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
Photogenics
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.

Genlux Winter Fashion + New Video!

I was asked to shoot an editorial for the Los Angeles Fashion Magazine, Genlux. Genlux Magazine uses me on a regular basis to shoot for them and they are one of my favorite clients because of their extreme trust in my vision. In other words, they give me a lot of freedom to shoot what I want to shoot, which makes them a dream client! I’m going to take you step by step through the process of this shoot, giving you my technical info and the background details on how I planned and set up this shoot. You can click the link above to watch the video first, or you can Read on!

The Video

In the very beginning I was given two guidelines: the theme for the Winter Fashion issue, which they decided on calling it the Art Issue. And I was given 8 pages. First things first. Since there was a theme, I had to come up with a concept that went along with that theme. I decided on exploring the idea of The Muse, the artists model as inspiration and catalyst. After settling on the idea of The Muse, I then had to find the perfect girl! One perfect girl/muse! Also given the stipulation of needing 8 pages to fill, I had to keep in mind that we would possibly go with 8 different changes of clothing. So those were my initial guidelines and then I got to work.

The first thing I did was find the girl. I contacted Elite Models, LA Models, Photogenics Models, and Ford Models. I scoured the internet and was sent some cards by some of the agents. Stephen Kamifuji and I looked through websites together on the phone, choosing around 10 that we liked and then settling it down to the ONE. The choice of models often times will depend on who’s available, who’s in town and then who is willing. Some girls that work a lot may not be interested in doing editorial. That’s not the typical case, but you will find it happening from time to time and it can be frustrating. You think you’ve found the perfect girl and then you find out she’s just not interested in doing the job; either it doesn’t pay what she’s interested in getting or she just doesn’t need one more tear sheet in her book.

We finally settled on a girl from Ford Models named Angela Michelle. I think the thing that stood out the most for me in choosing Angela were the beauty campaigns in her book. Her face is undeniably gorgeous! And she has a classic beauty look. She has the ability to go the “Hollywood ’40′s Glamour” look. Which is how I wanted to shoot it. I must interject here that I had the preconceived idea that I might turn the shoot Black and White in post and do selective focus on the pictures. I wasn’t 100% sure I would go that route, but that idea was in the beginning stages of prepping for this shoot.

After we settled on Angela, I then went about the tedious task of finding the perfect stylist. A fashion photographer needs a lot of “best friends” on their shoots but if we’re going to call someone your best best friend (BFF) that would be the stylist! Hands down, this is going to be the person who can turn a shoot into either a mediocre fashion lay out or a fabulous high fashion couture lay out! You need your stylist to have the ability to thoroughly understand your concept. If I say couture evening gowns and she shows up with mid-length cocktail dresses from local labels, she obviously didn’t listen or just didn’t get your concept. It is SO important to spend time before hand with your stylist, sending her pictures if you have to, going over it on the phone a few times so that she really gets EXACTLY what you want. I settled on a new girl that I hadn’t worked with before because A: I liked her book. B: I liked her agent and I knew her agent would stay with us through out the prepping stages of the shoot. and C: in our first phone conversation, she got it! Robyn Goldberg from Artists by Timothy Priano was my stylist for this shoot and she did an amazing job! I can’t wait to work with her again!

After choosing the stylist, Robyn Goldberg, I then chose the hair and make up artist. Again, I chose them because of their portfolios. Make up was a cinch, I didn’t need to prep her with any information before the shoot because we weren’t doing anything terribly out of the ordinary as far as make up was concerned. I went with Lusine from Artists by Timothy Priano. As far as the hair was concerned, though, I did need to speak with the stylists’ agent regarding the hair styles for this issue. I wanted her to be able to replicate the Hollywood Glamour style hair styles, somewhat period looks, and her book, while it was strong, didn’t really have anything in it to depict that look. Her agent got back to me that Stephanie Pohl was sure she could pull it off, and I just went with my gut on it because, again, I knew that her agent wouldn’t mislead me on this one.

I was lucky to have an artist’s studio at my fingertips. My best friend, my own personal (BFF) is an amazing artist who happens to have a nice painting studio in her very own backyard (yeah, I’m a lucky girl) and she was kind enough to let us invade her space for the day to shoot the 8 page editorial.

So location was set. Hair, make up and stylist were lined up. The model was booked. What’s left to figure out?

