I’ve gotten quite a few questions about the creative process of my photo shoots. I’ve slowed down with my photography a bit since I’m focusing on my studies at SCAD at the moment. But I do like to squeeze in a shoot or two when I’m on a school break to keep the creative juices flowing. Since I’m still a student, most of my shoots are unpaid and everyone works together as a trade, meaning that they trade their services for some rockin’ solid photos (taken by me) for their portfolio
This is by no means the end-all-be-all of the way all photo shoots work, but hopefully it’ll briefly outline the steps of putting together a photo shoot.
Step One: Concept
Before I delve into organizing a photo shoot, I have to ask myself, what is the general mood I’m trying to achieve? and what story do I want to tell? This step comes relatively easy to me, since I usually stumble across inspiration by happenstance. Sometimes it’s a song lyric, a photograph, a book, or a movie that inspires me in some way. From there, I create a mood board of images I feel speaks to the aesthetic I am trying to achieve. In my most recent shoot (which was Brigitte Bardot-themed), I made a Pinboard instead.
Step Two: Scouting a Location
Sometimes this step comes easy, sometimes this step is more difficult. For a woodland/fairy/forest shoot, all you need is essentially a wooded area, which is pretty easy to find. You don’t need to ask for permission to shoot there. You just show up, take pictures, and leave. Simple. It gets more difficult when your concept requires a specific venue, such as a ’30s style Tudor house or something. In these cases, I usually post a status on Facebook, asking people if they know where I can find a venue like this. Sometimes people respond, and sometimes I’m looking for something so specific, no one responds. In this case, I have to resort to a Plan B.
Another way finding a location can get difficult is if you need to ask permission to shoot there. For instance, my most recent shoot was Brigitte Bardot-themed and we shot at the Claremont Hotel. I had to get in touch with the general manager and ask permission to shoot there. Sometimes the staff is nice and accommodating – like this past time was a cinch! – and sometimes they are not kind to photographers at all. (note: sometimes if the team is small enough and won’t attract a lot of attention, I shoot guerilla-style, meaning I don’t ask permission to shoot there and pretty much we go to the location and shoot until a. we’re done or b. someone finds us and kicks us out; definitely a last resort and I do not recommend doing this!).
Step Three: Rounding up a Team
After I come up with a concept and location for the shoot, I have to think about who would be a good fit for my team. My team includes a makeup artist, a hairstylist (sometimes the makeup artist does both hair and makeup which makes my life easier!), a wardrobe stylist, and a model. My mom is usually my assistant and does all the nitty gritty stuff, like lugging around my equipment and holding my cameras while I shoot
The more advanced you get, the larger your team can get. For instance, it may include more specialized artists like a manicurist, art director, and assistant wardrobe stylist, etc. I have a few go-to people I’ve worked with numerous times and feel comfortable working with that I contact about the shoot. I can usually find a person for each styling job who is both interested and available on the specified date and time.
Step Four: Picking a Model
This step is pretty fun! I usually take a browse through the models of my local modeling agencies (I work with Stars Model Management the most) and make a list of conceivable models who could pull off the look I want. I could look at pictures of models all day, dreaming up ideas for shoots based on their features, but that’s another story! From there, I email the modeling agent inquiring about the models I’m interested in with a brief proposal/synopsis of the shoot (this includes my concept, date, time, location, and mood board). Usually at least one of the models is available and I pick my favorite from there. If the model is not available, it’s back to square one and I have to come up with some secondary choices.
I hope this gives you a little insight on the creative process behind my photo shoots. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!
(photo from drifter & the gypsy instagram feed)