Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts in ink.

I have been thinking recently about my motivations for taking self portraits.

The ability to create is a fascinating thing and I think the reason I am often fascinated with art and the things people can produce is largely because of how the aspects of each individual person can create something entirely unique based upon that persons thoughts. I think it’s the reasons I like doing self portraiture, even though it is something that a lot of people don’t understand, is that for me it’s about exploration. Sometimes that exploration results in, what some would say, fairly mundane or uninteresting images because on that particular trip there was less I was discovering or less I needed to emote. Whereas some explorations result in a far more expressive and honest images and that is usually when I am going through something specific or a time in my life when I’m exploring something in my mind. I think that’s why my self portraits often show a lot of fragility because that’s the underlining aspect I explore most within myself, and probably one of the most common aspects of myself.

My self portraits help me, they allow me to remove myself to a certain extent, because if I’m dealing with something it allows me to be open on my own and do something! I’m creating and keeping busy, and it almost gives me purpose, and it’s a way to vent. I do struggle sometimes, I get very inspired by places, so in terms of that I completely adapt how I confront the light and elements, light being the most important to me and that often does reflect my mood and what I’m trying to say with it, but as a whole I’m not conceptually driven. It’s not a concept I’m trying to communicate, it’s a feeling, and that can become quite tedious, because if I go out to take some self portraits, on a trip of exploration, it’s often in dark times so often similar emotions will come out. I've been told, that it can be quite boring and not very experimental or that I don’t push myself, my art or my photography and I do understand where they’re coming from sure, I do want to push myself and be more interesting and find better ways of communicating that, but at the same time I’m never going to stop just going out and shooting! Some asked me, well if that’s the case, that I produce work that is similar to the last, then why do I share it? Well it’s because, it’s a unique image in itself, even if does share a familiar feeling to previous ones I have done, it’s still unique and that’s something I completely love about photography, maybe one of the most important things, it’s that moment in time. You can’t recreate a moment in time, everything about that time will be different to the last. The air will be different, the light will be different and even if I felt similar, I still would have felt different and it was a complete moment captured, so if I took it and edited it, there must have been a reason for that. And why not share it I guess?

It’s not a self indulgent thing necessarily, it’s in my veins to create, so when you want to create, an aspect of that is to share and I don’t think that’s narcissistic. It’s not a pride thing, that I’m proud and want to show it, though sometimes elements of that exist, it’s more about putting something you created from nothing out into the universe! And that can go for more than just photography, it can go for a thought, to a piece of writing, to a piece of music.

It’s ironic really, I think I have found that musicians I know have questioned my motivations for my self portraiture more than anyone else, but music as a complete whole is self indulgent! Their thoughts and ideas are communicated through music usually if not entirely about them and their experiences and what they've done. Very few songs will be about something completely unrelated to them, and if those songs were to exist then you probably wouldn't be able to relate to them as much. I like honestly, I value honesty and I think that’s what I like to do with self portraits. I think that’s what musicians like to do with songs. I can’t take an experience I've been through in my life, say falling in love, I can’t take a snapshot of that and use it to show my struggles in an art form, whereas musicians can, they vent, and are able to almost directly draw on that and write about it and express themselves through it, which is completely therapeutic and I can’t do that directly. Whereas with a self portrait, partially I do it as an escape, and partially I like how through it I can still express my state, my emotion, it’s not sometimes obvious, it’s not a picture of me screaming or pulling my hair out, but it’s my mood, it’s where my head was when I took it, and that will always be reflected in the image.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

8 steps to arranging a fashion editorial

If you're a fellow fashion photographer you'll have been in that usual situation where you had to arrange an editorial shoot all by yourself. This can be really empowering, fun and creative...but also extremely difficult.

I've been running workshops for a few years now, and the part I have observed that out-ways most other elements for the attendees is that they appreciate the fact that I have arranged everything, from the professional models, to the location and clothing, that they can just turn up, without the fear of a hundred thread emails to the team, and the dreaded prospect of paying for a location, and take photos. SO, I thought I would give some tips for those at the beginning of their fashion photography journey, tips on how it all comes together.

1. It all starts with an idea!

So you might be lucky and already have a grounded idea of what you want, a look and a feel and an atmosphere you want to achieve and that is the best start! It's good to have inspiration on your side! Ideas of clothing and hair and make up, this will all help get the best result, even if it doesn't turn out exactly how it is in your head. 

It doesn't have to be very specific, if could be just a vibe, 60's, or trashy, or colourful! It all starts with an idea.

2. Mood-board.

This is where something like Pinterest is one of the greatest creations on earth! Sign up, you won't regret it, and once you do hit Google HARD! It doesn't have to be Google, you can search right there on pinterest or explore some websites or magazines, but search a lot, because the more images you find, the more inspired you are, and the closer you are to collecting a clearer idea of what you want to achieve. This isn't just for you so you can ground your idea, it's to show your potential team, so they can get behind the idea too!

