“This session was a fashion editorial shot for Girls Life Magazine maybe 4 years ago now. It still remains one of my favorite and (I think) a really good teaching model as to why being able to know your way around lighting is super important.”
Sean’s Photography Tip:
The exciting part of doing a fashion editorial for a national magazine or ad work is that you are a part of the creative team – from conception through finalization of the series.
The challenge there is that you have to deliver a specific number of images. In this case, 8 images. Every scene is planned out weeks, if not months, in advance.
We aren’t simply showing up at a location with models and a team and just shooting whatever looks cool. No, each shot was planned out and thought about in advance, including the overall story.
In this case we thought it would make a cute fashion story if two girls were hanging out at a diner after school. We wanted that warm golden hour light, bright oranges and chrome. So we scouted the perfect location, arranged wardrobe and found our models and set our date.
However, the day of the shoot was a partially cloudy one with on and off again rain – not ideal for the golden hour light we were trying to capture, but a crucial reminder of how important it is to be able to expertly use studio lighting since our shoot depended on that type of light.
Shoots like these can also take 8-10 hours, so relying on natural light just won’t cut it even on a beautiful day. So in order to achieve the lighting that we wanted and needed, we surround our diner (on one side) with sets of lights with CTO (orange-ish) gels.
Each of these lights would have a reflector dish (increasing the output of the light) and would be shooting through a large panel of theatre diffusion set up a few feet in front of each of them. This would ensure that we have an even, soft, beautifully warm light streaming in all day.
We set one of my assistants outside with a walkie talkie to monitor the lights during the shoot and make sure everything was firing. On the inside, I lit the models simply with one light with a Photek Softlighter, letting the light we were pumping in from the outside of the diner supply the majority of the light for the session.
The results were beautiful! Our lighting setup gave us that steady sunset look all day and made it possible for us to meet the clients’ expectations.
This for me is why pre-planning your shoots is the most important: shot lists, having more than enough lighting, knowing your lighting, and having the ability to troubleshoot allows me to never go into a shoot blind.
Sets are really active and lots can and do go wrong during the day. If you can have your end of the work as tightly controlled as possible it will help you to deal with all the other variables that are bound to arise without compromising the shots.
On a recent shoot (which is not out yet so I can’t share) we had everything go wrong but still were able to produce excellent images despite having a car broken into, wedding rings stolen, credit cards stolen, models late, flights delayed, broken rental equipment and really hot weather.
And we only pulled it off because we had a plan. So do your homework, plan each shot, and you’ll be much more likely to end up with a successful shoot.
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