Mannequin poses in fashion e-commerce photography is now a thing of the past. Fact. Fashion website brands are now dominated by a hybrid style of photography that mixes editorial influences whilst satisfying the desire of the customer to view garments before purchase. We go behind-the-scenes with British fashion photographer Luke Ayling as he shoots 40 looks for The Sports Edit in one day.
The lines between editorial and e-commerce photography in fashion are blurred more than ever. The quality of the photography for online only fashion houses can be make or break in a highly competitive industry. Photographers like Luke offer a solution that captures an entire line that will best appeal to the client’s customer base, whilst ensuring turnaround time is lightning quick.
We were invited down to Woods Lodge Studio, just outside of London, UK to watch Luke and The Sports Edit team in action, and had an opportunity to pick his brain for some tips in how to be best prepared to shoot for e-commerce in the fashion world of 2017.
Prepare for the Shoot
With such a large shot list to get through, being prepared is more than just relying on the fashion house turning up with the clothing and a model. Lots of legwork is done before anyone sets foot on set. The set and lighting need to have been set-up and tested, shot lists at hand, and ensuring everyone is arriving on time with the right frame of mind is key to maintaining a level of quality throughout the day.
Tethering to a computer on set means speed. Speed in analysis of shots, and speed in shot selection, Luke explains...
First and foremost it engages the whole team in the shoot and into the final product. But more importantly ensures that the high quality we set is maintained throughout the shoot. Everyone from the Art Director to the model, makeup artist, and stylist can see how the images are looking in real time as they come into the computer and can address any issues as quickly as possible. I prefer to tether my Nikon d750, via a Tether tools cable to my Macbook Pro using Capture One as my raw processor. There are many options for tethering but I find that this is the most stable and professional approach.
A Team Sport
In this particular shoot we had 40 looks to get through. In order for that to happen a huge amount of trust is shared between the whole team to ensure that everyone is engaged and focused on the job in hand and that their area of focus is looked after. If one member of the team drops the ball then the whole shoot can suffer.
Fashion houses understand the importance of maximizing their time in the studio with photographer and model, so often send a team of stylists, lead by an Art Director. It was immediately apparent that this well oiled machine created the space for Luke to work creatively with the model when in front of the camera.
On any big production, every member of the team is as important as the next, and the collective goal of that team is key in making a shoot a success. Most people would consider the photographer, model, makeup artist, hair stylist, and clothes stylist as the key members in a team but may not consider an Art Director. What an Art Director brings other than the shoot production is an overall knowledge of the brand, ensuring that the message and style of the whole shoot fits the brand goals and aspirations. I feel its key that the photographer has trust in the art director as in a fast paced shoot, with shot choices being made in real time you need to rely that the your creative goals are shared.
The Technical Stuff
Whilst web-only fashion houses will be looking for delivery of low to medium resolution JPEGs to maintain the speed of their site, Luke is adamant to shoot in raw, giving him maximum flexibility with the final images post delivery.
The settings I used on this shoot was f/11, ISO 100, 1/160s, custom WB, and I always shoot in raw. Even though these images will eventually be resized and compressed for use on web, my approach is to work and edit on the highest quality image possible, and then re-size from there. That way you always have a high-res version that you can fall back on for your own portfolio and/or any other print or press obligations.
Next, Luke gives us a explanation of his simple, yet effective lighting setup he used on this shoot.
My lighting setup for this shoot was a one light setup using the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000 heads with a 135cm Rotalux Octabox with the front diffuser positioned roughly 45 degrees to the right of the model. It is pulled back far enough to ensure there is a consistent spread of light from head to toe. To add an edge to the images rather than a sterile white background we always go for a soft shadow cast on the background.
But photographing fashion isn’t just a technical workshop, good people skills are what separate the great fashion photographers from the chaff. Especially when you are looking to keep the energy high with a model whom you have never worked with and 40 different looks.
The key is to build a good rapport with them as quickly as possible. Whilst its true that having a model change 40 times and pose for close to 2000 plus images is a tiring task, keeping the energy in the room positive and making the experience fun really helps. Simple things like making sure there’s plenty of food and drink, good music playing, and a scope for experimentation takes what could seem a mundane task into something that’s fun and exciting. Furthermore, once the team starts to see all of their work coming together in the images it’s always a boost.
Luke doesn’t spend more than two minutes with the model in front of the camera with each look. He has everything in place to create strong, purposeful poses with his model that best display the looks put together by the styling team. Luke is aware of the key garment and leans on his years of experience with creative posing, whilst keeping the mood light and playful with the model.
Tethering directly to Capture One whilst I shoot allows me to automatically apply a color profile to the images as they transfer to the computer. After every outfit is shot, myself and the Art Director agree the four image selection, and then I adjust any cropping that is required as well as any specific exposure & contrast tweaks before I process that selection into TIFF files.”
Post production workflow needs to be equally as fluid to meet deadlines, but Luke still pays intimate attention to each image to maintain his high quality of output.
Each image is taken into Photoshop mainly for correcting skin, and bringing out specific details in the clothes. For editorial images I would generally use the frequency separation technique for skin but this is time consuming, so due to the volume of images I have to get through I tend to opt for the healing brush, clone stamp tool, and a dodge and burn layer. I use curves to bring out details in the clothes and add any additional drama to the image.”
My time in the studio on the e-commerce shoot was a real eye opener in terms of the how being prepared and organized enhances the creative process when there is such a demanding schedule. Parts of Luke’s workflow will be familiar to many photographers, but bringing it all together on a consistent basis creates a platform for him to do what he loves best, shoot really great fashion photography.