Inspired by Starbucks

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of photographing three new stores for the Starbucks global design group. In addition to a newer remodel of an already established Starbucks store in downtown Seattle, the other two stores were completely new, designed to look and act and feel more like a neighborhood coffee house. In addition to a new look, the stores serve beer, wine, tea and drip coffees are made to order by the brewing method of your choosing (I don't drink much coffee so it's all Greek to me). In fact, the new stores are not called "Starbucks" but rather named after the area they are located in. The only way to tell who owns them is to notice on the sign that they are "inspired by Starbucks." Since I am not much of a coffee drinker, what really interested me was the interior design of the two new stores. And it's pretty impressive. In addition to being LEED certified, the stores make liberal use of reclaimed materials and furnishings. The 15th Avenue store feels very comfy and rustic. In one area, the pages of Homer's "Odyssey" are used as wallpaper above antique stadium seating. The Roy Street store is quite a bit larger but maintains the cozy atmosphere by having distinct spaces each with their own feel. There is a large area that can be curtained off for indie movie nights and private parties.

The projects were quite challenging to shoot for two reasons. First of all, it was important to the designers that the images showed the natural warmth and "mood" of the stores. This meant keeping additional, stylistic lighting to a minimum. Since the stores were pretty dark (we were shooting at night), I used a big octa to fill in shadows just a bit and occasionally a small spot or two to give texture and contrast to a chair or table. I continue to be impressed by the Nikon D3x's flexibility in post, particularly it's ability to pull detail from very deep shadow areas.

The second difficult part was the shooting schedule. We were on a tight deadline and so the interiors were photographed on back-to-back evenings. We shot from 11pm to 4am two nights in a row. This was the latest that I had ever photographed an assignment. Since I am the consummate professional, I prepared for the shoots by staying up and playing Xbox 360 online till 3am for two nights prior. I thought that the cognitive activity of shooting aliens and calling in napalm air strikes would match that required by the shoots. However, I forgot to account for the physical activity involved in a shoot of this nature. Needless to say, I learned that staying up till 4am is a lot different than WORKING till 4am. Next time I'm going to prepare by playing Xbox while on a treadmill ;-)

A big shout out to Michelle and Lionel from the design group for getting everything looking fabulous and sticking it out with me in to the wee hours of the morning.

You can see a few more images from this project in the commercial section of my website here.