3. Searching for your team. 

This, from my experience, can be the hardest part, especially if you're new to the scene. So, who do you need on your team?

A Make Up Artist (or MUA)
A Hair Stylist
A Clothing Stylist

Where can you find all these people? Well one place that is invaluable to a budding fashion photographer is Model Mayhem, a place where you can connect with just about every creative you'll need to collaborate with to shoot a fashion story. This place is especially helpful for beginners but can still be a good way to connect at any professional stage. So have a look on the site! There are a couple of ways you can go about it, first is to browse stylists, MUA's and hair stylists and message them individually (you could also find their profiles and email them or Facebook them off the site), or you could post a casting which will be visible to all the above and wait hopefully for responses. I have done both in the past.

When seeking out a team remember to add your mood-board link, this will be where you sell the idea! You want the team to be as invested in the idea as you are.

4. Models.

Model Mayhem can be really great for this at the beginning, you can find non experienced and experienced models on here, but be cautious, models on this site and most that I have tried to arrange shoots with not through an agency have been known to by extremely flaky. You don't want, the morning of your shoot, to find your model suddenly MIA, so make sure they're serious about the shoot, get them to write in blood if you can. 

Agency models is really where you want to be of course, they, on the whole, know what they're doing and will turn up. So to get an agency model you need to get in with an agency. You will probably have to shoot tests with friends and model mayhem girls first to build up a portfolio, this way when you send emails to the agencies, you can include the images to give them an idea of what you can do. Agencies will send out girls just for tests, but when it comes to editorials, it's a good idea to send them the mood board as well, and even better, the name of the magazine you'll be submitting to. If the agency is on board they will then send a package of girls who are available, you choose who you like and let them know!

5. Location.

So now you have a team you need to figure out where you're gunna take these photos! This is a very important one for me, especially as a natural light photographer, a great locations can tell stories on their own, can reveal the most beautiful light, can bring out the best in you and your camera. 

Indoor locations can be tricky...because unless it's your own house, you've got to go about finding a location that is visually wonderful, but isn't yours. So, how? Think of friends houses, think of local buildings of interest...the library, the town hall etc. Or go bigger, search wedding venues, search for local manor houses and mansions and just send them an email. When I was starting out I emailed a local venue assuming I would have to pay through the nose to shoot there, turns out they let me for free, and over the next year or two I shot maybe 20 different shoots in that house! If they do require a rental fee, then see if you can barter only shooting there a few hours. Maybe ask the team if they're interested in pitching in to be able to shoot there...might be worth it.

Outside is obviously better, less restrictions. Of course the biggest restriction is the weather, something that is more of a problem in certain countries. I, for example, am from the UK, a place where there is equal chance of it raining in the summer as there is in the winter. It sucks. You have to either plan around it, or shoot through it.

6. Planning the date!

You have to arrange a date that everyone can do which can be stressful but once it's done do keep in mind that hair and make up can take an hour or two (longer if you get chatting, which I've been known to do). This is your idea, your vision, so you should do everything you can to make it happen, so if you drive, offer to pick the team up from the train or bus station. Do what you can.

7. The shoot.

So everyone is with you in one place! Keep your mood-board out and about, in everyone's faces including your own, to keep up the theme of the day. You want it to be ingrained in your head and the rest of the team whilst hair and make up is going on. 

You are shooting an editorial, which means that you want it to be picked up by a magazine, with this in mind remember not to shoot too many landscape images and nearly always keep your camera in portrait. Magazines print in pages so portrait framing works much better for them. 

In the end, it's usually mostly about the clothes, so try to remember that when shooting. Don't let the thought of it ruin the spirit of the theme, but try and show off those clothes!

The hair stylist, MUA and stylist will most likely be on hand monitoring the shots too, and if a dress hem is up, or a stray hair has gone array, they will probably need to dart in and out to fix these things, but do speak up if you wanted it that way. 

8. Submitting.

You might have prior correspondence with a magazine, you might have a magazine in mind to submit to, you might have no idea at all! Search online, see who fellow photographers you like have been featured in, search themes or look in a local news never know! It's usually best to have a magazine in mind before shooting, because each magazine has a style of their own and a style they prefer. 

When you submit try and come up with a title for the fashion story if you haven't already, and write down the full list of credits. 

Finally, do not share the images online. The magazine wants your photos to be exclusive, they don't want to publish them if they've been seen before. Sit tight and wait, you will get to share them eventually :)

So there you go! Most know this stuff, but I thought I would write it down for those fashion editorial creators that haven't quite got there yet!