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    Back Plate and Hero Photography

    Jeremy Segal
    Oct 29, '14 4:30 PM EST

    A Back What, Hero Who?

    As an architect or designer who is hiring a photographer for the first time, you may come across these terms being thrown around by people in the industry without even knowing what they mean. Any industry has it's own jargon and terminology that can be confusing to those not in the know, so I'm going to explain these two terms to help you better understand how a photo shoot works and how to better communicate with your own photographer on set.

    The "Hero" Shot

    A hero or hero shot (or hero "insert anything here") is a term used in photography and video worlds that means the best of something, or the best, nicest, or final version or thing that will be shown to audiences. The opposite of the hero is a "mock-up" or a "stand-in" that we use for testing purposes, to experiment with without having to use the hero. In my field, architectural photography, hero shots are typically what companies will use for covers of magazines and trade journals. The image that looks the best for advertising can be called the hero and many times clients of mine like to go with an exterior twilight image taken at dusk, with dark skies and beautiful interior lighting to be used as the hero as these can be the most dramatic images and really make the building "pop".

    Back Plate Photography

    Shooting a back plate, sometimes called shooting a plate, means photographing a scene just for use as a background, to be dropped in later in post production. A plate image can also be shots of the same scene that are made specifically to be used as digital assets for later in post production. It's not uncommon while on set or location to shoot multiple plates, one for the sky perhaps, another for the interior lights and one more for the window view. All these plate files or assets are then brought in to the computer later to be composited into one final image.


    You're not expected to become a master of photography after two brief explanations, but knowing how professionals work and their terminology can really help in communicating your own needs when hiring an architectural photographer. Giving a bit of art directions and explaining which angle you want to use as the hero shot will really help the photographer create the images for you that you really want.

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