There is a lot of work involved in each and every shoot, and this is just one of a few that I have on the go. It’s really important to give each and every one the same planning and attention as it’s a waste of time, resources and money to do a shoot just for the sake of it. If it’s for a client then the chances are they won’t be happy and if it’s for your book then you definitely won’t be happy. The key is plan, plan, plan!
Sunday 4th January
No rest for the wicked, it’s 4th January and I’m back to work a day earlier than everyone else! Organising a fashion shoot requires a lot of planning and at the moment I’m working two months ahead for a publication in March. Our deadline is the 18th Feb so we’d better get cracking!
The shoot we’re planning is for a Scottish magazine and I have been speaking constantly with the fashion editor who’s given me a brief – excitingly I have been given a lot of free reign to do what I like! The first thing I need to do is a bit of "mind mapping" and figure out exactly who we need to get involved. Although we have plenty of time for planning, I don’t doubt I’ll be sitting here four days before the shoot asking where the time went!
Tonight, I’m spending time researching “beauty”. The magazine want some clear beauty shots mixed in with some editorial fashion, so they want to tell a story whilst following this seasons trends. The evening starts with my laptop, Google as my homepage and plenty of diet coke! My fingers are flying across the keypad as I ‘Google’ a multitude of keywords to find other examples of published fashion and beauty tears.
Monday 5th January
I spend an hour e-mailing the fashion editor back and forward from my Blackberry throwing ideas back and forth for a "theme" for the shoot. We want something that flows, is a bit edgy but still on-trend for the readers, so we decide on an interpretation of the Stepford wives idea.
Tuesday 6th January
I contact a make up artist that I regularly work with on test shoots and tell her about the brief. She’s interested and agrees to do her own research for hair and make up inspiration. Great; hair and make-up sorted - now for a stylist! Luckily I just happen to know a few who I think would do a great job. As a new photographer on the fashion scene, a lot of my time is spent making contacts, helping people out, building up a reputation and doing a lot of tests so thankfully I now have my own little network of people that I can call on when the jobs come in. I contact a stylist who I’ve worked with before and I’m confident that she will do a great job. I tell her what the brief is and rough ideas for a theme and she’s in!
Friday 9th January
I meet the make up artist and the fashion editor in a bar in Edinburgh to get the creative juices flowing! We look at mood boards of images that we have collected and stuck in scrapbooks or on boards. I’ve also brought my laptop just in case we need to call on ol’ Google! We spend around three hours talking about ideas and if we think were going for the right theme. None of us are 100% sure about the Stepford wives angle so we decide to change it.
We come up with the idea of gothic beauty combined with an editorial fashion piece. The laptop, which has been waiting patiently, is switched on and my fingers fly across the keypad to do some quick research. I quickly e-mail our stylist so that everyone’s up to speed with the brief. Next stop - a model! I’ve built up good relationships with the agencies here in Scotland and they’re always happy to help me out.
Monday 12th January
A quick ten minutes of Gothic research last night turned into about three hours as I was fascinated by the concept. I’m knackered but I did get a great insight into the mind of a Goth! I’ve found an old fashioned manual camera in my kit that I want to use as a prop, and my scrapbook is bursting with ideas and inspiration. I’m off to location scout now!
We need somewhere that we can set up a studio backdrop with lights for our close in beauty and somewhere that we can use for an editorial fashion story. I’ve decided on a working men’s club near where I stay. I’ve been there before and they have a function hall and a bowls green outside. It’s very retro! I’ve checked the location for access in and out, electricity points for lighting, styling, hair and make up and taken quite a few snaps on a little compact camera which I carry about for situations just like this. It’s good to work out exactly where you’re going to shoot, what equipment you’ll need and having your recce pictures on hand will help no end!
Wednesday 14th January
I’ve had an email back from the modelling agency with a list of girls they think would suit the brief. I pick a girl called Lauren who I worked with last year and use my trusty Blackberry to e-mail the team. Now we just need to find out free dates we can shoot on. We can all relax slightly now – everything’s coming together!
