Skinny models, Jimmy Choos, exotic locations, top-of-the-line pieces—the world of fashion screams “glamour” to the everyday viewer. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty details, fashion shoots are not as glamorous as they are cracked up to be. I was given the chance to produce and assist my first professional shoot from start to finish and Boston Photographer Steve Marsel where learned a lot about the industry and myself in the process.
With the simple yet vague assignment to “come up with a shoot” the wheels started turning and the creativity was let loose. Steve taught me the three most important aspects of a successful photo shoot: 1) the outfit, 2) the concept and 3) the location. Achieve all three and the shot is golden. With that in mind, I set off to tackle part one, the outfit. I had the great opportunity to attend Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Senior Collection fashion show, and was blown away by the talent I saw. I left that show with the extreme urge to drop everything I was doing and transfer to RISD, but my better judgment kicked in and I continued with the shoot. I contacted the designers I enjoyed most, received several responses and chose one piece I particularly swooned over. Linzi Kofsky, a senior at RISD, crafted a beautiful pair of chartreuse pants with such an elegant flow I couldn’t look away. The top was simple and glistened with a closer look. Part one, Outfit: complete.
Next, I thought about the concept. I knew I wanted the outfit to be the strongest focus, and decided to find a way in which the slits in the pants would be reflected in its surrounding environment. Steve and I picked our brains for locations and concepts with verticals stripes. A yacht club with rows of tall sailboats, a loading dock with long shifting curtains, a forest with endless trees, or my favorite—a field with a zebra. I called every zoo and petting zoo between Boston and Providence, but came up with the same response every time—“sorry it is not in our policy, a zebra’s kick is extremely powerful.” I were Anna Wintour of Vogue, there was no chance I was getting that Zebra. You win some and you lose some, and I learned this many times over in pursuit of the perfect concept.
With the Zebra out, we decided on the trees. After days of stalking Google Earth, swearing at my droid’s navigation app and creeping through poison ivy on a stranger’s property—Steve found the perfect location. We chose a marshland that had numerous tall, thin trees that looked dated and decrepit, it was beautiful. However, creeping onto a stranger’s property and conducting a photo shoot is not considered normal or legal without the owner’s consent. Luckily, Ben Farnum of Boston Hill Farm graciously agreed to let us use his property freely, and the location was finally determined.
With the three main ingredients stirred up, the final course was ready to be delivered. But wait, there is more. I personally did hours of research, sent out half a lifetime’s worth of e-mails and finally pulled together a team of makeup artists, hairstylists and most importantly—the model. Gathering people together for a last minute shoot was challenging, but paid off in the end when every one showed up excited and ready to work. You would think it is simple from here—make the model pretty, tell her she looks good and snap some pictures. But other factors need to be taken into consideration, such as Mother Nature. The shoot was scheduled for Thursday at four o’clock in the afternoon but come Thursday morning, the weather man was screaming bloody murder and the skies grew darker by the minute. We had no other choice but to take our chances, so we prepped the model and hurried to our location. It felt like a scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz, we were all Dorothy and the tornado was brewing. Steve quickly set up the shot, we carefully hurried the model across a beaver dam to her spot and within a matter of minutes and eighty snaps of the camera, the rain drops started falling. We ran back to the car and made it inside safely before the skies opened up and purple lightning shot across the sky. Though our shoot was cut short, we luckily had a number of images to work with and proclaimed the shoot a success. Being five minutes close to having nothing at all is a terrifying thought that I have chosen to push to the back of my mind.
The final stages of the shoot were coming together and the only thing left was to chose the image and make it beautiful. Steve used his contacts and found an amazing retoucher who turned this shot into something extraordinary. With my jaw dropped open, I sat at the computer for at least ten minutes switching back and forth between the before and after images. Don’t get me wrong, the image was awesome before, but I learned a great retoucher can make all the difference.
The rambles tell it all—fashion is much more to the eye than a pretty face. The number of details that go into one photo shoot is outstanding, but completely worth it. This will not be the last photo shoot I produce for I am sure I have many more to come. As Steve would say, “don’t be such a slave to fashion!”
Guest blogger Stacey Lamb is an undergraduate student in Communications and Studio Art at Florida State University. The next six months should prove to be quite an adventure for her—following her internship with Steve she will be backpacking Europe and studying abroad in London in the fall. Her passion for photography, fashion, travel and music strongly influence her adventures and life goals. Read more of Stacey’s thoughts on her blog Slamb the Jam