The Beginning – My First ‘Real’ Photo Shoot

With the number of technology-photography blog articles I have planned, I thought I really need to mix some purely-photography related ones as well. I mean, I’m a fashion photographer after all. Right? Though having been a technology guru for many years has certainly paid benefits! So I decided to write a completely self-indulgent article on an aspect of my photography. But what specifically?

I decided to write about my first ‘real’ photo shoot. It’s such a great story. Even though I had decided to become a fashion photographer months before, this was in many respects, ‘The Beginning’. I wanted to do a black and white, elegant fashion shoot that had a bit of old-fashion sensibilities in it. In a lot of ways, the photo shoot is really about me. I love elegance, have a classical style and a bit old-fashioned. I spent a month or two researching how I was going to do it. But really, it was quite a shot in the dark as how the final product was going to look.

For the previous 5 months before this photo shoot, I had been photographing various people and models. Really, I was just experimenting and learning how to use photography gear. Learning photography gear is not rocket-science. It’s just practice and learning how to adjust settings and how they affect each other. Practice practice and practice. Here is where the first part to the photo shoot took place.

"Remember Her"

“Remember Her”

So during one of these practice sessions, I came up on Fallon. During some of my practice sessions I would note to myself whether a model would make an especially good subject of a project I had in mind. I have to say, I’m very picky when choosing models. There is definitely a ‘look’ I’m after for a project. But even in the beginning, I was looking for models who were great at posing and emote. And the ’emote’ part is not easy! It’s no where near enough for me for a model to simply sit there, smile and expect to get good images. Models need to be fully committed to the image and open themselves. When I was photographing Fallon, I definitely saw all the qualities I liked. When I took this picture of her I thought to myself “Remember her”.

The next key was to get a hair stylist and makeup artist for the photo shoot. I had worked with a few that were good, but didn’t have the style I was looking for the project. I know I had seen some terrific work from Oxana. I had seen her work here and there on Facebook and there was this great ‘artistry’ to her work. The makeup and hair styling all seemed to fit together perfectly and balanced. Vitality without exaggeration. Elegance. I contacted her and she was totally great. She was in.

I had everything set: the studio, makeup artist/hair stylist and other gear I was renting. But not the model. You see, I originally had a blonde model for the photo shoot because I was doing a bit of a tribute to the Alfred Hitchcock’s Icy Blonde. A Grace Kelly type. The model I had asked first fit the role perfectly. But there were complications. I mean, she wanted lots of control over the images. To this day, no other model had required so much. I found this out the night before the shoot! So I had to cancel with the original model.

A bit panicky, I started calling and eMailing models that night. Fallon and I just seemed to be on the same page and it felt right. She had a few gowns she thought could work for the shoot. I started calling models at 8pm and I was finishing with Fallon at around midnight. Mind you, she had to drive an hour to get to the studio on time. She had to pack her gear, gowns and be on the road in 6 hours.

That morning didn’t start out so well. Everything was great until I locked my gear in my car! I couldn’t find the other key to open the doors! In a total panic, I rode my motorcycle to the studio and met with Fallon and Oxana and told them what was happening. Fallon calmly said: “Just go home and get it fixed. We have time.” That put me instantly at rest and did. So while Fallon and Oxana were getting ready I was dealing with my car.

Did I mention how great I thought Fallon looked and with only about 6 hours of sleep? I know coffee partially helped fuel her glow!

Hair and Makeup. Perfection

Hair and Makeup. Perfection

Fortunately, I got someone to open my car and made it to the shoot just as Fallon and Oxana were finishing up. I thought Oxana did an absolutely spectacular job with Fallon. My jaw literally dropped when I saw Fallon. Better than I could’ve possibly imagined. Everything. I loved the artistic and classic style of the hair style. The makeup was superb. I couldn’t be happier.

Fallon had brought a few gowns and the one we chose was her High School prom dress! It was super! I loved the gown. Fallon was concerned about the gold/yellow color. I re-assured her that it would look good especially in black and white. When Fallon put on the dress, she was the complete package.

Once I got into the rhythm of the photo shoot, it went quite well. Really, it helps tremendously working with talented people. At that point, it’s really all about the talent of the photographer to get the best. Frankly, the pressure makes me shoot better!

I was experimenting all over the place with light placement. Angles I would never use for your average portrait photography but worked well in this case. I had rented the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 that optically, was fantastic. Though I wish I had rented the Zeiss 50mm or possibly the 85mm. I bought the 50mm eventually for it’s versatility and with my Canon 50D at the time, makes a very decent portrait lens and use it lots! As I mentioned, I only had a Canon 50D which is on paper is an ‘okay’ camera. But I really enjoy using it. In fact, I used it on my latest shoot simply because how I enjoy it. Not the greatest sensor. With my ‘better’ Canon 5D MKII, I always felt a slight anxiety using it. In fact, I recently sold it and I haven’t missed it! This topic is for another article.

Actual photography lasted only 1.5 hours. Budget was maxed out! But when I look back, the only thing I wish is that I took more full-body shots of Fallon instead of largely half-length portraits. Simply a lack of experience and a mistake I would not repeat with my next ‘real’ photo shoot. But overall, I was very happy with the work. I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen next.

The Beginning

The Beginning

I used to be very active on Facebook, but now concentrate on Instagram. I posted an image or two of Fallon and it was incredibly well received! People knew I had only picked up a camera a few months before, so I’m sure that surprised people more. A few people came forward and wanted to work with me on some projects. I got invited to some events I wouldn’t have otherwise. At the time, the movie “The Artist” was playing and this photo shoot resonated with that movie. Completely coincidental since I wasn’t watching movies at the time and simply didn’t pay attention. When I put out my casting call for my second ‘real’ photo shoot that was going to have a similar style, my inbox just went crazy! It was hard keeping up with the models that wanted to be in the project!

This photo shoot taught me so much and would lay the foundation for many of my processes, photography-beliefs and most importantly, the type of photography I was going to focus on for a career!

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

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