent. Always love your seeing BTS time lapses too. Thank you for sharing! I’d love to know what you guys are using for tethering to the camera, software etc. I also noticed the iPad that was being used? Have you ever experimented with CamRanger? thanks so much!

  2. Hey, nice work! Been following your stuff for a few years. I’m in the market for a decent octabank, mind me asking which brand you use? Can’t see a name on them haha! Researching all the kinds I can 🙂


  3. I’d probably be happy with just the final photos on your blog, but I love that you do behind the scenes with explanations as well as a great video to boot. Fantastic work!

  4. Great post, Robert, thank you. And stunning work. Can you explain the iPad to the right of the camera? Is that a phase one or capture one app, or something? I guess it shows the art director a jpeg of what chris is shooting?

  5. Hey Aiden, thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed the post! The ipad next to camera is running Capture Pilot which connects with Capture One to wirelessly receive the captures. Chris and the art directors use it to review on set.

  6. Hey Jessica – great question. Our octabanks are made by the company Photek (they also make the softlighter which Annie Leibovitz made famous). They offer a 5′ and 3′ both of which are really great options. Hope this helps!

  7. Hey Stephen, good question. For that campaign, we shot with a Phase One IQ160, 60mp digital back on a Hasselblad body. We were tethering using Capture One which also was wirelessly transmitting to the iPads on set via the Capture Pilot app. Haven’t used CamRanger yet, we’ll need to check it out.

  8. Thanks for a great bts write up. Looks like you had the same set up on camera left and right. Was that done so you could quickly switch the side the key light was coming from? Or we’re they being used at the same time? Thanks!

  9. Robert, nerdy detail questions. It looks like the small soft boxes with grids have gels. You know, like a 1/4 CTO or so. Is it the case, or is it an optical illusion because of the grids? And, were those big octos behind the camera always firing? Couldn’t tell from the BTS video, which was cooleeoh, BTW!

  10. Hey Frederick, nerdy details are always welcome. To answer them – I think it’s just a color balance issue on the timelapse/BTS shots. The modeling lights were on which may have given them a warm tint, but we were running any gels.

    Also, the big octas were always firing, but at a pretty low power level compared to the key lights.


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