Billboard Campaign Shot Live In Times Square

Posted by Tim Llewellyn: Boston Photographer on Sep 21, 2015 4:14:31 PM

In Photography, new york, billboard, advertising, photo gear

We just finished up photographing a billboard campaign live in Times Square for Schofferhofer Grapefruit. It was quite a shoot, over the course of fifteen hours across three nights we photographed over 700 people. To be honest it was a production high wire act, and I’m happy to report it went off without a hitch. 


This is the second ad campaign we’ve shot for this client. Schofferhofer is the world’s first hefeweizen Grapefruit beer. They are a division of The Radeberger Gruppe, the largest brewery in Germany, sold in 60 different countries around the world.  They have been a great client to work with, creative and flexible. This project, in particular, showed they have the nack to think multidimensionally across media to produce creative that is engaging - it literally stopped people in their tracks. 

Billboard Campaign Photographed Live In Times Square, New York

Here’s how it broke down. We had a street team composed of four models and one producer inviting passersby to be featured on a 130 foot tall HD digital billboard. I was shooting portraits tethered to a laptop in Times Square.  On the laptop was a digital tech prepping, color correcting, and uploading the images to prebuilt custom website that was streaming on the billboard. At points we had the process down to under two minutes from the flash going off to the portraits going up on the board, film strip style. 

The reaction from the crowd was incredible. As I mentioned, over 700 people stopped to be photographed, and then stayed to watch their photos go live in the Square. As I was busy continuing to photograph more and more people, I could hear cheers come from different directions as new images were uploaded to the screen. As a photographer, it was a huge stage - and it was nice to see how thrilled people were to see themselves over ten stories tall. 

The genius of the project was that each time new people had their photographs up on the board, they took their own pictures with their photos and shared them on Facebook and Instagram - and so our clients logo (not to mention goodwill) was spread across social media. Honestly, it was a high energy great time all around.  Exhausting, but exhilarating. 

Photography Tools That Helped The Shoot Go Smoothly

There were some technical issues that I think would be worth talking about, if you are interested in that kind of thing, and we used some great products to make sure the shoot went as smoothly as it did. 

The first life saver was ThinkTank’s Hydrophobia, which I’ve talked about on this blog before. Two of three nights that we were shooting it rained. Hard. And we were able to protect the cameras with these awesome waterproof cases. I’ve used Hydrophobias before (out on the ocean, in swimming pools), and have never had a single issue with cameras getting wet. They are easy to use and well with the investment if you consider the cost of replacing bodies and lens. 

The second product definitely worth mentioning was a Lizone® Extra Pro 40000mAh External Battery Charger - this kept the laptop running without interruption during the shoot. (It was also able to charge iPhones while we worked) When you are shooting in Times Square you don’t have access to external power sources, and you can only use what you can carry. This external battery charger made the whole shoot possible.  Even though we were shooting to new MacBook Air, the constant file transfer, internet usage and photo prep really did a number on the battery.  I was super impressed, and this pack will now be a staple of our kit when we are on location. 

We also used Tether Tools’ 15 foot high visibility USB camera tether, which was strangely right on brand guidelines with Schofferhofers signature orange - so that worked out nicely. I paired this with their Tether Tools JerkStopper Tethering Kit to protect the camera from all the street traffic. 

The last one is weird, and low tech. But we got great use out of a Connect-A-Desk: Mobile Laptop Harness & Desk that we got on Amazon.  Another strange quirk about shooting in Times Square is that if you need anything to go on the ground, like light stand or a work surface, you need to pay an extraordinarily high permit fee. (We’re talking small car high) So, in order to stay mobile, our digital tech worked on this desk harness. It worked really well, all things considered.

In the end, the shoot went great. And, most importantly (to me), I think we got some great photos out of it. It was technical challenge, but the preproduction work we did really paid off. I look forward to trying it again.