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.