Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Brissi Fashion Shoot
Before I met Ned I never knew what a fashion shoot involved, working in graphic design I did know part of the computer graphic manipulation a photo can endure to make it magazine presentable, but I do find that following the whole process of fashion photography to be both fascinating and a little depressing. The amount of effort that go into making a model look beautiful on a photo and all that it involve and the way, that looking at fashion photographs sometimes makes me feel inadequate, not beautiful, tall, thin, young enough.
Even though, since now I'm a part of this process, I do feel a lot less incline to want to look like those girls in magazines, and I think that being on a fashion photography set and following the whole process could be an important part of curing eating disorder as well as just making non-model women feel better about themselves.
So, I thought I would share some of this process, or at least my view of this experience, and how we get from wanting to do a shoot to an end product - a fashion story.
Before we even start any shoot, we sit around talk and think, usually, this will start with both me and Ned just wondering aimlessly around the internet looking for a visual starting point. In this specific shoot, I was looking on some extremely contrasty black and white images that were really beautiful to me, which led me to think of the art of aubrey beardsley, especially the illustrations he did to Oscar Wilde's Salome. I looked at some photos, talked to Ned and we realized that what's interesting to us about those images is the amount of black vs. white and also the amount of details vs. flat plain surfaces. We also talked about the story of Salome and the power play of women and men, money and sex and objective and subjective within the frame of the story and photography.
Then we contact our stylist, and make up artist, it turns out that our usual hair stylist is not available, but the case is shorty, though pretty stressfully get resolved because the make up artist have a friend - work buddy that can fill in. Next we contacted a couple of model agencies we work with to see who's in town and free to test with us. We talk to the booker who wants to send over a girl we shot with in the past, which we thought would be perfect for this shoot and who needed some more elegant and womanly photos for her book, her style up until now was very girly and cute and the agency is trying to expand her abilities and type of projects she's getting.
After talking to the crew and making sure everyone's in the studio in time, start the worse part of the project - the cleaning of the studio... Since we live and work here and since my craft and art is really messy, and since we were in a sort of messed up period in life anyway, it took about 2 days to make enough room in here for a shoot... It's a good thing cause it makes me throw out a lot of crap I don't need and to finally clean my desk remembering half tended projects and things I didn't take care of.
The night before a shoot, we always plan to goto sleep early, but somehow between cleanup and setting the lights and trying to finish a whole bunch of things, we go to sleep really late. In this evening, we found ourselves going out to the only open late Williamsburg spot which is a pretty crappy bagel store. We go over some of the images we found as inspiration and talk about the shoot again making sure we know what we want out of this. I think one of the biggest challenges, for me, is to have a plan, or an idea and then not get fixated on it, so that I have guild lines but not an entire script written down. It's hard because unlike painting which is what I'm more used to doing, photography involves a lot of people each with their own vision which is often more surprising and interesting then mine, and letting people get their own say in the process, makes the photos more rich and interesting then just what I had in mind.
Also, since Ned's the photographer and I'm somewhere between an art director and an assistant, I have a lot of work to do before and after the shoot but in the actual day I sometimes feel a little redundant, so it's a bit of a challenge for me to just sit back and let people do their jobs.
We eventually went to sleep at about 5:30 that day, knowing we need to get up at 10:30, for people to come in at noon.
At noon, the hair and make up crew get here, they are setting up their equipment, and then the stylist gets here, she unpack and we have first look at the outfits, usually, I like doing that a couple of days before the shoot, but it just didn't work this time. So as she unpack, I get to finally see them, she really got the colors and shapes that I wanted, but suddenly this shoot get a whole new layer of, I don't know - German film noir?! I'm not quite sure what to call it, she was trying to find more contemporary pieces but somehow the vintage stuff just came popping up. We talk about different combinations and how it would look, Ned set the set paper and start setting up the lights.
I go out to get some shoot food because it's going to be a long day, when I get back the model is in and already being worked on for hair and make up, while the stylist is deciding what to go with first.
The first hair and make up set is the most frustrating time in a shoot for me, I just want things to start already and to see how everything looks together, but there's about 2 hours of work before even the first photo is being shot! I don't wear makeup myself, and the most complicated thing I do to my hair is braid it so it's out of the way, I've never really learned how to blow dry or curl or put eyeliner and concealer, I'm not even sure what all those tools and paints and chemical do, so the work of the hair and make up people always seem like magic to me, I love looking at how they work and the way they can transform a face to look like something very different then how it looked before.
Eventually, at 3:00, we start shooting. I don't know if it's all fashion sets, but when we shoot the 2 first outfits always take a really long time and usually yield the less exciting photos, it takes time for the model to loose up and feel good about herself and for Ned to take charge and direct her more and for everyone on set to really get into the pace of working.
Every change in make up and hair takes about half an hour to an hour, in some outfits, we keep the make up and just do touch-ups and change things very subtly, This hair stylist is really good and were able to make beautifully constructed hair looks free and loose, it's funny to realize how many pins it take to hold all those hairs in place!
We change to a different outfits, some of them works right away, on some Ned doesn't like parts of it and change, it's hard to try and make everyone happy - the model, the photographer, the stylist, AND make sure we get the good shots, sometimes even though I know something doesn't work, I will let it get shot for a while and then ask to try it on without the jacket, or with a lighter lipstick, just so that the crew doesn't feel criticized or let down, we are really lucky to work with a group of people who are really committed to what they do, and so we have a full day to shoot in which we know everyone will stay for as long as they can, which leaves time to experiment and try things that might or might not work.
I think we shot 6 outfits in this day, which is pretty good, but not an amazing amount, toward the last one, we all get tired and we decide to stop even though there was at least one that we could have shot.
Ned's camera is connected to his computer so that as the shoot goes, we can look on the screen and see the photos, it's a really great way to see what looks great and what isn't, usually, at least one person (which is generally me) will sit at the monitor, check the focus and crops, and whether anything need to be changed.
After everyone pack their stuff and leave, at about 9:00 Ned and me and the stylist sit for a bit, then go out for coffee and cake for a bit of rest and trying to plan for a shoot next week (though we are all too tired and distracted) Ned and me go back to the studio and start editing.
There are a little over 500 photos! we are trying to form this to a possible fashion Editorial, which means about 8-15 photos, sometimes less, and a couple of closeups for the hair and make up crew, that means giving up on so many amazing shots! we have to flip our minds from being really positive, excited and supportive about the photos, to being really critical and negative, or else we'll keep more then half of the images...
When editing the photos, it's not just about getting the best few, but also make sure that they are cohesive and show progression, sometimes wonderful shots got rejected cause they don't match the feel of the other pictures or because there's another great shot of the same outfit. We narrow it down to I think 14 photos, look at the clock and see it's 4:00 AM.
Over the next few days Ned will retouch and color correct the images. He's really awesome with photoshop and works very fast, but it will still take about 2-4 days to finish everything.
It's really amazing to realize how, even though we started with a really beautiful, young, skinny talented model, it still takes so much time and effort from a whole group of people to make the shot looks so damn perfect.