Back in October I went to Portland for my first professional fashion photo shoot. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I knew that I needed models and a photographer, but that's where my knowledge ended. Thankfully, I had enlisted the help of a friend who works in theater up in Portland. I thought I was hiring him to help me find some models. It turns out that I was hiring him to do that and much, much more. In case you want to do a shoot like this yourself, here's a synopsis of what I learned. First, there are a variety of roles that need to be filled:
That's probably the artist. As the one whose work is being shot, the buck stops here. Everyone else is there to get you the shots that you need.
After defining the style and other goals, the director often needs lots of help crossing the T's and dotting the I's to get it all done. The artistic director makes more detailed decisions about makeup style and amount, base garment style, color and fit, etc. The director is consulted throughout the decision-making process and approves all decisions before they're considered final.
Casting Director / Model Manager
After receiving goals from the director, the casting director finds models and communicates the requirements to them. (Shooting schedule, pay, grooming and dress requirements, etc.) This person also handles model logistics like transportation, special food needs, scheduling requirements, etc.
Hair and Makeup Stylist
The stylist takes direction from the artistic director to get the models ready for the camera. In this shoot the goal was "natural", which requires more makeup than you'd think. Blemishes are erased, color is evened out, brows and lashes are defined, features are contoured. The stylist is also on duty all day to keep the models ready for the camera.
The garment stylist is in charge of preparing all garments for the shoot and making sure they look their best as they are being shot. For my cloth, it meant steaming about 20 garments and keeping them unwrinkled throughout the shoot. The garment stylist works closely with the photographer to get the garments donned, draped, and smoothed for every shot. This job will also probably be filled by the artist.
The PA kind of holds it all together. They take notes, track the schedule, wrangle garments, and generally make sure that the director and photographer are not forgetting anything. In a small shoot like this, they also manage "craft service", reminding us to take breaks for food, running to get coffee, etc.
Many people want to use themselves and their friends. Depending on the style, this might work fine, but it's often much better to hire models who know how to give the photographer the looks that they request. And remember that you'll probably need a variety of ages and body types represented in your photos. Make sure you've got enough models!
The photographer is the reason we're all here. Once the director and art director have communicated the goals and overseen the preparation of the models and garments, it's up to the photographer to set up and capture the shots. I believe that it's best to hire a knowledgable photographer and then stay out of the way as much as possible. The photographer knows which light will look best and how to choose and shoot the models to meet the goals. The director, art director and production assistant are all there to make sure that every required shot is captured. It's best, though, to keep demands on the photographer to a minimum so that they can focus on their area of expertise: taking great photos.
The photographer will probably bring a trained assistant. This person carries cameras and other equipment and wields the all-important reflectors, used to bounce light into dark areas.
How It Works
Once you've assembled the team, you need to get it done. Here are the steps that we went through...
Book The Photographer
When I was in Seattle in July, I met with Adrain and went over my requirements. (I was already familiar with his work so we skipped reviewing his portfolio.) We agreed on price and deliverables and set the date.
Hire The Casting Director
Next, I found someone who was familiar with the theater scene in our chosen location, Portland. I gave him my requirements and the names of a few people I was considering for models.
Set Up The Shooting Schedule
Everyone on the crew needs to know where to be and when. We set up the schedule and made sure everyone had it so the shooting days could go off without a hitch.
I arrived a day before shooting was to begin and drove around with the photographer looking at potential locations. We found our ideal locations and chose a few contingency locations in case of bright sunshine or rain. (The forecast was calling for absolutely ideal cloudy skies.)
Contrary to the rumors, models need to eat. The night before the shoot, I collected a range of tidy and healthy finger food so that everyone can snack throughout the day.
Create A Shot List
The director and the PA need to know which shots are required. For this shoot, I needed a lot of shots:
- Ruanas in various colors on various models
- Ruanas paired with shawls
- Hats and Scarves
- Tall/short couples
- Thin/wide couples
- Male/female couples
- Solo shots
- "No eyes, no teeth" shots to focus on the garment.
- Artist photos. (So I was in makeup for the whole second day of shooting.)
Finally, the magic day has arrived.
Prepare The Garments
All of the garments need to be inspected for perfection and steamed to remove any wrinkles from being in storage.
Prepare The Transportation
In my case, I reconfigured the van to hold a garment rack that would keep the steamed garments in good shape while we drove to the various locations.
Hair and Makeup
While the garments are being prepared, so are the models. The makeup artist is working the magic that's required for people to look natural on camera.
From here on, everything is as you would expect. Everybody arrives at a location, the photographer finds good light and starts taking pictures. The director and PA swap out garments and models while the photographer gives posing direction and takes pictures. We stop for snacks periodically, take a real break for coffee in the afternoon, and go home cold and tired at the end of the day.
This is an important step. If at all possible, meet with the photographer on the next day to review the photos and give feedback. The photographer's next job will be to choose shots and perform any correction that's necessary. It's much easier to do that job if they know which shots you respond to.
The End Result
Yes, it's expensive and yes, it's difficult. When jurors accept my work into fantastic shows and customers are influenced by banners demonstrating the garments in beautiful settings, it will all be worth it. In my next blog post I'll show you some of the images that came out of this project.