You know, as a photographer I’m always interested watching other photographer’s work, how they work and what their process is. When I come around at NYFW I’m very aware that I’m in the colosseum with these guys (who mostly ignore me since I’m the quiet one in the skirt) and this is their world. For the most part I stay out of their way which has saved my neck in more than one intense backstage moment, for example, one photographer physically threw out the other guys. It’s a cut throat job, everyone has to get the shot. I am, just as my NYFW coverage is, a silent observer of all the players in this world. It’s intense, the equipment is heavy and exhausting, and the schedule is relentless. I cornered one outside Jenny Peckham’s show to get the 411 on just what they are up to and how they shoot those photos we all see mins after the lights of the catwalk dim….

Talking to: Robert Mitra, Conde Nast Photographer, shooting fashion week for 25 years.

What Camera and lens do you use shooting the runway?

Canon Mark IV with a 70-200mm lens, always on a monopod.

What is it like in the pit?

A LOT OF FIGHTING FOR SPOTS. The Italians are always on the right, the french on the left and the middle is a melting pot.

What happens to the images after the show?

You have a runner that comes and takes the camera card to the office. I use no more than an 8GB size card in case the card corrupts and I shoot on JPG, around 1,000 frames.

Why don’t you shoot RAW?

Raw is like print film and you use photoshop, jpg is like slide film ran as it is. No retouching done after delivery.

How do you shoot backstage beauty?

Every guy does it differently, they build their own lighting setups. I use the same lens and also a 24-105mm with a Canon ring light.

What is your shutter and aperature typically set at?

The shutter is usually round 500 and I shoot at 2.8. I shoot shallow so the background is soft focus for the subject to stand out. Also, when you shoot wide open your lens is sharper.

You guys are not using flash on the runway, how do you meter for the ambient light?

You just light meter as the first girl comes down.

Do you just shoot full length?

No, I shoot everything from full length, three-quarters, accessories (handbags, jewelry), and shoes. There are some guys who only shoot accessories and they typically use a 200mm lens for that.

How has it changed since you first started 25 years ago?

When I first started there were 6-7 photogs shooting the shows. Vogue, WWD, NYT, the top publications. Before you had to be with a magazine or newspaper but now it has changed. Photographers from around the world, stock agencies, bloggers, and online media are all here.

22 thoughts on “The PHOTOGRAPHERS

  1. Kudos for featuring the photographers in the pit, it’s so rare. I’ve met some interesting personalities in the pit myself, and just stayed out of their way. It’s amazing how times have changed. The ones shooting FW for over 25 years must hate the newbies encroaching on their territory. I call it the press pyramid!

  2. Such a great interview. That pit is crazy. My first time in a pit I was off to the side and someone starting shooting with flash in the middle of a show. I’m a street photographer and was just trying my hand at fashion week and shooting runway and backstage so I had no clue what to expect. I thought someone was going to have a heart attack or that there was about to be a brawl…they kicked the guy out. I tend to stay in the shadows while I’m working (although ironically, rarely in general life), out of the way, quietly observing all the craziness and waiting for stories to unfold as they inevitably do. That’s what I love about photography and my main reason for doing it…the stories that happen, the ones I get to make up, watching while no one else is, and the emotion and feeling behind it all. Great post and photos (as always).

  3. Interesting post, concert photography can get crowded in the pit too! I am fascinated that they are able to get such great images in such chaos! Not to take anything from Robert Mintra’s skill or 25 years of experience, but i can tell you that a lens is NOT sharper at wide open, specifically the 70-200 2.8L at F2.8 with or without IS is sharpest at F4.0-5.6 across it’s focal range (70-200mm). This is especially true for faster lenses (lower F-stops like 1.2,1.4,1.8, 2.8), they are notoriously famous for NOT being sharp. Usually their centers are much sharper than the edges,which can vary depending on if it is a full size sensor or cropped sensor.

  4. What a fascinating post Jamie! And the pics are the perfect complement to the interview. Thank you for sharing that other side of the fashion world that we rarely get to see!

  5. I’ve always been curious about the photographers at the fashion shows. I knew it was competitive but had no idea that it was this brutal. Thank you for the insight into the world of Fashion Shows from a photographer’s perspective.

  6. This is such a useful post for me. I did pit for the first time at LFW and it was an experience to say the least. I sat on the floor in front of the guys and they really do love to scrutinise you, who you are and your equipment. I found it amusing though. Its a mans world at the moment, hopefully that will change. They are very brutal though. One of the presentations the model blinked at the end of the catwalk and they screamed at her. Which I feel is actually quite unprofessional during a show. Once again great post

  7. Job well done getting this interview down. I am just starting to shoot local runway shows and I so far like it. I enjoy observing the rush in front of me but I still keep my eyes open for those unique moments.

    You are by far my favorite photographer Jamie Beck. You are an inspiration and your style is flawless. If I ever make it up to NYC, I would love to meet you and Kevin someday. Cheers.

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