Musician & Artist Brandon McCranie

Creative Environmental Portrait -of Natchez Musician, Artist & Radio Personality Brandon McCranie


Welcome to Brandon McCranie’s zany, creative, and talented world!

In my Characters of Natchez photo series, I wanted to photograph a limited number of local people. My goal was to portray or reveal something in the photograph that would be uniquely them. To do so, I used a photographic style, lighting technique, camera angle, and setting that fit them. What I try to avoid is using a “one size fits all” approach. I didn’t want to force them into a single box, rather the box changed with what best represented each. This presented a challenge, but was much more rewarding because it stretched me artistically and creatively. This is known as “subject-centric” photography. This was the way I went into Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie, a session with this well-known Natchez talent.


Scouting & Vision

Brandon is a very talented person who literally and figuratively wears many hats. When I conducted my research of Brandon, I learned that in addition to his energy and gregarious nature was his amazing variety of hats and caps! He is lead vocalist and guitarist in his band Mojo-Mudd. He’s also an amazing bottle-cap artist, and a popular radio personality at a local station. However, these three outlets of how he expresses his creative nature is not all that I wanted to capture in his portrait. When you meet Brandon and experience his friendly and zany personality, you become an instant friend. An extravert, he has a way of expressing himself that is truly unique. I wanted to bring that out in the portrait as well. Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

With Environmental Portraiture the idea is to capture the person in their own environment. Contrasty, in Studio Portraiture, you photograph your subject in a studio with a backdrop. This can be very effective because it isolates the subject in the photograph and focuses only on them. Both have their own impact visually. For Brandon I chose to go on location and shoot him in his bottle-cap workshop or in his home environment. Of course, the down side to this approach are the logistics of lugging lighting and camera gear! At this time of year in Mississippi (early August) when the session is outside (as this one was), the heat, humidity and mosquitos make it a challenge.


Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

After scouting around, I found an awesome location that matched my vision for the portrait. It took me four hours to gather gear, set up, do test shots, and shoot the session. Even though I was going for one special shot, my session with Brandon consisted of just over three hundred photographs. Each one of the exposures were taken for a reason, and was a deliberate attempt at some nuance of angle, shift in pose, lighting or wardrobe change. Brandon and I worked hard at continually tweaked every little thing, including arranging the individual bottle caps on his table. In addition, Brandon’s wardrobe, hat, gesture, posture, my angle of view, framing, lighting, lens and so forth were all carefully chosen to bring out the goal of the image: to truly represent him authentically. That is shooting deliberately. While it is often a challenge, I love the adventure of exploring and working a shot creatively.

At this point, a total of seven lights were employed, including studio strobes, a 53″ octabank (a large softbox), and various other high-tech lighting gear. We even plugged-in a $10 work light for some of the background lighting, so low-tech works perfectly well sometimes. The magic happened in this session when, following a hunch, I tried a very unorthodox lens for taking a portrait photo. A 16mm fisheye lens is normally used in special effects landscape kinds of shots. In fact, I knew if I kept him in the center of the frame the distortion on him would be minimized, but the rest of the scene around him would seem surreal. No doubt it was a risk creatively, by it was worth a try. Having him to lean in a bit made the shot work even more effectively.


The Unintended Other Portrait

After using a couple of lenses, I asked Brandon if he had time for me to play around with a new lens. I had just received a Lens Baby Composer Pro. This lens, an Edge 80 optic, allows me to have “slice” of focus area in my shot. Additionally, I can also widen or narrow that slice of focus, and move it around in my composition. 



Creative Portrait - Brandon McCranie

Portrait taken using the Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic.

The image I captured of Brandon using the Lens Baby is shown at left. In my opinion it captured another very important aspect of Brandon. The main shot (above) captured Brandon’s public persona. He is energetic, full of life, creativity, and talent. All of which are contributors to his wild world of color, music, art, and fun that make him larger than life. I chose a 16mm fisheye lens in the above photo, because it “warps” (in a good way) what we experience when we encounter Brandon. We enter his world when we view that photo (at least I hope it conveys that). But, in this second photo, a very different Brandon is seen … a quiet, reflective, thoughtful man who has hopes, goals, and a faith of his own. 

I can say that because I got to talk with Brandon awhile during this long shoot about his life and the direction he finds himself on. As a matter of fact, we spoke candidly about our lives and aspirations, both as “creatives” but also simply as men who want to be better human beings tomorrow than we are today. 



In conclusion, Brandon is a complex person, as most of us are. He is a deep thinker, a thoughtful, reflective, philosophical man. Like many of us, he has chosen to make a better life for himself and lift others around him in the process. No doubt that while the first shot best portrayed what I originally set out to do, the second shot portrayed another authentic aspect of Brandon. This is what is amazing about photography: how photos can tell very different stories, even if they are of the same subject just minutes apart.

So, welcome to Brandon’s world … both of them!

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

I hope you enjoyed the images and the peek behind the process of what I do, and how I got these shots. If you would like a “once-in-a-lifetime” portrait that captures some aspect of who you really are, then CONTACT ME to discuss your portrait. And remember, there’s always more going on around you – and inside of people – than what meets the eye.

Shoot Details and Camera MetaData:

Shot 1 (Top): Nikon D810; 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens; ISO 64; f/2.8; 1/250s; tripod.

Shot 2 (Bottom): Nikon D810; Lens Baby Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic (80mm); ISO 400; f/11; 1/5s; tripod.

Lighting: Elinchrom mono strobes (x3) with 53″ Octabox as key light (all others accents and kickers); gridded 8.5″ reflector; and one with a snoot to light anvil & front work table; Paul C. Buff Einstein mono strobe (x1) with shoot through umbrella; Nikon SB910 speedlites (3) with magmod modifiers; a $10 shop light with silver reflector to help light the background. The lights were triggered with Pocket Wizard radio controllers (x6) – Flex TT5’s, TT1 Mini, and AC3 Zone Controller. Flags were used to block unwanted light sources from nearby lights.

Post-Processing: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 & Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.

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