Sunday 18th January
Our stylist and fashion editor have sent me some dates which loosely match mine so I call the make-up artist to check if any of the dates are good for her. Everyone’s schedules are quite tight and we can’t actually shoot until the 15th Feb, which is just three days before the deadline. Nothing like giving ourselves a challenge!
I e-mail the modelling agency to confirm the date, and I also take the liberty of provisionally confirming the date with our location. I eye up the diet coke in the fridge and prepare myself for a night of planning!
Monday 19th January
Last night I wrote a list of what equipment I am likely to need for our shoot. I’ve decided on some seamless paper backgrounds for our close in beauty shots and I’ve chosen grey to keep it neutral in comparison to the make up. I will also take along some studio lights – I use mainly Bowens kit and have a Travelpak which is great for location shoots. For the fashion editorial part of our shoot, I decide to mix ambient daylight with a one head brolly; I’ll use Lastolite reflectors as well to help fill in any dark shadows on the face, particularly under the chin.
The equipment list is vast but I like to ensure that I can cover every eventuality on the day and not have to rely on any post production work. At this point I plan to take:
- 3x Bowens 500w heads
- 2x Bowens umbrellas
- 1x Bowens snoot
- 1x Bowens Ringlite
- 1x Lastolite Reflector
- 1x Colorama 8ft grey seamless paper background
- 1x Lastolite Background support kit
- 1x Sekonic Light Meter
- Bowens battery pack and cables
- My Canon 20D digital SLR!
- Box of tricks which includes, WexPro clamps, pins, tape, USB wires, external hard drives, string, batteries, card reader, memory cards, compact digital camera, paper, pens, tinfoil, grey cards etc!
My Canon 20D has seen me right through college and has proved to be an excellent investment. My box of tricks is a silver flight case full of everything you can ever imagine needing. I’ve built this up over a wee while and it seems to keep growing. I even carry safety pins, Kirby grips, painkillers, plasters and hair bands – you never know when you might need them!
Tuesday 20th January
It’s been a pretty quiet day for this shoot, I call the modelling agency to confirm if Lauren can shoot on the 15th and they call me back just after 5pm to confirm that our date is great for Lauren! We’re pretty much sorted at this point so I decide to organise my assistant to help on the day. I update my Facebook status to show that I’m looking for a photographic assistant and I’m soon inundated with responses. An old college friend gets in touch and offers to help out so I’m delighted to have someone I know on board!
Thursday 5th Feb
Our shoot is next week and everything is still going according to schedule! Just to be sure I can’t help but send an e-mail to everyone including the modelling agency to confirm. I ask the agency for the model’s contact details, just in case we need to contact her outside of agency hours on or before the day.
Friday 6th Feb
I’ve come down with flu, but I won’t let it stand in the way of shooting. The show must go on as they say and unfortunately there’s no time for sniffles and sneezes in this industry when there’s so much money and planning poured into every shoot! I decide to spend a few hours checking my equipment over before feeling sorry for myself.
Sunday 8th Feb
I panic as I see an e-mail from the stylist and pray she’s not cancelling. I needn’t have worried; she’s confirming the models sizes and is off to pull the clothes for the shoot. I leave that part to her as I don’t really need to get involved in the styling so we just run over the key looks for the season and she goes off to organise.
Later that day an email from the stylist confirms that the outfits are sorted and that there are four looks that we’re going with. She’s also e-mailed over some pictures of our looks so I then forward them onto the make up artist for colours.
Saturday 14th Feb
Valentines Day and I heart fashion! It’s been relatively straightforward planning this shoot, mostly because we had quite a lot of time to organise it. There have been little hiccups along the way but nothing too drastic! I spend the evening, not out for dinner with my loved one as you’d imagine, but instead checking all my equipment over again, making sure batteries are charged and my box of tricks is stocked up!
Sunday 15th Feb
The day of reckoning is here and the creative team have all arrived early to set up before our model arrives. I leave the styling and make-up department to organise their side, while my assistant and I do a quick sweep of our location. We’ve set up five spots within our location for shooting and we’ve checked the lighting and health and safety issues to make sure everyone’s happy and comfortable in each area.
