The last article I wrote for Lexar.com/DP focused on how a person new to the field of professional photography could go about building his or her portfolio. This article will focus on the process of how to manage an editorial shoot for a magazine, after you have landed the gig. Admittedly, there is a large leap from just getting your professional feet wet to being hired by a magazine for a major shoot, but it is helpful to see what kind of team you will need, what kind of preparation must take place, and what to expect.
I can't stress enough the importance of having a good team around you. Being a photographer demands being the master of many different roles, including the ability to roll with the punches, expect the unexpected, understand the demands of the client and the expectations of your models, and manage your team. I work with a clothing stylist, a makeup artist (most can double as a hairdresser; things run smoother if there is one of each), hairdresser (if needed) and a prop stylist. It's a good thing that I have all of these people to help me, because without them, I would be in real trouble!
The very definition of an editorial shoot is to follow a storyline, however brief, through the pages of a magazine. The first step is to meet with the magazine's fashion editor and receive a calendar of topics for the next three to six months. Since it will take you some time to take the shots, edit them and deliver them to the publication's art director, you will have about one or two month's worth of lead-time in order to submit the images for publication. In addition to your own needs, the magazine needs to stay ahead of the next season's fashions, and it needs time to print and be delivered to subscribers and the stores in which it will be sold. If you are shooting images for a winter campaign, you may actually be taking the shots at the end of the summer! It may seem a little strange to give yourself so much time, but it's really necessary to plan this far ahead. Also at this meeting, you will flesh out some different concepts for the shoot. It is here that you will get your first ideas for how you want the shoot to progress.
You will then hold a meeting at the shoot location with your team. Here, you will get a feel for the details, like how much natural light the location has, what sort of props and set-ups will be readily available, and any other circumstances that need to be addressed prior to moving forward with the shoot. You may be charged with shooting autumn-themed images, so is the environment right for cloudy day-shooting? You go over the clothing and hair styles that your team recommends; you discuss the wardrobe for the models; you gather a number of different themes to consider.
Once everyone has a chance to soak in the details discussed in the first meeting, you will hold a second meeting with your team. It is time to set a direction for your team, and you should have a good idea of some of the models you want to use. Always remember that communication is key; you should always be communicating with the members of your team to make sure that everyone is pursuing a common goal. The makeup artist and hairdresser coordinate with the clothing stylists to make sure that the editorial concept is consistent as well as within the publication's guidelines for the spread, as well as being fluid and able to carry the storyline well.
At the third meeting between you and your team, it is important to go over the different choices of clothing, hairstyles, prop set-ups, and models that each team member has compiled. During this gathering, you choose your models, your colors, and you finalize details about the location. The storyline is just about finalized and underway.
After the fourth (and usually) the final meeting, you make the final arrangements. You decide on the dates, you speak with the modeling agency and book models, and make the final schedule. ALL of the last-minute details need to be worked out before moving on to the actual shoot.
Finally, the day you have been waiting for has arrived. It is now that you will find out if you made the necessary preparations, or if you fell short in some places.
My shoots may progress a bit differently than those of other photographers, but my process works the best for me. On the day of the shoot, at about 7:30 or 8 in the morning, the clothing stylist, makeup artist, hairdresser, and the prop stylist all arrive and begin setting up the location. Around 8:30, the model arrives, sits in the chair and starts her makeup and hair. Usually around 9 am, I get to the shoot and speak with the model about some of the poses and shots we will be working on. I generally shoot for about twelve hours. This gives me enough time to be absolutely positive that I have captured all of the shots that the magazine needs. During all of your preparations and your shooting, you have to remember that all of the shots you are taking are for the purpose of being published to the art director's vision.
Once the shoot is complete, the hard part is over with. After the shoot, you have to edit the images and deliver them to the art director in advance of your deadline.
In addition to the importance of a good team, it is equally important to have good gear. If you have spent these countless hours managing your people and getting ready for the shoot, and your gear fails at the most critical time, you will be in real trouble! The core of my gear includes Canon cameras and lenses and Lexar memory cards. Lexar plays a huge role in my shooting, in addition to managing my shots after I'm done capturing. Without reliable equipment, all of the hard work and preparation you did to prepare for the shoot may be lost, and the poor results may hinder your ability to land other high-profile jobs in the future. Trust your team, and trust your gear!
The images below were taken at the Sofitel Hotel, Chicago for an editorial publication, and my incredible team for this shoot consisted of Liz Herbert, clothing stylist; Austria Hutcherson, makeup artist; and Gia Tummillo, hair stylist.
The models are Dani N, Ford Models/Chicago; Angela T, Docherty Agency/Pittsburgh; and Evelyn M, Charlie's Talent/Chicago