K.C. Armstrong is a Kelowna, British Columbia born photographer now based in Los Angeles, California, who focuses on portraiture— capturing the essence of celebrities, sports stars, and advertising. His work is not only in the still world, but also that of motion. Last year he shot Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays for a still and television shoot for Adidas’s #newSPEED campaign. K.C. got the job through DDB Canada, and shot the spot outdoors in Tampa, Florida during spring training. The shoot was eight hours long, which may seem like a lot of time, but considering there was a still and motion component to the campaign, the timeline was strict. The motion was entirely daylight lit, with a bit of bounce here and there, and the stills were a mix of available light and high speed Broncolor strobes.
When asked how he sees directing versus shooting stills, K.C. finds a set to be a bit more stressful when motion is involved, as there are way more moving pieces. This learning curve aside, he quite enjoys being on the direction side of things, where he is able to work with a Director of Photography, so he can focus more on what is happening in front of the camera, rather that looking through the lens himself. His directing process is a mix of being hands on and letting things flow in front of him. It is important for him to keep things fun and light on set, allowing his personality to shine through to make a comfortable working environment for everyone, subject and crew alike.
Earlier this year K.C. worked on a set for JBL focusing on the French soccer player, Raphaël Varane. This assignment was more of a motion shoot where they shot stills at the end of the day. The shoot took place in a smaller soccer stadium in Madrid, Spain, on a 12 hour shoot day. And this set wasn’t your typical set, as there were three different languages going on. The crew only spoke Spanish, Raphaël only spoke French, and then K.C. English. There were translators alongside them to help get direction out to the crew and Raphaël. K.C. finds he gets these kinds of jobs because people know he can handle the chaotic nature of those rare types of shoots.
When he’s not shooting athletes around the globe, K.C. also works with actors and actresses. Last fall he shot a campaign for a television show called Bellevue with the actress Anna Paquin. He received the job through CBC Network, located in Toronto, who he works with quite frequently. The shoot took place in Montreal, and he photographed each member of the cast over one day. Anna Paquin was the last subject to come before his lens, and he only had 15 minutes to get the shot. He could tell she was exhausted from a long day of work, so in order to get the shot he needed, he turned up his personality to make her comfortable for the 15 minutes he needed to take the perfect picture.
Another recent shoot of K.C.’s was with the actress Shenae Grimes-Beech for the key art of an indie film entitled Blood Honey. The basis of the story line is about a woman with a schizophrenic, split personality of sorts, and within seconds on set, Shenae was able to get into character and conjure up tears. This is one of the reasons K.C. loves to work with actors and actresses, because they are able to emote so much more powerfully than the average human can. This difference also comes into play when he compares working with athletes versus actors. An actor is much more comfortable, naturally, in front of the camera than an athlete is, who tend to be more stiff, which makes K.C. work harder to get something out of them. But on the plus side, he finds relates better to athletes due to his sports filled past, allowing him to get to them on the same level as their peers could. He doesn’t want being in front of a camera to feel like a stuffy environment for his subjects, so he opens them up to be themselves.