My lighting! The part you all are waiting patiently to read now. If you have been reading my blog in the past, I would hope you have gotten that I am a “less is more” kind of lighting geek. And I didn’t vary from my theory on this shoot. I went to the studio, even though I’ve been their a million times, but I never went to “LOOK” at it in the context of shooting in it. I studied the available light coming in from the huge double doors to the South, the skylight coming in from above and the way the light fell and spread over the walls and floor without ANY additional lighting. From there I could figure out what lighting I would need to enhance the already beautiful available “Studio” light. After all, this shoot is for the art issue and the story is about The Muse, hanging out in a painting studio, ready to pose. I wanted the available light to convey the natural setting of the studio. But I did need extra lights to be able to pick up the details in the clothing and to give the model and the clothing that Hollywood glamour lighting. I settled on Profoto gear, because it’s the best! I went with a medium sized Profoto soft box and Profotos’ beauty dish. While the beauty dish will light only the upper frame of the model, I knew I was going to use longer shutter speeds to allow the day light to “fill” the rest of her body. I chose the soft box because I wanted a soft wrap around lighting effect that would blend well with the gorgeous available light already in the studio. Why use a space that has incredible available light and then just take in a bunch of artificial lighting gear and over-light the whole damn set?? It would knock out the the “feeling”, the real-ness and ultimately the beauty of the actual shoot. Does that make sense?

I used my Nikon D2Xs to shoot the story, interchanging my 24mm with my 85mm where needed. You will notice under the pictures I put the details on which lens I used and a what f-stop and shutter speed. I used my trusty pocket wizards, because they just never fail me!

We had an 8:30 call time. Everyone was on time but the model and the client! But that was okay, it gave us all time to set up our gear, test out lighting and get to talk a little with my crew. Since it was the first time we all had worked togehter, it was nice to have a moment to get to know them a little better and it also gave us a chance to talk about the shoot.

The video tutorial really shows you how I didn’t have much space to shoot in but still, we made the most of it and the end result is pretty nice! I varied between using my soft box and the beauty dish, and pretty much dragged my shutter so I could get some of that delicious available light into the camera and on to the image!

All in all, I think it was a successful day! And we’re getting ready to do it again in a few short days!

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!

One Big, Beautiful Light

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So I’ve been really busy lately. For one, we’ve been planning the seminar that’s taking place this up-coming weekend, November 7th and 8th. We’re almost sold out, which is exciting and I want to thank all of you who have purchased tickets and are planning on attending! It’s going to be really fun, the models are GREAT and the studio we’re using is just A+ professional, as are the people who run Smashbox. Secondly, I have been spending ALOT of time SHOOTING SHOOTING and SHOOTING some more! Here are some new pictures along with a Lighting Diagram on a test I did with just 1 Big Beautiful Light!

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I recently decided to start working with Maria Bianco at Blur Production. Maria has a long resume of working with photographers and ad agencies as both an agent and a producer. Maria approached me to work with me and after our first phone conversation, I was convinced! We met briefly before she took off to Chicago, in the meantime, I had an ad agency in Europe ask me to put together an estimate on an image and I immediately called Maria to help me with it. We bonded through the experience and I was eager to start working with her when she got back in August.

sarahdeanna-3

The one thing Maria wanted a hand in was the organizing of my portfolio, the most important selling object a photographer has. I brought my book over to her office and she immediately grabbed the post-its and started tagging the pictures that she wanted out of my book. Honestly, I love that! I need a seasoned voice, someone who is emotionally removed from the images and who knows what art buyers and editors are looking for. Often times, as photographers, we are too attached to a photograph and it isn’t representing us in the best light or in the direction we are heading in. I can handle a harsh critique of my work, I welcome it! And while she wasn’t mean about it, she did point out some things that I hadn’t realized until her critique. One thing she said to me was that my work had this very “dark” almost Gothic feel to it and it was overpowering my book.

sarahdeanna-4

I believe that art imitates life, in other words, we tend to create art that mimics what is going on in our own lives. My father passed away almost 2 years ago and the experience of being with him in his last 6 months was very powerful. I literally put all things aside to be with my dad as he prepared to die. It isn’t something I really want to go into here, but the experience was incredibly cathartic. I have written before how my father was the one who convinced me to become a fashion photographer and was incredibly supportive of my career choice. It’s the one thing I am so grateful for as I know there are people when starting out who’s peers or parents are strongly against them going into such a competive and financially unpredictable field. At any rate, back to the portfolio, the sadness and grief I experience of losing my father translated itself on to my work and my work did have this “heavy”, “dark” feel to it. And it was consistent. However, in my personal life, I am fairly happy. I love to laugh, I’m surrounded by great people and friends who really love me. My own world is not so dark. And my old work was beginning to feel contradictory to how I really see things. Maria suggested shooting a fashion editorial test for my book in the way that was much brighter and more approachable and this shoot here with Sarah Deanna is the first of many tests that are keeping me busy these days but also really inspiring me as an artist!

