Fstoppers is at it again with another amazing tutorial. This time, Clay Cook is bringing his talent as an advertising and editorial photographer to the table. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Cook has worked for a variety of local, national, and international clients. However, his work all maintains a common visual style regardless of the end publication, whether it be printed in The Voice of Louisville or used globally by ESPN. Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography brings you Cook’s start to finish workflow, including his process of working with a retoucher, to show you how you can create similar, amazing images using these techniques.
After watching the first sections, I immediately realized the importance of this tutorial in my own never-ending quest for photographic knowledge. There are a lot of things you don’t learn until someone points them out, regardless of your experience. The first few sections cover Cook’s story, his gear, and his workflow. Before they even begin photographing models, Cook imparts quite a bit of knowledge on smoother workflows and some key tools that he and his team use to capture these images and make set life easier. Even though I’ve been working in Capture One and Photoshop for a while now, Jordan Hartley (Clay’s retoucher), shows several shortcuts and tools that will make your workflow, again, much smoother and more effective. Between them there are years of practice and trial and error that have come together in this 12-hour tutorial.
Once the tutorial progresses to the actual lessons, it’s just as enlightening. While the first few lessons cover only natural light situations, Cook shows various methods for handling harsh natural light and how to make an interesting and pleasing photo with less than ideal conditions. I haven’t gotten far enough into the tutorial for Cook to get into flash, and I’ve learned something I know I’ll use down the road. As someone who rarely shoots with just natural light, that’s saying something.
For those of you considering the tutorial, I’ll say that the most important aspect of it for me is not just the actual on location shooting that each lesson shows, but the post production. It’s not uncommon for the retouching workflow to be a bit of a mystery for some. While we can all employ the same shooting techniques, the post production will separate the good from the bad. While you can’t fix a bad image through post production, you can make a good image look great, and that’s exactly what Hartley and Cook show with their two part process. So in each lesson, we get not only Cook shooting and explaining each decision on set, but also an insight into the retouching tools and methodology that Hartley uses to help Cook achieve his vision. Cook also shows us his color grading workflow that acts as a finishing touch to the retouching work that Hartley does. So for each lesson, we get a start to finish look at Cook’s entire process. For those learning out there, I cannot stress enough how important it is to see a photograph take shape from shoot to post production as it completely changes your process.
Though I haven't gotten to it yet, I'm particularly excited for the six lessons that focus on Cook's business and marketing strategies. This is something we all struggle with starting out, and Cook's business has gone from 0-1000 as he put it, quite quickly. If you’re considering getting into location or studio portraiture, or you’re just looking to up your game a little bit, I highly recommend the Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography tutorial. It’s available in the Fstoppers Store now for $299.99.