Love Thy Stylists!

AKA: How to put together
the perfect crew!

When I am assigned a shoot, the first thing I get to work on is hiring my crew. When I talk about crew here I am talking about the hair stylist, make up artist and wardrobe stylist. These three people are going to play a huge importance to the shoot. Without their talent and their work, I really can’t produce a great fashion shoot. And I need all three to be talented and hard working. In other words, if I have put in the time and energy to find the perfect model, get the proper location all set up with permits or permission or whatever it takes, then I find a great wardrobe stylist who pulls amazing couture labels like Galliano and Dior and a make up artist who has skills to die for but the hair stylist shows up and can’t do an up do, I’m pretty much looking at a half finished production.

Here’s what I do to ensure that my shoot is going to look amazing! First of all, for the most part, I use a hair, make up and stylist agency. I work with the booker to find the right talent for the right job. Again, it’s like finding the right model. I’m not going to look for a make up artist who’s book is primarily lifestyle or clean beach stuff when I’m shooting an editorial in a studio and the editor wants a couture shoot. I’m going to look for a make up artist that has beautifully well executed high fashion make up in her book. Same with the hair stylist. And same with the wardrobe stylist. It’s great that they might have just done a year of wardrobe styling for Levi’s, but if they don’t know how to handle a $10,000 Chanel gown, I can’t use them for my editorial shoot.

So here’s how it went down with my last shoot for an 8 page editorial. The theme of the magazine issue I’ve been assigned to shoot for is the “Art Issue”. The editor wants big labels and he wants me to shoot dresses for this editorial. So I called a booker at one of the agencies that I like working with. I’ll be honest here: I work with agencies where I like the booker. It’s nice to have someone who gets my style and who gets me. And someone who’s honest and communicates well. When I write an email about job details, I insist they respond quickly. The last thing I need when I’m in pre-production is not knowing if I have my crew hired or why the booker isn’t getting back to me. So for this shoot I called Mia Fina at Artists by Timothy Priano in Los Angeles. Artists by Timothy Priano has offices in New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. They are a very reputable hair, make up and stylist agency. I told Mia what I’m shooting and what I’m looking for and gave her a rough date of the shoot. She then sent me an email with 2 or 3 choices for hair, make up and wardrobe stylist. I then ran the list by my editor and he gave me his input on whether he had worked with any of them before and if he preferred one over the other. The editor and I both looked at their pages on the agency website while were on the phone with each other, and narrowed it down to who we preferred. I then got back to Mia and told her who I was mainly interested in working with. With the hair stylist, she had to verify if she could do up do’s. That’s another thing: you have to be able to conquer the lingo in the fashion world. You have to know the difference between a french braid and a french twist (ie. pictured below). You really have to know how to communicate with your team in order to get the results you want.

After about a week of going back and forth of who was available or who might be put on hold for another gig, we nailed the crew down and I got a great team for my shoot. I worked with make up artist Lucine, I also worked with Stephanie Pohl who did hair and Robyn Goldberg who was the wardrobe stylist. All three of these girls were amazing at what they do! And they all got along well, which is another thing that is so important. Fashion shoots are tense enough. A million little things can go wrong on them so it’s important that your team has a good attitude and willing to overlook the little hiccups and just focus on giving the shoot their very best! It’s a huge drag when you have a diva hair stylist on your shoot throwing a hissy fit because the model’s hair doesn’t hold the curl he’s trying to get. Or the wardrobe stylist throws a tantrum because the shoes are one size too small on the models’ foot. It’s all about team effort and team spirit to get that great looking shoot accomplished!

I realize that to get your foot in the door with an agency is not as easy as it sounds. So for those of you who are starting out, you can check the local beauty schools. There are academies like Paul Mitchell and Sassoon who have students learning how to cut, color and style hair. You can find out if there are any students who would like to test for their portfolios. There are sure to be some students who would like to get into print and not just stay in the salon. There are make up schools like this as well. With stylists, it’s a bit trickier. Try some production houses in your area and see if they can give you a list of some of their wardrobe people that they’ve used in the past. You can always do a TFP, which is test for portfolio or test for pictures. Word of mouth is a good way to meet some of these people too. Even myspace (gulp..did I say that??) has some talented kids on there that are starting out and willing to TFP.

If you’re based in LA, here’s a small list of some agencies you can call and show your book to the bookers. It’s good to introduce yourself and tell them you’re interested in building your book. If you hit it off and they like your work, they will help you out with their talent when their talent is looking to test and expand their books!