One Big Beautiful Light - Lighting Diagram

(Lighting Diagram)

I used one light. The Elinchrom Rotalux 39-Inch Deep Throat Octagonal Softbox on a Profoto Head. That’s it! I placed it above the models head, about 6 feet away from her. She stood near the background so we had a nice short shadow. Again, I cannot empathize it enough how important my crew is. Having the best model, hair stylist, make up artist and wardrobe stylist is tantamount to having a successful fashion shoot. I worked with Sarah Deanna again, from LA Models. You remember Sarah from the Mechar Handbag shoot? After we worked together that day, we have wanted to shoot a test together and we finally were able to pull it off 4 months later! I worked with Steve David from Artists by Next who did Sarah Deanna’s hair and Heather Kubly-Pepe who did the make up. Both Heather and Steve are just geniuses when it comes to their craft. George Blodwell was kind of enough to lend his styling wizardry for my test. The whole team pulled together and we produced a stellar test for my book. I had 10 shots retouched, only 4 will go in my portfolio, 8 will go on my website. My website, incidentally, is being updated and moved over to Viewbook! I love the guys at Viewbook, they are so helpful and nice. But I what I really love is the ability to manage my own site from now on!!! No more having to beg David to upload images or take down images that are updated. It’s so nice to have that freedom now!

sarahdeanna-6

All images from this shoot were shot on my Nikon D2x with my 85mm/1.4 lens. I shot at f10 at 1/250 of a second. The studio was a daylight studio when we entered it, I had them black it out. I think that’s it, as far as technical information. I think the most important information here is to always use the best talent you can get!

sarahdeanna-7

(ALL IMAGES 2009 Melissa Rodwell Photography)

One Light: Redux

A little slice of Heaven called CHURCH

Erin Urb 1

Living in Los Angeles is indeed a trip. As the famous gossip columnist Rona Barrett once said; “Pick your enemies carefully or you’ll never make it in Los Angeles.” People tend to live in a dream world here where who you are is identified by the car you drive or the celebrity’s personal cell number in your iPhone. Young hopefuls flock here by the thousands hoping to make their dreams come true and the city supports that mission by placing more importance on material and superficial gains over spiritual enlightenment. LA denizens actually believe if they jog for two hours in the morning they are morally fit. As Craig Kilbourn joked, “People here in Los Angeles are disgusted now about a sex scandal involving Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently for seven years, he carried on a sexual relationship with his own wife.” Yep, that’s my hometown, love it or not.

Erin Urb 2

But a slice of heaven opened up in the dark heart of Hollywood and standing at the pearly gates are Rodney Burns and David Malvaney . These two angels are responsible for opening a high-end boutique that caters to the rich and famous and those who just think they are and they named the store CHURCH. I have to say, the first time I walked into CHURCH I was immediately silenced in awe from the clothing hanging by the ceiling. Rodney and David have an aesthetic like I’ve never seen in this city. And it’s so refreshing to have met two people who not only have an impeccable eye for designers and the clothing they stock, but also that these two are actually NICE. Like, really really NICE. Not fake, not name-dropping, not distracted, not showing off their expensive cars, but just down to Earth, REAL people! I didn’t feel like I was being judged by my shoes when I walked in, or that they unleashed some assistant to go outside and try to figure out which car I pulled up in. They were warm, generous, inviting and charming. I don’t think I have had the chance to use all four adjectives in one sentence when describing LA boutique owners, possibly ever. And the clothes ain’t cheap. This is on parallel to Maxfield’s. Oh wait a minute, that’s where they hail from, leaving the snooty store behind and opening up their idea of what a boutique should be. I am a huge supporter and fan because our little dusty town needs more people like these guys!

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When I shot a small ad job for them recently, I put up one of my seamless’ right there in the store and pulled the clothes off the floor with Rodney and I putting the looks together. I used one light, once again. A profoto head at about 300 watts. I used a large umbrella placed above the model to the left so there was some fall off on her from the hips down. I shot with my Nikon D2x and my 85 f/1.4 D lens. And that’s it. So simple anyone could reproduce this. My model was Erin Urb from Photogenics and she’s about as gorgeous as they come. Hair was by Steve David and make up by Heather Kubly-Pepe. You’ll probably see their names for awhile as we’ve sort of formed a little posse out here. Tyler Mitchell assisted me and he’s fast becoming a member of the clique. As long as he keeps me laughing, he’s in!