We start by shooting in our studio area and I shoot straight to laptop tethered from my camera by a mini USB lead. This is much less hassle than having to worry about memory cards and card readers. Everything downloads automatically to an external hard drive which can be plugged straight into my other computer for post production work.
My lighting plans are tweaked slightly as I decide to use more ambient light than planned given that it’s such a nice day. I do use light meters but I tend to rely on my own judgment and if I like what I see on the laptop.
Our first mini location is set up in the stairwell of the location. It’s rather uninspiring in itself but there’s some lovely light coming through the floor to ceiling window. I ask the model to get herself in situ and I light around her. I want to use quite a lot of the ambient light and just a little bit of studio light fill as I don’t want to ‘kill the mood’ of the gorgeous, diffused natural light. I shoot on a slower shutter speed to get a lovely soft look. This one is quite easy and we manage to nail the shot in the first few frames.
The second mini location is in the lounge of the Bowling Club. They have some deep purple sofas which will tie in really well with our Goth theme. There’s some natural light and I decide to see what my shots look like using only that. Sadly it’s too dark and the shot doesn’t “pop”. I pull over some Bowens heads and position them around the set until I have something I’m happy with. It does take a while as I move my lights around, but I end up with the lights close together and quite close into the model, giving me some lovely catch lights in the eyes. I finally get the shot after adjusting the power and positions of my lights and the aperture on my camera. I use two lights as my key lights and the natural light fills in any shadows under the chin etc.
Our third mini location is outdoors near the bowling green. My assistant and I have scouted a red brick wall that has character and I go about setting up there. Initially I had planned to shoot using only daylight, but I’ve decided to go with something darker and moodier, so I take my studio lights outside with a power pack and set up the shot before the model stands in – it’s freezing cold and the model has very few clothes on! I use one light on high power to throw the background into darkness and keep the model and foreground perfectly exposed. Time for our girl to brave the elements and stand in! Using high powered flash outdoors gives us a moody deep blue sky, which didn’t really exist, but with some clever lighting tricks it’s created in camera with no Photoshop-ing after! This was quite a simple one to shoot, one Bowens head with a brolly and the white side of a reflector for fill on the face, simple!
Our last mini location is also outside and happens to be another brick wall but painted white. This matches in well with our outfit as its all black and the white will make it stand out even more. There’s practically no natural light here so it’s all flash. For this one I’m using a Bowens ringlite convertor to give it a high fashion edge and give a soft double shadow around the body. The ringlite is quite powerful using a 500w head so this is the only light we need. We also get to use our old camera prop in this shot as the background is so simple we can get away with it. I slightly underexpose in camera here to capture as much detail on the model; I can then adjust the whiteness of the background in Photoshop RAW processing.
We retire to the studio indoors for some close in beauty shots, our last shots of the day. I’m using a soft grey background colour to keep it neutral. We have kindly been loaned some glasses from a boutique in Edinburgh – the thick geek style frames are quite overpowering on the face so we don’t really need to worry about clothing. We go for a simple classic look, keeping my lighting very simple with the model near the paper background, two brollies near the front, lighting our model and spilling onto the background and another light with a snoot attachment to make the hair look shiny and healthy.
We spend around seven hours shooting as the four looks are captured. We’re all happy with what’s been a great day’s work and luckily there were no major setbacks. Balancing ambient light and studio flash can prove to be tricky but it’s all about experimenting! I was particularly happy with our shots outside using flash for a dark, moody and high fashion edge.
I load my external hard drive onto my desktop computer for an evening of retouching.
Monday 16th Feb
Two days before our deadline for this shoot and I spent most of last night RAW processing and retouching the previous days work. The stylist has e-mailed the fashion editor some pictures that were taken on my little compact of each outfit, the prices and the stores so that they can include that in the publication.
Another night of retouching for me.
Tuesday 17th Feb
I’ve finished all post production work on the images. It’s a fast turnaround but the publication can’t afford to wait. I burn all the images to a CD and hand deliver them to the magazine.
My work is truly done here, now to wait for the finished article… I’m off to London Fashion Week this week to get the heads up on next season!
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: No rest for the wicked!
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