Scott McAulay: Capturing the Inner Hero

Bringing out the hero in everyday people is something Scott McAulay always aims for in his photography. Whether he’s photographing his family and friends, or small business owners and television personalities, his end goal is the same: to capture the hero in everyone. So when the opportunity to photograph TVNZ’s Survivor NZ contestants came along, it was a perfect fit. “My passion for photography stems from photographing real people in their environment and making them look a bit heroic. Survivor puts real people into harsh, volatile environments and follows them as they make their way through numerous social, mental, and physical challenges,” Scott explains.

TVNZ regularly commissions Scott to shoot their marketing and publicity campaigns. He’s produced eye-catching advertising imagery for shows such as Shortland Street, My Kitchen Rules, and Kiwi Living, plus many more. So it’s not at all surprising that Scott was asked to shoot stills for both season one and season two of Survivor NZ.

For season one’s publicity images, Scott needed to capture each contestant in a variety of poses, expressions and outfits. These images would be used in magazines, newspapers, online, and on social media as the show went to air. For season one’s marketing images, the requirement was that they be darker and more intense. “Like the contestants had spent 40 days battling it out in the jungle, and had just come out,” Scott says. “We shot full length and close-ups of each contestant with a view to drop them into a jungle background plate (of which I shot many during the two months I spent on set). In the end the images were so strong they were used just as we’d shot them.”

For Scott, the Survivor NZ shoots combined his love of travel with his love of photographing people in interesting places. For the season one shoot, he travelled to Nicaragua to shoot the marketing campaign and the publicity images all in one day. “We also had to shoot around the film crew who were shooting video for the TVC and interviews for social media.”

For season two, Scott was off to Thailand, and the publicity images brief was pretty much exactly the same, except there were more contestants to photograph so the shoot was extended to two days. The marketing image requirements, however, were more specific as they had to mimic the TVC. “It was all shot in Auckland before we flew to Thailand, so secrecy and keeping the contestants from seeing each other was paramount. We shot five of the contestants twice each; once in their everyday work wear and again in ‘survivor’ outfits. The images were then spliced together and dropped into corresponding backgrounds,” Scott explains.

During his time on set, Scott’s Sony α7R II got a bit of a hammering, however he says it’s a great camera for the Survivor-type shoots. “During the 40-plus day shoots I’ll often shoot upwards of 2,000 frames in a day. There’s sand and dirt everywhere, rain sometimes, and sea spray. The α7R II, however, has made it through two seasons of Survivor as well as numerous shoots in-between and I’ve not had any problems. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the α7R III!”

To see more of Scott’s work head to, or follow him on Instagram.

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