As with the style of my product reviews and lighting techniques, the way I do things may not always be the best way to do it, but it is the way that works for me.
No matter what I’m shooting, whether it be an editorial campaign, a model portfolio or testing new equipment for review; I have a plan and then I have in my head that all of my plans could go out of the window.
I prefer shooting outdoors on location for Fashion and Editorial Work for two reasons. I have less control, meaning, I have more of an open mind for change.
So, take my last big editorial shoot which was featured in Surreal Beauty Magazine. I was inspired by a Vanity Fair shoot I first noticed last year featuring Benedict Cumberbatch which was shot in woodland, with a dark and moody atmosphere. I would watch this video at least once per week trying to figure out, how, where and when I could do something similar.
So in my mind for this shoot was Harriotte (our model) in amongst tall branchless trees, holding the leash of two Great Danes, with a lot of smoke behind and having the scene quite underexposed to give that dead of the night feel. Although we did shoot this image, it wasn’t my favourite from the shoot- infact the most simple set up worked the best for us, and I’ll come around to explaining that later on.
In my mind, to have a successful shoot, I need several elements. A model who “gets” the idea, a strong and consistent beauty team (hair and makeup), an experienced stylist who can build the look based upon the brief, willing photographic assistants and most importantly an open mind from me. I don’t come up with all of my ideas, I’m heavily influenced by the creative teams I work with. If they have something to say, I will listen. If they come up with an idea, I will consider it. If they tell me something won’t work, I take that on board.
Having open communication with everyone involved, in my eyes, helps to get more buy in from the team. Getting everyone involved in the decisions on how to style the hair, which colour lip gloss to use and how to style the outfits means that we’re pooling the knowledge and experience of 6 people instead of just one. I have an open mind to listen to everyone’s input, but I also have the strength to say “No” when it just ain’t adding to the value of the shoot. And by value, I mean the quality of the end product we’re producing.
So, back to this particular shoot. I’ve never shot the type of shoot in woodland- so I didn’t really have an idea on where to do it. I’ve worked a few locations around my studio which have a few trees, but nowhere near the depth that we needed for the shots in my head. We also needed to have somewhere nearby to change outfits, refuel with bacon sarnie and coffee and work from as a base. Luckily, Harriott’s Mother Sarah knew a great spot, literally 25 yards from their back gate. Location- sorted.
As you might have already guessed, Harriotte was the model for this shoot. As soon as I decided to go ahead with it, there really was no one else I wanted for it. In terms of Hair and Makeup, I’m very lucky to work with two awesome ladies on a regular basis for pretty much all of my editorial and beauty work. Rachel White (makeup artist) and Steph O’Neill (hair stylist), these guys we’re brought on board and I created a Pinterest Board to give everyone involved a quick flavour of the sort of look we were going for. Pinterest is an immense tool if you’re looking for inspiration, or looking to collate ideas for shoots to share with the rest of the creative team. While I will often send ideas for hair and makeup to the girls, I pretty much leave them to their own devices now as I trust them to produce great work, no matter what the theme.
So that’s Model, Location, Hair & Makeup, Inspiration and ideas all sorted. The next part, assistants. I like to take assistants on pretty much all of my shoots. Having someone to help with lighting, moving props, pulling out weeds and generally watching out for things I’ve missed is, to me, invaluable. I was very lucky with this shoot to have three assistants with me, Ian kindly offered to bring along his generator in order to power the smoke machine and to be our “smoke maker guy” for the day. I literally could not have shot the sets with the smoke in the background without this guy. If I was working alone, running back and forward between the smoke machine and the camera position just would not be feasible. Colin, a good friend of mine, came along to support with lighting, and the general set up, offering ideas along the way. Again having a VAL (voice activated light stand) means that I am able to keep my position without having to move lighting positions, and I can stay in front of my model keeping dialogue going.
And that is pretty much it- that is how the shoot is planned in a nutshell. I have another big shoot using the same creative team for a magazine front cover and editorial at the end of the month that we will be video and releasing over on my YouTube channel too, so keep an eye out for that bad boy. But in the mean time don’t forget to watch the behind the scenes for this shoot and see just how we shot the different sets!