Shooting Six: A Model Shoot
Sunday, February 27th, I had the pleasure of shooting with six models, a fashion designer, and a fellow photographer—to a killer shoot soundtrack—at Studio on Market in Wilmington, Delaware.
It was my largest self-organized photoshoot to date—and, like my other shoots, this was a TFCD shoot. Everyone pulled together to make it a success. Thanks to everyone that contributed, as without your work, the shoot wouldn’t have been possible.
This shoot started as a request from a workshop attendee, photographer Brian Bailey, who wanted to know significantly more about how to handle lighting. Brian is largely shooting sporting events but had an interest in more technical studio work. (His Website is GetShotByBrian.com.) His request couldn’t be accommodated in a workshop format—the hands-on component of working with lights to get it “just right” was more than that format allows. So I said: “What do you think about splitting the cost of studio space?” He agreed, and then I started to pull everything together.
First, I secured space. Locking in the location first was critical—without a firm location, sending invitations to models would have been impossible. The team at the clean, new Studio On Market, in Wilmington, Delaware, were very helpful and had Sunday, February 27th available. (I’d recommend them.) I booked with them after inspecting the space, which was perfect for the size and nature of the shoot.
Next, I started securing models. I did this by posting a Casting Call on ModelMayhem and then following up with models local to the Wilmington area to see if they had interest. Follow-ups and questions were answered in a timely manner and models were booked.
Then, one week before the shoot, it became apparent that I’d have between 5 and 8 models attending.
After conversation, Wilmington fashion designer and artist T.Saph stepped up to support the event with her fashion line and designs.
As the shoot had developed momentum, I also reached out to Josh Harnois. He is a classically trained musician, producer and DJ currently residing in Washington, D.C. (I shot Josh for his personal marketing material the year before.) I needed a soundtrack for the shoot and I wanted him to do it because he understood all aspects of what was needed: scoring music for film, modeling, appropriate attitude, photoshooting, and the attendee demographic. Of course, Josh nailed the work.
Going into a shoot this large would have been a disaster without planning and goals. Based on the studio space, training I’d need to do with Brian on the lighting, and individual model needs, I decided to focus on beauty/commercial shooting.
Here were the prep items:
- I needed to settle on a range of looks, based on a “commonly accepted” beauty/fashion look. I consulted with a colleague of mine, graphic designer J.C. I posed the question: “In your opinion, what are the top three beauty/fashion magazines read by the 18 to 24 female demographic?” She identified Cosmopoliton, Glamour, and Elle, in that order.
- I purchased a copy of each magazine. Then, I carefully removed any page from each magazine that was shot in-studio. I explicitly did not censor anything out based on my taste. If it was shot in-studio, I pulled the page. This was important so that a full range of looks could be gathered for analysis.
- A stack of loose pages was useless, so I created a modeling analysis book, where I pasted in every page (and double-page spread) that was relevant, leaving a facing page for notes.
- I analyzed each page, determining lighting setups (shadows, level of fill, modeling light, soft/hard, etc.), framing, apparent focal length, f-stop (for DOF), text placement, and intended purpose of the advertisement or photo. For the modeling work, I got a feel for expression, hand placement, dynamic vs. static body positioning, and overall “feel” from each piece. I also identified where the Photoshop work was—to my disappointment, a significant amount of the Photoshop work in ads was readily apparent due to hasty execution. (If you’re going to do it, follow through, please. I shouldn’t see it.) IMO, Elle had the best straight-photography work.
- I circled back around with J.C. and had her take a look at the modeling analysis book. Based on watching her examine the book and verbally confirming conclusions, I got two takeaways: (A) Order of viewing a page’s content is: Clothing, Makeup/Hair, then Model. If close up, Makeup/Hair, then Model. If clothing/makeup/hair are not strong or not of interest, it’s all about the Model. (B) If the ad is about clothing, the clothing must “wear” the model. Or, if the ad is about makeup, the makeup must “wear” the model. The lighting, framing, pose, and facial expression accentuate acceptance of both A and B.
- Working with some past photography as a basis, I laid out mock magazine spreads, including text placement, to better understand the underlying composition and grid structure that was in use. Understanding more about that would help me frame and get what I needed day of shoot.
- I tested lighting setups and positioning to ensure I could get what I needed on set, prior to shooting. I determined that a two-umbrella setup, with a small softbox, would get me where I would need to go.
- Working through the mental geometry of getting models into the setups—based on planning to exploit the studio’s strengths—was the most difficult part. How would I manage eight people in the studio space and lighting setups during the day of shooting? To guarantee I could “get” it? I worked out three or four different workflows, building in failure points, and geared my goals appropriately.
Based on pre-planning, the shooting goals were aggressive:
- Provide a professional tone and good working environment.
- Each model had to take away at least 5 shots from at least two shooting sets that were technically on par with work in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, or Elle from a technical/lighting/framing perspective.
- Each model had to be given time to work and get comfortable so we could “get” it.
- Each model had to work with at least one other model in a shot—a “pair” shot.
- Each model had to have a a range of closeups, two-thirds, and full-body shots.
- Each model would model in at least two outfits.
- Each model would model in at least one outfit provided by T.Saph.
- No model could “sit” idly and un-utilized for any length of time.
- Models would work together—more-experienced models would be encouraged to mentor and work with less-experienced models, providing experience for both of them.
- Lighting would be continually adjusted to capture the framing, then mood, then accentuate the pose and clothing.
- Brian Bailey (photographer) would be briefed on lighting, posing, and other shoot aspects throughout and continuously.
- T.Saph (fashion designer) would be given the opportunity to match her clothing line to the models as she saw fit—to pick up appropriate and useful looks for her needs.
- Keep the shoot to no more than four hours in length—one hour of test shots and two-and-a-half hours of work, once everyone was settled in.
- Not piss anybody off. More important, send everyone home satisfied with the experience and excellent photography.
- Strictly adhere to my 10 Guidelines for Shooting.
Claire Franklin (MM#1403466)
Amanda Whelan (MM#1752316)
Minuette Kalia (MM#1958191)
Lead Photographer – Will Stotler (MM#1338163)
Associate Photographer – Brian Bailey (GetShotByBrian.com)
Clothing Designer – T.Saph (MM#1892259)
Shoot Soundtrack Designer – Joshua Harnois (MM#1500956)
Studio on Market – 219 Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801