Photographer's Notes: Bethany's Fashion Photography Process
By Bethany Reed, (@brrphoto)
Whether I am working on an idea of my own or helping to produce someone else’s idea, my workflow [when approaching a fashion shoot] is usually always the same. The very first thing I do is look for inspiration to start putting together a mood board - so that way when I do present my idea to whoever I am asking to be on board, [like a modeling agency], they immediately have an idea of what I want to do. A mood board/vision board is a collection of images (or sometimes even physical materials/text) that can help get across the concept of the shoot. I use this to help pin down hair, makeup, location, wardrobe, and the overall mood of the shoot. Pinterest is amazing!
Here is a mood board from a recent shoot of mine. The idea was to go over to Sun Valley, where Southern CA was recently hit with some pretty horrible fires to find some charred up spots to shoot in. That was really the bones of the shoot and we built it from there. The model knew of an amazing HMUA (hair and makeup artist) and the two of them exchanged some ideas that she later shared them with me. Later, I added that to my mood board. I tried to include sample images of the location as well as some props I wanted to try, and some wardrobe and posing inspo.
After we set a date that worked for all of us my last step was to find a stylist. I used to really love styling all of my own shoots but having a professional stylist on board elevates the shoot to another level, especially if it’s an editorial. Financially, it makes more sense right now as well since I used to buy/thrift all of my own pieces, and that really adds up quickly. Once the stylist was confirmed I was then able to create a Call Sheet (essentially a schedule of the day that also includes the entire team’s contact information and the shoot details. I also include my mood board on my call sheet) and send it out to everyone. When working through a model's agent, it is imperative to keep them in the loop and make sure they receive all of this information as well.
On shoot days I’m always super nervous. Especially because as the photographer, if you’re not setting up a studio or prepping in another way, the first hour or two of the shoot you’re just sitting around waiting for the model to finish hair and makeup and planning out shots in your head.
This particular shoot I wanted to be more editorial than my recent work so when shooting, my focus was centered heavily on posing. This is where working with an experienced model was a must for me - I love weird and unusual movement and exaggerated angles and not all models know how to move that way. I used my wide angle (24-70mm) lens a lot of this day to really exaggerate the model and capture how amazing our location was. I also had a separate filter with me that I had covered with a thin layer of chap-stick to give some of the images this pretty hazy feel. If i’m not using that I’m using my Sigma Art 50mm for the tighter shots.
On test shoots it is also my job to remember to not only shoot for myself, but to get shots focused on the styling and the hair/makeup so that every member of the team has usable images.
We were only able to shoot three looks that day because we ran out of light, and hair/makeup was changed after each look. If you’re hoping to submit for publication you probably want to have anywhere from 4-7 looks, although there are plenty of publications that accept way fewer looks. We also had a later call time than I prefer, but due to scheduling sometimes that is unavoidable. The earlier the better is my motto because there are usually problems to solve and if you start early you have time to solve them.
Although I don’t always follow this rule, I TRY to import my images into Lightroom immediately after the shoot and back them up to a drive just in case. After that I go through all of the images and star my favorites, then I send those in contact sheets to the team so they can pick their selects. I don’t always know what to look for in hair and makeup shots so I value the opinions of my team. If working through an agency I also send the contact sheets their way so they can pick their choices to be retouched. I am notorious for spreading myself too thin and retouching way too many images but it is not uncommon to only receive a handful of photos from a test shoot - especially since time is money and no one was being paid.
Here is a sample image from our shoot and a brief run-down of my retouching workflow:
- First I do global adjustments in Lightroom.
(adjusting highlights and shadows as well as color sometimes and enabling profile corrections.)
- Then, from Lightroom I open the image in Photoshop to do more detailed retouching.
- Once I am satisfied I save the images back into Lightroom and add any finishing touches. 99% of the time there is some grain. For this, I look to see that those changes are subtle. I try to keep my retouching as realistic as possible.
Here are some rules I follow when shooting fashion:
- Usually I shoot the model BELOW eye level; this helps elongate them.
- I also Keep a close eye on wardrobe - it’s the little things that can turn a beautiful image into a messy one.
- If your model has their hands in their pockets, remember THUMBS OUT! Otherwise they have wrists with no hands attached.
- I often carry around reference poses on my phone for models who aren't as experienced or to make sure we get a similar shot.