Coffee Face Campaign

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Coffee Face personal shoot by advertising photographer John Keatley.

Coffee Face personal shoot by advertising photographer John Keatley.

Coffee Face personal shoot by advertising photographer John Keatley.

Can you relate?  You wake up in a haze, thinking a cup of coffee will do the trick. Trying to start your day out on the right foot, but instead you get a mouthful of bitter disappointment.

I had several goals pinned on the wall as I began the process of putting together this personal series. Shoot in detailed environments. Experiment with backlight where a light source is visible, or has a prominent role in the image.  And finally, have fun with facial expressions.  That was the easy part.  The hard part was coming up with the concept to make all of the elements come together. Gives you a whole new appreciation for copywriters and art directors!
Thankfully I work with some incredible people, and after some brainstorming, the bad coffee face idea was born.

So how does a personal shoot like this come together? A lot of hard work, and a crew of talented and creative people. The car shoot was the first of the three, and this BTS video by Eric Becker is a good walkthrough of what it all looks like on set.

The second shoot was the kitchen image.  Locating and securing the home was by far the most difficult part. After finding and locking in the location, we received a text the night before the shoot, which said it was no longer happening with no explanation.  I knew that kitchen was perfect for this shot, so after a lot of leg work and negotiating, we were back on track.   There is a certain mindset I feel is invaluable and absolutely necessary to make it as a photographer.  Tattoo these phrases on your arm, and never forget them.  No excuses, always ask questions, politely don’t take no for an answer, and do whatever it takes to make it work. There is always a solution, no matter what the problems you are faced with.  Wrapping your mind around these ideas will help prepare you for the struggles you are guaranteed to face as a photographer on almost a daily basis.

I wrapped this series up with the park bench shot.  I scouted several parks in Seattle until I found a bench I really liked.  It ended up being in a large forested park, which was a perfect place to shoot.  The permit was affordable, and it was a wide open space without crowd’s of people and traffic to worry about.  After the shoot with the bench and model, I woke up at sunrise the next day, and shot around an urban neighborhood near downtown Seattle.  It is important to make sure the light and angles of the environment match the light on the bench and model so the finished product looks as realistic as possible.  I made sure all of the landscape images I shot had the sun in the correct place according to where I placed lights on the model shoot.  I also used a tripod so my camera height and angle was the same as it was during the model shoot.

I love working like this because it gives me complete control of the final image without being restricted by certain realities.

Thanks to my awesome crew for helping make this project shine.
Talent: JJ Kissinger, Gabe Rodriguez, Katelyn Price
Production: Elizabeth Atwood
Retouching: Ian Goode / Gigantic Squid
Assistants: Will Foster, Gregg White, Oliver Ludlow
BTS video and stills: Eric Becker
Hair and Makeup: Cara Aeschliman
Wardrobe: Bryan Carle

Thank you’s also go out to Seattle Parks and Rec and Windermere Capitol Hill.


I can really relate to the guy in the car. I leave for London very early in the morning and a cup of coffee is the one thing I look forward to on a cold dark morning. If its not right the whole day can be out of sync.

POSTED BY Corporate Photography London on 5-30-2012

I love this post. It is inspiring to see a few behind the scene shots, to get a better overview of all the work that is involved. Thank you for posting this. have a great day

POSTED BY mkierin on 5-30-2012

Damn. Totally blown away by this series and the BTS products. Great story and great work. I can't agree enough with your motto for Photographers - and it's so true, we are constantly hit with hiccups along the way, and it's how you learn to manage them that truly makes a successful business person! Kudos!

POSTED BY Michelle Moore on 5-30-2012

Hi John, Very cool series. Who covered the expenses with this being a personal project and having a large crew? The reason for asking is that I want to proceed with a few personal projects but would require some form of a crew but I don't have the budget. I don't even initiate the project assuming there would be large expenses hindering the start of it. Do you have any suggestions on dealing with getting people to work with you at a reduced rate or even pro bono? Best of luck with series and thanks for sharing the BTS. Looking forward to seeing more of you work.

POSTED BY Joe on 5-30-2012

That shot of Gabe is priceless. First morning laugh! The coffee snob of America turning up his nose...perfect.

POSTED BY MG Atwood on 5-30-2012

John, I really love this series. Thanks for sharing!

POSTED BY Benjamin Spell on 5-31-2012

neat post, thanks for sharing your behind the scenes, flash like that sometimes baffles me but after seeing your work it doesn't seem so scary, yeah?

POSTED BY Christy Harper on 6-2-2012

Wow! that's an awesome project. I love the behind the scene video. Great job!

POSTED BY Delbensonphotography on 6-22-2012

[...] in seeing more shots from this series? Check out John Keatley’s blog HERE. BTSPicturesPortraits googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('Main_2'); }); [...]

POSTED BY John Keatley Shoots “Bad Coffee” | Fstoppers on 9-8-2012

I've seen your BTS movie on fstoppers - great job !

POSTED BY Marcin B on 9-9-2012

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