Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No Day Like a Snow Day


     In honor of this week's snowpocalypse, I thought I'd begin my behind-the-scenes posts with a snow shoot. Two weeks ago, during 2014's first big snow storm, Asheville saw around an inch of the fluffy white stuff. While almost every part of me wanted to curl up in a blanket and read all day, that nagging little photographer voice in my brain knew that the weather had given me the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.

     Snow is one of nature's most unpredictable artistic tools. On the one hand, a flat white snowy expanse can be about as boring as it gets, a blank canvas begging for a human or natural touch. (Of course, this is more of an exaggeration, snowy landscapes are often the most majestic.) However, a white blanket of snow also creates a natural reflector to throw indirect sunlight back into the shadows - perfect for portraiture. And the sun always shines a little brighter when you don't have class, doesn't it?

      For this particular shoot, Jaimie put together a (sassy!) white and animal print work outfit that happened to pair beautifully both with the white snow, and the earthen tones of the sky and trees. Though I am typically drawn to saturated colors, something about the flatter natural tones really brings these photos to life.

    My favorite part of the shoot was the quality of light that nature gave me. While I am perfectly comfortable shooting with an external flash and interior lights, working with natural light creates an aesthetic that I find much more pleasing. Sunlight brings out warm tones alluding to pleasantness, a nice change from the typical cold light of the not-so-great indoors.
     Not only did the sun act as a reflector, as I said before, naturally filling the photo with warm light, but it also gave me a great backlight and spotlight. The rays hitting Jaimie's profile gave her an angelic halo, and the sunlight streaming onto her face created a radiant glow that accentuated her features. Best of all, the snow and sun played together making a dark-to-light gradient that added interest to each photo and helped bring the viewer's eye through the image. And, of course, who can pass up a good lens flair?

I didn't take many close-up in this particular shoot because the openness of our "studio" allowed me to use my 50mm fixed lens at far distances. But, I couldn't pass up the chance to shoot one cropped-in portrait, and I couldn't be happier with the bright and beautiful photo that resulted. We certainly had a more productive snow day than many other college students did.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Foray into a New Genre: Fashion Photography

     When I was a teenager (back in those good ole days about two years ago) I binge-watched America's Next Top Model marathons marveling at the incredible variety of environments the photographers shot in. From posed shots in a freezing swimming pool to candid photos jumping and "fighting" in Samurai warrior garb, the ANTM photographers braved the elements - and the crazy girls - to create amazing portraits. Some promoted products such as Covergirl, others showed off clothing lines, and many challenges simply demanded the models to create flawless photos.

     For portrait shoots for my ASE Photography business, my obvious goal is to create beautiful portraits for clients. Generally, that means choosing a picturesque location - cobbled streets, a flower garden, anywhere with a sunset - for a pleasant background. For a long time, I have wanted to expand my shooting environments to emulate the fantastic photos from the ANTM competitions. Luckily, that opportunity came along recently when Jaimie Dorfman, a fellow UNCA athlete (volleyball player) and fashion enthusiast approached me to help her with her new fashion blog.
     Thus far, we have done 7 outfits, in 5 different places - 2 night outfits at Sazerac downtown,1 work outfit in the Justice Center at UNCA and one in the Sherril, 1 work outfit in Pack's Square Park, and 2 in Jaimie's very own kitchen.

     Each has presented a rather challenging lighting situation from low light to heavy florescent light to glaring snow reflections. But the fun part has been getting to photograph a model as she would act in the particular environments, especially since none of the shoots were done in a professional studio situation. Since we want to sell the idea that each outfit is perfect for the particular environment, Jaimie and I both have to pay very close attention to every detail so that the shots promote her wardrobe choices.

      For example, in the particularly difficult (ever work with really yellow harsh lights?) "work outfit" shoot, our goal was to characterize Jaimie as an office manager in a smart black suit with a girly white shirt underneath. This professional yet playful outfit called for strict lines - her rigid posture, the straight lines of the desk - with a little fun thrown in, with her sitting on the edge of the desk. Props in fashion photography are especially important as they add to the believability of an environmental portrait, and the coffee mug and legal pad subtly place Jaimie at the beginning of the work day looking over her daily list of things to do. 

     Another challenge of fashion photography, and a change to my typical portraiture, is making a model look incredibly attractive while not smiling. That is not to say that unsmiling people are less beautiful necessarily, however the general population's attractiveness can only improve with even the slightest of grins. However, in the fashion industry, "smizing," coined by the ever-modelesque Tyra Banks, demands that a model smile with her eyes and not her mouth creating an aloof yet inviting mood. So, for each environment I also have to pay much attention to what expression and body language the situation dictates. A "night out" at the bar could be fun with the model sipping a cocktail, or it could call for an impatient expression of a girl waiting for someone who is late. And a valentines day look can be fun with the model laughingly "preparing dinner" or sexy, saying that this is the right outfit to attract the guys.

     Although some people (me included at the very first) might think that fashion photography is easy, simply snapping shots of beautiful people in attractive (and sometimes outlandish) clothing, it is just as, if not more, demanding than any other genre, simply because of the incredible attention to detail necessary.
    As my partnership with Jaimie continues, I will continue this series of fashion posts detailing the keepers and bloopers of each shoot. You can also follow her fashion posts at where she will tell you what to wear and where to buy it.