My first real (pronounced: paid) photography assignment came from a talented designer named Lea Fialho. When I was desperately looking for new ways to improve my photography, I joined several photography meetup groups through the meetup.com site. I also joined a fashion meetup group in the hopes of becoming more familiar with the world of fashion and perhaps land a few model / fashion shoots. As I looked through the member profiles on the group I came across Lea and her curious website Bustyque.com. I thought it was such a cool name that I just had to check it out. Her bio on her site said she was also Brazilian, and from Rio de Janeiro. I couldn't let this coincidence go by without some sort of comment, so I sent her a greeting through the meetup group congratulating her on her designs and introducing myself. She politely answered my greeting and that was that.
Well, several months went by and one day I get an email from Lea asking if I could shoot her look book for her. The photographer who had shot her website images was out of the country and she needed images ASAP to meet an entry deadline for DC Fashion Week in Washington DC! Wow! Talk about opportunity knocking. I just could not pass on this. "Of course I can shoot your look book, just tell me when." She said she needed to shoot right away and had a model already lined up so I just had to show up. This was a very good thing because I now had time to find out what this "look book" thing was...
Enter Murphy's Law
If anything that can go wrong will go wrong, when you have a tight schedule, even the stuff that can't go wrong...goes wrong. Two days before the shoot, Lea calls me and tells me that her model couldn't make it and she also needed a makeup artist! I told her I would try and find a model for her and that I knew a couple of makeup artists. She also wanted the model to do it for FREE!! She did not have a budget to pay for the model since she was counting on her model who was going to do it in exchange for the exposure in the look book. Well that makes things a little more difficult to say the least!
I was, at the time, new to a website called Model Mayhem. It's a networking site for models, photographers, makeup artists, designers, etc... It is not the greatest source of talent since anyone can create a profile, but when you need someone to work for free, a modeling agency is pretty much out of the question. I sent out some 16 emails to local models explaining the shoot and that they would be featured in a look book which would be sent all over the east coast from Miami to New York. I figured people would be jumping at this chance, but at such short notice, I didn't even get no for an answer.
Running out of time, I called a friend who used to work at an "exotic" (yet respectable) establishment in this area and asked her: "Please, I need you to find me a busty girl for tomorrow night!" Hey, with a name like Bustyque, the clothes would only fit well on a certain type of model. To my surprise, she didn't even flinch. "I'll ask around and see what I can do". Maybe she gets that all the time...
The makeup artist was easier. I called Kristina Pooran, who had done makeup for one of the studio meetups, and she agreed right away. At least one piece had fallen into place!
Murphy is a tough cookie
The following day (day of the shoot) I get a call from my friend who said the only girl who was interested was agency represented and could not work for free. I was about to throw in the towel when she said "what about Lauren?" Lauren was a mutual friend who was part of the adult gymnastics class I teach. She was definitely Bustyque material but, as I recalled, she worked nights. Well, I gave her a call and (here is where Murphy gets a taste of his own medicine) Lauren tells me: " sure, I just lost my job so I have nothing to do tonight".
"Great...I mean, how horrible!" It turns out the bar where Lauren was working had closed, so she was on the hunt for new job. I told her to do her hair like she was going out to a nice dinner and we would take care of the rest.
We all got together that evening at a vacant home - make that mansion - that belonged to a friend of Lea's who had passed away. The house was empty while the family decided what to do with it and we got permission to shoot in it. Lea really liked one of the walls in the house and wanted to shoot against it. While Lauren was in makeup, I started setting up for the shoot. Helping out were my mother, who has had plenty of experience in the fashion industry being a former designer herself, and my girlfriend who also has a great eye for style and helped put together some fantastic looks for Lauren.
As pretty as Lauren was, the subject of the photos had to be the clothes. I went with a very simple lighting setup to make everything bright and really show off the clothes. I used one strobe bounced off the ceiling for a nice overall fill and one strobe in a large shoot through umbrella to camera right for a little depth and to define the clothes. That was it! After that it was just a matter of going through the different outfits. All 16 of them!
Lauren had no previous modeling experience, but she pulled this off nicely. We were going through outfits very quickly. She would change, get fitted with accessories, shoes etc... Then it was 5-10 clicks of the shutter and off to change again. While she was changing we would switch things up a bit: add a chair, a chest, just make things a little different from the previous shot. I had the camera tethered to the TV so Lauren could see the pictures as I shot them. Normally I wouldn't do this, but in this case it really helped out so she could see how her poses looked and change them up to make things more interesting.
The whole thing took 6 hours from arriving at the house to packing all the gear up again. I was very impressed with both the makeup artist and Lauren. Both relatively inexperienced and yet pulled off a very convincing photo shoot.
As for me. I was exhausted and my work was just beginning. I now had hundreds of photos to go through and edit. To make things worse, the white tarp in all these images...was a painter's tarp that Lea thought would look great with all the paint splattered on it. Well...it didn't. Most of the time spent on editing was removing the paint from the tarp! I guess it was good retouching practice.
I learned a lot on this shoot. Keeping it simple certainly helped given the tight time constraints on it. Everyone had a great time and was happy with the results. Oh, and Lea was so impressed with Lauren and the makeup artist that she ended up paying them both for the shoot after all.