Steve Thornton

Fashion Imagery

An unusual fashion accessory shoot in Milan, Italy
Or: Making a visual statement to help your client get noticed

In Advertising Fashion Photography, helping the customer make money is, for me, a top priority. This particular shoot is about helping a client re-brand themselves. They wanted to have a photo to allow them to be noticed in the clutter of magazine ads with other competitors.

Asking questions of the client will get you a good idea of what they think they want. They likely do not know what they want so it will be up to you to decide how to execute the shot. The client showed me a series of images they liked. One was a shot of a woman with a bag on their head. A bit out of the ordinary but not a real statement that they said they wanted. This is a company I have been shooting for since 2007 and all of their promotions had been nice, well executed images, which is what they wanted. They are now re-branding the company as a very high end handbag line and need to make a real statement to garner attention they need. One of these bags will retail in the 6000 Euro range. (About $8000, it's made from an ultra high grade Alligator hide.)

So I said how about using a big gruff looking guy shot in a back alley. They liked the concept but had not a clue how to do it. I asked them if anyone they knew might be the guy we wanted. One of them said they might so I asked them to take their iPad & shoot photos. They came back with 96 images of this guy. But before they showed me they said to me, "I don't think this is the guy we want to use, after taking the photos I have decided he is just not the right person for us." I insisted on seeing the images & told them that I thought he was perfect. So I asked them to check the weather for Monday, and it looked good. A lot of stores in Italy are closed on Monday including his ice cream shop, yes our "model" makes gelato for a living.

I then gave the client a list of props & wardrobe I wanted them to collect for the shoot. The day of the shoot I asked everyone to meet at the client's office at 6 p.m. which was a 5 minute walk from the location I had picked out. I shot one image at the clients property (see the photo above) because I liked the wall & I knew I could adjust it in Photoshop to where I wanted it to be. Then we loaded up & went to the main location. One of the images I wanted to shoot was this guy acting like Mr. Mom with a hand bag. So I had asked the client to get at least 2 toddlers, which they got. I asked for 2 because just in case one was not having a "Good" day, the shoot could still go on.

Note: Anytime you need to shoot young children, ALWAYS book more than one. A young child will let everyone know if they are not happy and if you need to shoot an image with a young child & the one child you booked is not happy, you will not get the shot you need & your client will not be happy either.

After shooting with the kids, I sent them home and set up in a blind alley. The light is all hard light with the exception on some of the shots when I needed some fill light I used a FourSquare, which is a lightweight "travel" softbox, with a Lumedyne pack & head. Otherwise I used Lumedyne packs & heads with reflectors, one of which also had a grid spot attached. The main light was setup overhead using a Manfrotto boom. Instead of hauling the heavy counterweight that comes with the boom kit (10 pounds – 4.5 KG), I wrapped the Lumedyne battery powered pack's strap around the counterweight end of the boom & it worked great. NOTE: The Lumedyne 200 WS pack with the large battery weighs 6.5 pounds (3 KG) so it is not an exact replacement but close enough for this use.

I also had another hard light set up to be used as a background light. This way I could control how much of the BG would show in the image. If I did not use this background light the image would look like it was shot in a studio on black seamless paper.

One of the really great things about shooting on location at night is you get to control the light's quality, intensity, direction and effect on the scene. After you are in the photography business a long time you will have the ability to "See" what the final image can look like before you shoot the first frame.
The ability to pre-visualize a lighting setup will allow you to change the light quickly to match your vision. This only comes after years of trial & error on your part while on your road to learning light. Because I can do this so quickly this entire project took 2 hours 45 minutes to shoot, including the image at the clients office & the shot with the children.

In the shot below you can see how I illuminated the image above
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