Celestine Agency
Artists by Timothy Priano
Cloutier Agency
The Wall Group

Shooting Fashion Wide

The challenges of using
wide angle lens

Genlux Fashion

Five years ago, I went to Samy’s Camera on Fairfax in Los Angeles and forked out a whopping $200 bucks for a used Nikkor 24mm 2.8 lens. It’s the least expensive lens I own, it’s the smallest and most unattractive lens I own, it’s used and a bit battered and it’s definitely not an AF lens. But it’s the lens I use most often! I love the effect that a wide angle gives my photographs. But it is tricky to get the shot without some distortion, so let’s talk about that for a minute. With a foreground-to-background approach, you can produce a dynamic three-dimensional effect that gives your photographs a real sense of enviroment. This is a huge reason I favor wide angle lens. They allow more information in the area being photographed so you can create a story within your photo. You can see more detail of where the model is standing or sitting, you see backgrounds, foregrounds, etc. This creates mood, thus creating a more dynamic shoot.

One of the challenges that photographers face is the wide-ranging perspective. The tendency is to back up to get more into the picture, which commonly leads to either a “busy” look or to vast empty spaces. So you can’t back up too far or your model gets “lost” in the environment. And then what happens if you get too close? That’s right……you can get some unflattering distortion. The body part closest to the lens starts appearing very large. So if your model is reaching her hand out toward the camera and it’s closest to the lens, their hand is going to appear mammoth and surreal. Does it look cool? Well, that’s the thing: you can break the rules in fashion photography. That’s why I became one! I hate rules. And I hate tech talk. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was to give budding fashion photographers some breathing room from those tight ass tech freaks and teach you guys that if the shot looks killer, go with it! The judge should be your EYE! Okay. That’s enough ranting. Back to wide angle.

YES! Look at the shot, see if it works, if it doesn’t move back, have the model stop reaching toward the camera and choose a different approach. I like to get down on the ground and shoot up on a girl, with my 24mm lens. Is that technically “right”. Who cares! Does it look hot? And in shooting music, in other words, shooting bands and rocks stars, you can break the rules even more. Because music is a medium that makes you feel, you can distort and flare the lens and tell them to all jump up and scream and just have an amazing shot!

Here’s something to think about: if you look at a lot of fashion photography you will see that a large percentage of photographs are shot low and angled up on the model. This gives her height. While no photographer can really make their model taller, shooting low and aiming up on her gives the illusion of height. A good safe bet is just shoot below your models shoulders. I like to shoot lower, but that’s my personal preference. The reason why models are tall and thin is that clothes “hang” better on a tall thin figures. So an angle that helps boost the height is always a good “look”. When you shoot with a wide angle lens, it adds a nice dimension to the photograph, adding drama and impact.

Heavy Mojo Band

(shot using a wide angle lens and spherize distortion effect in photoshop) Band: Heavy Mojo

Personally, I wouldn’t shoot with anything wider than a 24mm lens. Otherwise you can really get into some weird distortion that looks “fish eye”. I actually wanted that effect in the shot above, so I distorted it even more in photoshop throwing a Filter > Distort > Spherize filter on it. Be aware of the background and foreground in your shots because you’re picking up detail there, so make sure it’s of interest to the photograph. And just experiment. Again, just look at your photographs. Do the shots look great? Let your eye be your judge.

Shooting with Tripods

When I use a Tripod

Tripod Genlux

When I am shooting 35mm I don’t normally use a tripod unless I’m using a real slow shutter speed. I say normally because sometimes I do use one.

But why don’t I normally shoot with one?

1. Because I like to move around when I shoot. I’m all over the place when I shoot. I look for the shot while I’m shooting. And a tripod clips my wings, so to speak.

2. I’m on the ground, up on a ladder, down on one knee and then up again.

3. In my opinion, fashion is free flowing and needs to have movement and spirit. A tripod feels like it forces the shot to stay static and I start to feel “stuck” when I’m using one.

4. When are the instances that I’ll pull one out and use one?

5. For one, when I’m shooting at a slow shutter speed in order to “drag” ambient light into the frame, I might use a tripod to absolutely insure total sharpness on the model.

6. Or when I’m shooting beauty and the need to move around isn’t that important, but sharp eyelashes are!

7. If I have the need to work with straight lines, as in shooting in a building and or a floor plan that the model has to be in the same spot every time because of type issues, I crank out the tripod and put my camera on it.

8. I also will use one when I’m shooting a line sheet, or catalogue, where the model stands in the same spot on every shot, but there are over 40 changes.

But when or if those issues aren’t present or necessary, I like to work without one. I think you can tell by watching the two videos I’ve done so far, I’m all over the place when I shoot. But remember in the last Genlux Video, where the model was standing in the doorway, I used a tripod because I wanted the doors to be shot straight. Does that make sense?

