Fashion photography is a big part of my work and here is one more story I would like share with you. A while ago I was asked by luxury childrenswear brand Amberley London to capture their elegant clothing for their website in the studio. These clothes are exceptionally beautiful, and perfectly lit in a studio environment it is easy to create great images.So when they again booked me for their new range and an outside shoot was decided I knew a totally different approach was likely to be needed. In the studio a photographer decides the light, outdoors well guess what – the weather and the sun might have a different way of looking at things.
Here are few images from the first studio session.
Thankfully my experience of such shoots and the fine planning required to overcome any lighting challenges meant that with the right team and the right equipment choice we have again delivered a wonderful set of images matching the clients brief. And I must stress the WE here, the best images are rarely the product of a lone photographer and I knew a great team would be the backbone of this particular job’s success.
So we assembled a fantastic crew including make-up artists, wonderful young models, catering and lighting assistants. And with myself and the client scoping the proposed location before the date and keeping a close eye on the weather reports I carefully selected the equipment I was certain would enable me to create the photography Amberley required.
We chose the fabulous Manor House Gardens in South East London as our spot, which on a summery day would give us exactly the surroundings and feel we desired. We then hired a large space within the Manor House itself as we needed a comfortable area to prepare in.
Children’s fashion photography
is understandably a type of job you approach with care and consideration, youngsters can tire easily and we have to ensure everyone on a shoot is comfortable and well looked after. And with Amberley’s clothing being such a refined mix of beautiful designs, exquisite fabrics and attention to detail it was imperative that both my models and the garments were lit perfectly and captured beautifully.
This is where careful equipment planning comes in. Early summer can be notoriously tricky to create great photography during the day. Harsh light, bright light and high temperatures can be a testing mix.
And we had it all; fortunately I and the team were prepared.
I had come armed with my brilliant California Sunbounce and California Sun Swatter to help me take control of the lighting conditions. The names indicate the roles they play and the extra ability they give to a photographer. The Sunbounce is a very large rectangular reflector, housed in its own lightweight frame. This is where a lighting assistant is indispensable. I cannot hold the reflector and my camera ! But with careful direction I was able to have my assistant reflect light where we struggled to find it and create striking highlights on our models when the image called for it.
But what happens when there is too MUCH light? This is a common problem on outdoor shoots and one we cannot just rely on our cameras settings to overcome. Blown highlights on skin, hotspots on clothing, this is not the recipe for good photographs. No we need something serious to help us in these conditions and that’s where the Sun Swatter comes in. Similar in shape and scale to the bounce it is a taught sheet of translucent material giving me a reduction in direct light of 2-3 stops. It basically gives you a portable piece of shade. Again set within a sturdy frame it has a support pole for precise positioning. My assistant simply holds it above the model as you would a parasol.
This enables me to negate any risk of blown highlights and to shoot with a shallow depth of field without over exposing any part of the image.
Add in another assistant with the reflector and we can create highlights really making the clothes stand out and the image ‘pop’. Between them, or used singularly, the bounce and the swatter are two of my smartest investments. As I know I have in my arsenal of light controlling devices the right equipment to produce wonderfully lit and correctly exposed images at the beginning of a shoot, the middle and the end.
In the below image of the lovely pink and white dress you can see these two products in action. Or rather you can’t and that’s the point. The lighting is totally natural but rest assured my team are controlling it. The Swatter gives me my shade, the bounce my highlights. But to the viewer this is not visible. It’s a fabulous shot that looks simple to take. And that is my aim – every single frame.
Amberley sell clothes and their customers have to trust that what they see is what they will receive. But on some of the images the light bounces of the grass and you cannot avoid a green hue, it’s physics. So we have to pay careful attention in post-production and correct this anomaly of science with some astute white balance adjustments to bring things back.
As I’m sure you already know or are learning from this piece, there is a lot more to photography than just having a nice camera and pressing the shutter. It is an art yes, but more than that it is a science.
And it is predominantly the science of light. This brings me to my last image from this session and a good example of how understanding the limits of your equipment may point you toward using something altogether different. For this is lit with a powered studio strobe. An Elinchrom Quadra shot through a deep, gridded Octa to be precise. It was clear to me that as the sun descended and we had chosen a shaded area the bounce would simply lack the power. So in turning to portable electric studio lighting we were able to continue producing perfectly lit and exposed children’s fashion photography for our client. Again relying on my assistant to hold the Einchrom under my direction, the soft light, with the grid preventing any spill off the subject, still has that natural feel of the sun and is not recognisably different to the rest of the day’s images.
And that is crucial in this type of fashion photography. Consistent quality and tone of light throughout the shoot. Created by wildly different products but delivering a constant high end look to display and compliment the designs of Amberley.
Without an intimate understanding of these light producers and controllers the day would have been lost. And without a fully readied and briefed support team it would have been pointless me bringing them.
So I hope you can see by these images that with care and consideration (and planning, lots and lots of planning) all these components dovetail in to one another seamlessly and the images you are being paid to produce deliver exactly what the client needed.
You just have to sometimes beat the sun at its own game to achieve it.
Big thank you to Rob Anderman and the team for helping me with the lighting and all the obstacles we had to overcome during entire photo shoot.
Here is one more article about the location photo shoot.