Steve Thornton
Award Winning Advertising and Editorial Fashion Photography

On October 19th, 2014 there was a knock on my hotel room door. I was staying at the Hermitage Hotel, in downtown Nashville, across the street from the Great State of Tennessee's capitol building. I got up, opened the door and there was a slim and very attractive young woman. As we shook hands she said that she was Clare Bowen (A star of the TV show "Nashville") and thanked me "for doing this" (the photo shoot for "Cowgirl Magazine".) I replied that I was delighted that she was here and proceeded to show her my producer's hotel room where the festivities would start.

Clare's make up and hair styling crew were waiting to begin the light work that Clare needed. I say "Light Work" because she look pretty good to me as she was standing barefoot in the hotel hallway. While Clare was being attended to by her wonderful crew, my wardrobe stylist then looked at both what Clare brought plus what "Cowgirl Magazine" had sent and put together ideas of what went with what. It was ultimately up to what Clare wanted to wear and we went with her decisions. The reality is Clare could have closed her eyes and no matter where she pointed, that look would have been just fine. Clare has good taste in clothes and the magazine sent some stunning wardrobe too.

Opening page

The running horse shot above was shot with a 400mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f4 shot with a Canon camera set at 1/200 second shutter speed and 640 ISO all mounted onto a Sachtler fluid head using Gitzo carbon fiber sticks.


Part of any great fashion editorial, or an editorial story about a celebrity or personality, will be the clothes the person is wearing. It needs to allow then to look their best and they need to look as if they "Belong" in the clothes, not just that they are hanging on the person. My styling team will select the items they think will "work" for each "Look" I will shoot. Kara-Lisa, on the right, is organizing items for Vicki to choose from.

In the mean time my assisting crew started to assemble the items I thought I might need for the shoot. When I got a call from Vicki letting me know that the hair and makeup team said there was about 30 minutes left before Clare would be ready, I asked my crew to move all of the gear downstairs to the grand lobby in the Hermitage Hotel.

On the right is Vicki, my Producer and lead stylist, is working with Clare on the items to be used.
After my crew was in the lobby, I went there and showed them what I wanted and then went back upstairs to Vicki's room because she called me to let me know I could look at the hair and makeup to be sure it was what I was looking for, which it was. The first image we shot was at the grand piano. I elected to shoot this first due to a wedding being conducted in a room just past the piano. I had about 25 minutes to set up, adjust, modify the light and shoot before the wedding guests were to start arriving. So everyone had to get the hitch out of their get-along... and we did just that.
The next look was on a dark green couch in the lobby. I had my assisting crew move the couch about 2 feet (0.6 meters) away from the wall to provide some visual separation between the couch and the wall. This also allowed better control of the light fall off from the overhead light source. Even with my using a grid, the ability to control this extra scattered light is helpful.
Green Couch
Here Vicki & Kara-Lisa are looking for styling issues. This way I can concentrate on light and Clare's expressions.
This shows the light setup for the shot. That is a FourSquare 30x30 softbox with a Lightools 40° grid. It is up high to not have all the light concentrated in just one spot. The light is from a Lumedyne battery powered strobe system. The power was set at 100 watt seconds. I am using a 24-70mm f2.8 Canon zoom lens set at f8 and 27mm, the Canon camera was set at 320 ISO and 1/30 second shutter speed. Someone commented to me that I did not need all of this extra light. I explained that being able to control the light it gives me the ability to shape the look of the image.
He then questioned just how powerful the strobe light really was. I looked and I had one frame where the strobe did not fire. I showed him the image and he then understood, see below. As you can see the strobe is almost 100% of the light in the general scene and 100% on the main part of the image. We call this technique "Overpowering the ambient light." Meaning the strobe is much brighter than the existing light.
BTS no strobe
On horse
We then shot another look on the mezzanine, next to where Minnesota Fats, who lived in the hotel for years, had his pool table set up while he plied his trade. After this shot we went to lunch followed by a short drive to where Clare had her horse boarded to finish the day's shoot. This is the only look we shot that the magazine did not run, it happens, I only get so many pages and I think they exceeded what they originally told me... so zero complaints from me about this.
Not published
This shows how the above image was shot. Camera/lens info: Shutter speed was 1/8 second, f5.6, 320 ISO using a 24-70mm Canon lens at 24mm. The primary light is from the FourSquare 30x30 softbox and the light from the Lumedyne head bounced into the Tota-Flector adds a crispness to the light on Clare's face.
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Clare Bowen - Nashville

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