Then again, if I am shooting with medium format cameras, I have to pretty much use a tripod. And that’s mainly because they’re so heavy, I can’t hold them steady for too long. And unless I’m going for a blurred or soft effect, I want sharp images! Nothing ruins a shot for me like an uncontrolled out of focused image. But Mamiya’s and Pentax’s get heavy shooting with them after awhile. I must admit, though, that one of my favorite all time cameras has been the Pentax 6 x 7 because of that juicy huge image size but the camera is like a big 35mm camera so I can hold it up to my eye. I love that about it. Have to admit, though, even the Pentax gets heavy after an hour or so of shooting. So sometimes I would throw even the Pentx on that tripod! And that’s simply just to save my arms and shoulders!

Bealyn Beauty

What are some good brands of Tripods?

Gitzo GT-1541T A REALLY good tripod. I’ve used Gitzo for years. The carbon fiber material they use for the legs make this a strong, reliable tripod but it’s still pretty lightweight. And even though this is the priciest one I am recommending here, once you buy this tripod, you’ll never need to buy another one. Remember too, you need to get a tripod with a ballhead. It comes with a quick release making it easy to attach your camera to the tripod or take it off quickly so you can grab a shot off the tripod. This tripod runs just under $750.00USD. If that’s a bit out of your budget, here’s another great tripod:

Slik Professional 4 Another really good tripod and a few dollars less. This tripod has a ballhead that has tilt/pan cabalities and it holds up to 22 lbs, giving it a bit more flexibility than the Gitzo. The Gitzo is just a tad better quality, but you can’t lose with this one either. For reliability and strength, both are at the top of the list. Put it this way, you won’t ever replace these tripods unless they’re lost or stolen!

My advice is to go with the better brands. In most cases, I advise that. There are some instances where you don’t have to shell out the extra dough on a product and can save by getting the less expensive brand. But when it comes to gear like cameras, lenses, tripods, you know, the equipment that makes your images, I find it’s best to go with the reliable, time tested brands. And they tend to run higher in price. With a tripod, one thing to remember is try to go with carbon fiber legs as oppose to aluminum. Aluminum can bend easier and they’re just not as long lasting as carbon fiber. A good tripod will last you a lifetime. Seriously, the good ones hardly ever break unless you’re particularly cruel to your equipment and throw them around. (I wouldn’t advise that, but sometimes it’s better to throw a tripod than an assistant, and yes, I’ve done it, and my Gitzo did not break!) But again, I don’t advocate throwing anything photographic. Even a C-stand. (although I’ve thrown those as well….haha…..I’ve been shooting a long time, remember. I wasn’t so patient when I was young!)

Do you guys have any other suggestions for my readers (other than not throwing your equipment!)? I’d love your input here. Thanks!

The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For…

Fashion Photography Exposed – The DVD!

We’ve kept it under wraps for over a year. But now the secret is finally out! If you haven’t heard by now, we are releasing the first full blown educational fashion photography DVD ever made! We have pulled out all the stops to leave no stone unturned, no question unanswered. And I am honestly very pleased with the results!! Initially we wanted to base the format of the DVD loosely around what I teach at my workshops: a chance for photographers to work on a real fashion shoot with top models and professional hair stylists, make up artists and fashion stylists. And that’s great for a seminar when you’re in the room with me so I can show you what a difference it makes when you work with a pro team. But then we took a look at the bigger picture and realized that the real challenges that most young or up and coming fashion photographers face is inside knowledge on how to break into the industry. On Fashion Photography Exposed, I show you how to produce better fashion shoots with better lighting and then I show you the importance of promoting yourself and your business so you can compete in a very competitive and unpredictable industry. There is so much that the DVD offers but I’m not going to go into all of the specifics here in this post. You can find out all the information about it on the Fashion Photography Exposed DVD website.

What I will say is that we take you on a journey and I’m with you every step of the way. For over 3 hours, you get a completely honest inside look at the elusive “club” that the fashion photography industry truly is. This DVD is not only for education, it’s for inspiration. While we go into a lot of technical information, I emphasize that the most important component needed to being a fashion photographer is the love and passion for it.

Putting together a 3 hour film is a ton of work! But you know what? I am incredibly grateful to my readers on this blog and to my fans. For the past 3 years that I have had the Fashion Photography Blog, I have received thousands of emails from people all over the world and you all have touched my heart immensely. So this is my gift for you.

I’m not selling you on any camera gear or equipment on this DVD. I am not sponsored by anyone. You don’t need a lot of expensive gear to take great photographs. In fact, I’m going to talk you out of going out and spending a fortune on gear. What you need to take great photographs is a real passion for fashion and an undying love for taking even better pictures, every time you shoot! And this DVD speaks loudly to those of you who have that love and passion. So come into my world as a working fashion photographer and see how this all works!!