Seeing the Final Image Before You Capture It…
Someone asked me an important question at my last LA Workshop and I thought I would share the answer with my readers here. The question was: when I have an assignment, do I know what I want the finished image to look like before I go to the shoot or do I just wing it the day of the shoot? I’m going to use this recent swimsuit editorial as a perfect example on how most of the time I know exactly how I want the final image to look before I ever pick up a camera to shoot it.
Watch the Video
For this swimsuit editorial, I didn’t want to do another pool or beach story that is usually depicted in swimsuit stories. I wanted to do something more interesting and thought about the idea of marrying swimsuits with jackets or skirts, making it not about using the suit in the water but using the suit as a fashion accessory or a one of the pieces in the whole outfit. For instance, putting a one-piece swimsuit with a cropped jacket or skirt, or using a bikini top with a skirt or a pair of bathing suit shorts as boy shorts to wear out with a jacket. I also knew I wanted to shoot the story in a studio where I would use strobes. And I wanted to shoot the story in black and white which isn’t a “typical” swimsuit story either, however I’m not the first photographer to do this. But it’s certainly not the “norm”. I pitched this idea to the creative director of the magazine, Stephen Kamifuji, and he told me to go for it. So the first thing I did was to start putting the story together with the stylist. For this editorial I worked with Shiffy from AIM Artists. I had some trepidation in the beginning because I hadn’t worked with Shiffy and I had a very specific concept in mind. The styling had to be spot on! But Charnelle Smith who owns AIM Artists and represents Shiffy reassured me that I would be happy with Shiffy and her work and I’m really glad I listened to her! She just nailed the styling! I have recently begun working with Charnelle at AIM Artists and one thing I can say is that her discerning choices in the talent she decides to represent really shows: she has a very strong roster of very talented artists who also are genuinely very nice to work with. I’ve worked with probably 10 of her artists and every single one of them is not only very skilled, they’re very nice people, good team players and don’t have a shred of attitude! Shiffy and I had several phone conversations about the looks and the designers that I wanted to work with. She also had a conversation with the magazine on what advertisers needed to be in the magazine, etc. I sent her mood boards depicting the lighting I wanted to use and the contrast of the black and white images that I wanted to end up with. After Shiffy was set and doing her pulls during the days before the shoot, I worked out my lighting with my 1st assistant Tyler. He placed our equipment order with Smashbox the day before the shoot when I was certain of how I wanted the editorial lit and what light modifiers I was going to need to create the lighting I wanted.
So now you can see how I knew exactly how I wanted the shoot to look like before we ever arrived at the studio! Generally I’m given an assignment and there are parameters I have to stay within. I can then form the story inside those parameters. I can interpret the story with either my lighting or the set or location, etc. But more often than not, I have the final images in mind before every single shoot takes place. That way, I shoot the story according to the final image. There are times, I’ll admit, where I go in to a shooting situation with one story in mind and somehow the process takes on a life of it’s own and we end up going in an entirely different direction than what I had pre-determined. Shoots sometimes take on this organic process and form as they go, being influenced by outside things such as the model or the make up and hair stylist’s interpretation. Those shoots sometimes are really magical for me but no less exhilirating than nailing a shoot that I had visualized for days, weeks or even months ahead.
I shot this editorial at Smashbox Studios in Culver City. Robert Mefford did a fantastic job on the hair and Camille Clark did the make up, which I have to say was also amazing! Eugenia, our smokin’ model, is represented by Photogenics Models. I love Eugenia. I’ve worked with her a bunch of times and she is a blast to work with! We used a beauty dish and a strip bank and we lit the background with two heads angled 45 degrees toward the cyc. We flagged off those background lights with two V Flats. Nothing utterly mind blowing again, just some simple lighting. Eugenia really knows how to move which is a true joy for a photographer! I basically did very little directing and let her feel her way with the light and the clothing. We had a great day, another successful shoot for Genlux Magazine! And I just shot for the fall issue last Friday so there will be more editorials to share with you coming soon!
In other news, I’ve decided to focus on NYC after a recent trip there. So we’re going to doing our workshops in NYC first before we head over to London. I know this is probably bumming out some of my UK readers but I was feeling a little overwhelmed after I got home from NYC because I have a ton of assignments in NYC over the next couple of months and will need to be out there more often, eventually probably moving out there. London will come sooner than you think but right now we’re going to focus on NYC. Right now we’re looking for the perfect studio and then once we book it we’ll have the information here on the blog for you to read about! In the meantime, keep shooting! See you soon! xoxo