A day in the life of the portrait photographer: Behind the scenes of the Evelyn Alex Launch photo shoot
When Leanne and Sue first asked me if I could shoot the launch of their clothing line Evelyn Alex in January, I didn’t think twice about it. I decided I would do my usual natural-light fashion photo shoot, which I’d been doing for more than a decade.
As a natural-light portrait photographer, I always thought sunlight filtering through a window was the most flattering light solution for portraits. It took me years of learning, practicing, and mastering to take beautiful portraits using available light. When it comes to natural light, there are two challenges that can’t be overcome: unpredictable weather and the time of day. (Below images are some of samples of my previous work of natural light fashion photoshoot)
As you can imagine, the launch of a clothing line involves stylists, hair and make-up artists, models, and numerous outfit changes. So it’s an event that can’t easily be rescheduled if the weather is bad. This was especially true in this case, since Evelyn Alex was in time crunch and needed the images quickly.
As EA is all about Real Girls and Real Life, we wanted to go with non-professional models for the shoot. Out of so many of great candidates from all over the DC area, we chose six girls to represent the brand. They were totally new to photo shoots and never had any training for posing in front of camera. I knew I would have to direct the girls to move and pose for the pictures.
As you all know, I don’t like “posy posy” images, and even having a backdrop is not my style. With a fixed lighting set-up to create consistent images for the website, I had to make sure the backdrop and other settings were consistent as well. I looked through lots of fashion websites, posing guides, and catalogues to inspire myself, but none of them really spoke to me. I finally found a few magazine images that I liked, and I tore them out and taped them onto the corner wall of the studio where everyone could see them. I ended up being creative and directed the girls to jump, fly, spin, cartwheel, and just be happy. It worked perfectly! (And I learned that I just can’t be posy-posy.)
The EA collection I photographed is for spring and summer, so I also wanted to make the scene bright, fun, active, and real, without bringing in distracting props and colorful backdrops. The white backdrop provided a clean, modern look, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t boring and plain, so I incorporated fresh flowers, headphones, skateboards, and a wind blower.
To make sure the girls were relaxed and natural, they needed to DO something like smelling flowers, listening to music, dancing, jumping, spinning, or skateboarding. I knew posing for the camera would only make them feel shy and unnatural, but with the warm wind blowing through their hair, lighting flashing and loud music pumping, the girls felt like they were at a party. And that was exactly how I wanted it to be!
I also needed to feature individual outfits. Since EA will be launched exclusively online, I needed to accurately show the detail of the garments. I tried to show each style’s true and natural fit, even when the model was in action. My background as a fashion professional came into play during the preparation stage. I tried to see the whole process as not only a photographer, but also from a designer’s perspective.
All the staff members, including EA designers Leanne Moss and Suejin Orlins; and the amazing stylist Jen Roberti and her assistant Lindsay Chaney; my talented assistants Eunice Choi and Beatriz Tuncer; and of course all six models got together to fit the clothes and prepare the sequences for the shoot. This was about a week before the actual shooting day. Jen planned everything ahead of time and brought all the accessories. This part took longer than I had thought, as we added more styles and scenes as we went along. The girls were fantastic, trying out different sizes and switching shoes constantly. We took some quick photos to make the sequence chart, which looked like the images below.
On the day of the photo shoot, everyone came to the studio at 8:30 AM. I specifically asked everyone to arrive with a full stomach because I believe the best smiles come from full bellies. With any activity you do, you must give your body the energy it needs! As we wanted to tackle all 18 group sequences and individual shots along the way, we had to move quickly. Make up and hair was minimal – we wanted the real girls’ look, so we did not have to change anything from how they normally looked, and they were gorgeous! I gave a quick workshop on how to move in front of camera – with the emphasis on what not to do, including the most important two:
1. don’t point your elbow toward the camera
2. don’t do a “CHEESE” smile
We also practiced a few jumps and few head turns, and we were ready to start shooting at 10AM.
The wind was blowing, the girls’ hair was flowing, the fun music was playing – and before we knew it, everyone’s stomach was growling. We realized we had done half of the sequences, and it was noon. Leanne ordered 13 burritos from Chipotle with lots of guac and chips. We all sat down on the floor and started munching. All the girls (they were from different schools, and so they had not met before) had become best friends, and the studio was filled with laughter .
The latter half of the session was a breeze, and it seemed everyone had become experts on what they were doing. It was an amazing transformation from real girls to professional models. I knew the whole session was an unforgettable experience for these girls, and the pictures that came from the session would always remind them how much fun they had that day. Everyone was excited when the final sequence was done successfully! What fantastic team we had been!
I had taken more than 1,000 images total. There were tons of exciting and fun shots – but here are few of my favorites. The video of our session was shot on my little Cannon S90 on tripod. I am so glad that I shot some video clips of the session, to be able to make the BTS video. Here is the video of what really happened during the shoot.
Evelyn Alex clothing is made in the USA. Their styles focus on fun, comfortable, and easy styles for girls sizes 8 to16. If you have a hard time finding clothes for your tween daughter at the mall, you have to check it out!
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