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.