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There’s really not much more to say about the technical side to this shoot. Let’s see: the model was about 2 to 3 feet from the background, I used a medium grey seamless, the light was double diffused and about 6 feet from her body. Oh and I shot around f11 at 250th of a second. The whole day. Rodney and David are happy with the results but again, my team is responsible and the model I worked with and the clothing was out of this world!! I mean, with all those elements in place, how can you go wrong?

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Another exciting thing on the table for me is that I have been asked by Smashbox’s FACE OFF 2009 to be one of the judges for their competition. A competition that has been running for 14 years, FACE OFF features the talent of up-and-coming photographers! It’s a GREAT way to get exposure when you’re starting out. Check out their super cool blog Yello! They just posted a interview they did with me today. I really encourage you guys to submit to the FACE OFF competition. Like I said, it’s a great way to get recognition!!

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Harper’s Bazaar Arabia October Issue

My first Harper’s shoot from my recent trip to Dubai

Last month I was in Dubai where I shot for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia again. In two weeks I shot 4 editorials and an additional “What Bazaar is Wearing” feature as well. Working with fashion editor Sally Matthews is always a treat because she’s not only a very cool girl, she’s got a great eye for fashion and we have very similar tastes. My first shoot with Sally was a “Gothic Abaya” editorial. An abaya, which literally means “cloak”, is a loose over-garment, like a robe that is worn by some women in the Islamic world. I think it’s a common misconception here in the West to think that the traditional clothing worn by the Muslim women are simple, rather plain or ordinary looking. Well, that’s just not the case and we set about in this shoot to convey the message that some of the traditional clothing worn by women in Saudi Arabia is quite beautiful and often times, very glamourous.

Sally has the great ability to find exotic locations that haven’t been shot in before in Dubai. And so we found ourselves in a resort located about 30 minutes outside of Dubai. The area was more dense in greenery than most Dubai hot spots, which is what Sally wanted because she was looking to do a very Goth-like, forest story with the Abayas. I had the good fortune to work with the talented Kate Goodwin, who had just flown in from London the night before to do the hair and make up. And our model was the gorgeous Masha who was an absolute delight to work with. Tall, thin, gorgeous and man, she could move! We had a grip of equipment with us but ended up using reflectors for most of the day. Dubai is pretty bright, even in a dense garden or tree-lined area. I mean, after all, it is in a desert! So additional flash in the outdoors would have taken the story in a totally different direction. I made the decision to use the natural light and add reflectors when needed to bounce in some even fill. Dubai not only is pretty bright, in September it was very hot. Temperatures were up in the 100 degrees Farenheit!! We had to take mini breaks in between shots because it was too hot to move on quickly to the next shot. But even given these small obstacles, we were able to pull off the 8 page spread with absolute no problems. That’s pretty much due to working with a professional team that pulls together to make the best possible shoot against any and all odds! And that’s why I love working with Sally and make up artist Kate. They jump in and help out and there’s no ego or drama. So important when you’ve got elements against you (sun, rain, heat, mosquitos, etc.) and time restraints (8 pages in 5 hours or you go in to paying overtime).

I had every lens in the kit on this shoot, but ending up using the 85mm and the 50mm throughout the day. We changed lenses in the air-conditioned house and guess what obstacle we had to deal with when going outside where the temperature was 100 F? Yep, the lenses fogged up. So any filters had to be taken off quickly, the lenses had to be wiped off carefully, filters had to be put back on and then the shots needed to be shot quickly because the model was going to faint, running in that heat! Although Masha didn’t complain once! In fact, she was ready and willing to go longer with each shot because she loves doing what she does and she is indeed a real trouper!

Shooting on location has it’s obstacles. Shooting on location in Dubai definitely wasn’t easy but the moral of the story is when you have a great team that works together instead of against each other, you end up with a great shoot and a feeling of accomplishment. As we rode home in the early evening light, exhausted from the sun and rush to get all shots done and done well, we all had a smile on our faces because we knew we had accomplished it! And that to me is a great feeling and something I sort of “live for” as a photographer.

I have more editorials to blog about and those will be coming up shortly here on the blog. I also want to give you all a heads up. In response to a ton of emails and requests, I will be doing workshops again next year in 2012. I will have 4 next year. A Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall Fashion Photography 2 Day Workshop. I’m working out the details now and will post it along with a link to order the tickets coming up very soon. The first one will most likely be in January and it will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. So look out for that if you’re one of the people who is interested in attending. Happy Shooting!!