There are so many aspects of a photo shoot that take place to get those effortless images that tell a story or inspire a dream. Before the months of post-production begin, a crew of talented people, each bringing their own specialty to the table, all comes together to bring an idea to life.
The idea began last December…starting with an introductory meeting with Rachel Roy, a peek at the spring collection for inspiration and a clear understanding of the scope of the project. Kevin, Kelly and I went to work concepting what the Rachel Roy woman was to us, and what story we wanted to tell. With inspiration from Georgia O’Keeffe, the colors of the spring collection, and the words from the designer “Effortless, Elegant, Exotic” bouncing in our head, we came up with the idea of American Exotic: our desert wanderer finding herself in the arid landscape out west. We wanted to put the clothes in an environment that would make them sing.
Once approved by Rachel we got to work with our producer. Where can we shoot in January that matches our vision but isn’t covered in snow? Locations had to be scoured with everything we needed for our shot list and then approved. Budget estimates had to be tweaked. Local crew had to be booked. Our model and muse had to be chosen. This is how we spent our Christmas holiday: taking work phone calls at family gatherings, working out equipment lists, renting equipment, buying film, writing video direction, confirming the crew and finalizing everyone’s scheduling with the producer.
One of the most important parts of being a photographer is directing everyone. Communication is everything. Only I can see what is in my head; I have to set the path, make the decisions and comunicate with everyone what we are going to do when and how, what time is call time because of the logistics of the locations and the light, when we are going to scrap one idea and head to another because I have a gut feeling.
And then, finally, we shoot.
Here is a small glimpse of what it looked like and how it worked ~
Deciding where to shoot, what angle is best, how the light is and where the model should go is all tested out before our model gets on set with stand-in shots. The art director, an assistant, the stylist will all stand-in and help me visualize what I want by letting me test shots until we have worked it out and can then get our equipment ready.
Making moments with can-do assistants
Having high energy, can-do-anything assistants is such a critical part to any photoshoot and making magic happen! Here is Jeff getting filthy so our muse can be kissed by the desert smoke in the final shot emerging from the cave.
There is a lot of looking at shots…
talking to the art director / client about shots…
figuring out shots…
and seeing if we got the shot.
Sometimes you have to lay on your back on the hot rocks, sometimes you get bruised from smoke bombs blowing up in your face, and sometimes you’re a dude who thinks this is really fun.
The stylist is always there by your side watching, checking, tweaking, tucking, smoothing, and pinning our model. No detail is too small, and as you know, the camera sees everything.
… and Kelly comes with a lot of options.
We have built up quite a trust and language between each other since our first shoot together. As collaborators it’s important to us to be on the same page, to agree on the vision and share ideas. We push each other, we challenge each other and we spend hours concepting future shoots or answering the phone in the middle of the night when the stylist can’t find the clothing we are supposed to shoot the next day…
Gotta love your models. Gabriella had to withstand below freezing temperatures in Joshua Tree, 5am call times, shoes that gave her blisters, being engulfed in sulfur smelling smoke and winds that nearly blew her over while standing on top of a bolder in high heels. She was such a trooper and you must take care of your talent because if the model fades – the shoot is over. They always come first. Water, robes, food, breaks, endless hugs, whatever they need.
Then there are the ever important iPhone moments as in the age of social media, everything must also be shared in real time…
It’s all about team work.
It’s also all about hustling to catch that perfect light…
…and choosing very talented people to work with. Especially when they show up looking like the female version of Johnny Depp and finish a shoot day with a snifter of Mezcal, making you realize you will never be that cool no matter how much swagger you think you have.
Then there are the moments when you are waiting at the next shoot location and you pray to god the PA’s remember which exact rock formation they left you are at… I particularly love this moment when our assistant mentioned wild cougars live around here.
Of course there are the amazing moments when you find yourself in incredible places and you realize how small and fragile humans really are under the awe-inspiring might of Mother Nature.
Producers become your new best friend. Peter was an encyclopedia of locations, recommendations, organization, putting together our LA team and keeping everyone happy, fed and taken care of. I got very used to someone always telling me “yes” to every single wish or desire *sighs*. They also are there to give you hugs at the end of the day when you are so happy and want to share the moment.
Guys & their gear.
I don’t think I ever sit down or stop shooting when we are on location or even on-set at the studio. I’m always watching, always looking for something I haven’t seen yet. Our studio assistant Carly came along on this shoot with us to assist with all digital management and help shoot some of these behind-the-scenes shots. I particularly love this one of me so small and alone in this wild desert environment in a moment of quiet reflection.
It’s very important to have a home base. Venturing out into the vastness of Southern California it was great to have a space for everyone to prep, eat, use the restroom, take a break, steam clothes, and apply hair and makeup. Every evening on the long ride home I would sit at the table and begin the editing process. Managing all the day’s created content, making sure it has all been backed up, pulling selects to show with the client to double check we are on track and plan for any looks we might want to shoot a second option for on the next day.
When we got back to our hotel all photo equipment has to be checked, cleaned, charged and re-packed for the next day… and what a day it is when your job is taking photographs.
Thanks to the amazing crew for all your hard work on the Rachel Roy Spring 2013 campaign starring Gabriella Lopez, styled by Kelly Framel, hair & makeup by Gloria Noto, Produced by Peter McClaffery, digital assistant & BTS Carly Piersol, 1st assistant and B-roll Jeff Maksym, Andie Lipton from Rachel Roy & the assistant PA’s shot in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, Cougar Buttes and the Salton Sea.