ANATOMY OF A FASHION SHOOT by Philip Stanley Dickson
Headwear by Arabella Bridal
I often get asked how I go about planning and carrying out a fashion shoot, so I thought I would take the time to provide some details here and provide you with some tips and tricks that us professionals use.
How the shoot is planned is dependent on who it is for and how much they bring to the table in terms of direction and ideas. A client could contact me and have almost all of the details, including model, location, creative team and mood boards all planned out - in that case I am just there to apply my knowledge and experience to deliver their vision.
This shoot left me with a lot more to do than that which is why it is an ideal one to dissect!
The client contacted me with an idea to shoot 40 or so products for a website. The products were all bridal headwear - hats and fascinators etc. It was to be with one model and I had choice over the model, subject to their approval. There were various suggestions for venues too, and I added to that list with my large experience in shooting fashion shoots and weddings in many locations round Edinburgh.
Basically, I get as much information as possible from the client, to try to understand what they are trying to achieve. Asking them to show me photos that they like helps me zone in on what sort of style they want. As the model makes or breaks the shoot, getting a comprehensive understanding of what the client wants in this area is essential. For example, some of the requirements here were: dark hair required as most of the products are white - so they will stand out better; age to be mid-20s ‘looking’, which left me free to choose someone younger (when make-up and hair is done, young models always look older), but not too young. I added my own criteria here and it was great skin. Knowing that a lot of the shots would be quite tight crops (beauty style shots) I knew that the better the skin, the less time I would need to edit afterwards. This is a realistic concern over 40 images, as you can imagine.
Using all that information, I went through old photos of model shoots and came up with a shortlist for the client. As it happened, top of the list was Emily Jones (from Superior Model Management) who I had worked with previously on a published fashion shoot.
What comes first? Model, Creative Team or Location?
Arranging to get everyone in one place at one time is always a headache and a lot of shuffling around is required. My usual priority is to try to secure the model, and get a selection of dates they are available. Then I move on to the venue and may even ask a few suitable venues at the same time if they can host us on those dates. I do this as it takes time for some venues to come back to me, and if time is tight for organising the shoot, then I will take the first offer I get back. The other venues are never concerned about this as nothing was promised anyway. Next time we may shoot there, so it’s always amicable. One lesson I learned years ago was never to make promises to anyone (models, venues, clients etc) that I can’t keep. Keep it real, have realistic expectations and don’t BS to people.
I’ve shot a couple of weddings at Dalhousie Castle and love the olde worlde atmosphere about the place - it’s full of suits of armour, big old windows and fireplaces, with lots of grand public rooms too - so I thought this would be an ideal location. The client agreed and the venue was happy to host us for a copy of the photos to use, so it was green lights all round. The client also sourced Edinburgh Beautography to do the hair and make up.
The team is in place, the venue and date confirmed, what’s next?
Did I mention how important it is to understand the client’s brief? I think I may have mentioned it once or twice! That’s the only way I know what to bring along to the shoot - from cameras and lenses, lighting equipment, power adaptors, assistants, food, drink, model release forms, props, ladders and anything else that the brief demands. Some things may need bought in advance (backgrounds, props etc), some things may need picked up, or simply put in one place so that I can’t forget them. All the camera gear and lighting has got to be sorted out the day before - and all batteries charged. No point in turning up for a big shoot and your batteries run out half way through - humiliation is never a good look!
I also need a clear understanding of how people are arriving, in case people need taxis booked or picked up at the train station. It’s also important to find out the time constraints everyone has - from the client, to the model to the venue. There’s really no point in shooting for 30 minutes per product for 40 products. I really can’t work out how many hours that shoot would last, but it would be one heck of a long shoot!
I often use the number of products to shoot and the finish time we are aiming for to work out how long we have per product. It makes sense, if you have 2 minutes per product, then you need to know that at the start of the day, not half way through where things will suddenly have to get rushed and frantic and the quality of the shots may be compromised.
That takes care of the majority of the planning and logistics from the shoot - so I’ve now arrived at Dalhousie, been in touch with everyone and we are all there! That’s always a good feeling and a relief to be honest. I’ve had no-shows before and had to really hustle to make the shoot happen - but that’s another story.
To find out what happens next - tune in here for instalment 2 - coming soon.
Philip Stanley Dickson