How Photographer Donja Pitsch Shot 'The Christmas Story' for Glamour Spain

How Photographer Donja Pitsch Shot 'The Christmas Story' for Glamour Spain

Photographer Donja Pitsch is a Paris based fashion and advertising photographer who has shot for publications such as Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle, and Glamour. This time, the shoot is for Glamour Spain.
Do you mind if we before we move on I take a moment to swoon over the words in that last paragraph? Paris? Spain? Vogue? Marie Claire? Elle? Glamour? Yes please! Ok, composure achieved.

Glamour Spain has been a long time client of Pitsch’s, booking her for fashion story after fashion story. If you have a look at her work, you’ll definitely understand why. This time, the photoshoot was for their Christmas issue. Beauty, food, and family … what's not to love!? 

As this was one of their key photoshoots, they had made sure to hire only the best. Among the team was Spanish top model Teresa Baca, the famous twin Michelin Cooks Sergio and Javier Torres from the Restaurant Dos Cielos in Madrid, and a Spanish actor Alex Brendemühl. There were also some extra models in the shoot to help provide the mood of a family crowd. Other than the models, there was also a food stylist, prop stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist, and the fashion editor from Glamour along with the many assistants. I can't be the only one who thinks this sounds like a super fun set to be part of, right? 

For the location of this shoot, after much searching, they ended up with a gorgeous Victorian styled house in Barcelona that has character and flair. Ugh, are you sick of my swooning yet? 

Now comes the biggest challenge of the photoshoot itself, photographing groups. With all the different models and poses to pay attention to, groups can be especially tricky to shoot regardless of how talented the models are or how gorgeous the set it. Even when blessed with an amazing scenario, there are still things to take into account in order to get the best final result. As Pitsch puts it, the challenge when it comes to shooting groups is that you as the photographer have to direct all the models. This means you need to tell everybody exactly where to stand or sit, look or even do. You have to let them know what you want them to do with their expressions, with their hands, or if they should interact with their neighbor.

The style that Pitsch likes to shoot is that her shots are always very controlled in one frame. This means that in order for her to achieve the result she has in mind, the camera is mostly fixed on a tripod and from there she works on the composition, then decides on the exact positions of her models. Once that is done, she then moves on to focus on the lighting. It’s always exciting to understand more about everyone's style and approach as it helps me frame my own way of tackling different sets, shoots, and problems. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to photography but taking bits and pieces of what works in order to find your own framework can be incredibly useful. 

As with every client shoot, balancing the client’s vision and your vision is not always straightforward. Preach and amen, right? That is not to be confused with conflict though as it's critical to remember that everyone is working towards the same objective which is a gorgeous final product. It becomes especially challenging when you have to photograph a group of people in a lifestyle situation, that being the family Christmas dinner in Pitsch’s shoot. Is there any correlation to the fact that family dinners can periodically come with their own set of obstacles to overcome? OK, let's not go there!

Having cast the right models for this photoshoot proved to play a huge part in the preparation and successful final results.The photoshoot itself was very intense as they had to do a story for a 10-page spread all in one day. There were more than 20 people on set and with Pitsch being the photographer, this means that everybody was going up to her non-stop asking questions such as where and when to put the food on the table, if she preferred the green or red sets more or if the model’s branded shoes were visible in the image. While juggling that, she also had to work with her assistants on the 5 different lighting setups they did in the house. Pitsch emphasizes that when it comes to shooting groups, especially those with celebrities in them, you need to be quick so as to avoid too much waiting time which can kill the energy in the shoot.

Pitsch is grateful to her talented team and models that made the shoot so special. She mentions that everyone who worked on that shoot played a big part in making it happen. The food stylist came up with delicious looking and incredibly photogenic dishes, the prop stylist had a truck full of unique props and accessories, and the wardrobe stylist whom Pitsch has worked together with multiple times provided that feminine edgy clothing that accentuated the strong, elegant woman that Pitsch wanted to be portrayed. Without her team, she believes that none of this would be possible and that is what she loves most about fashion shoots; that everyone brings in their ideas and talents to create a great series of images.

Equipment List:

- 5 Profoto Heads
- Profoto Pro-10 2400
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
- Canon 24 -70 mm
- Macbook Pro with Capture One

Lighting Setup: 

One strobe next to Pitsch with a XS Softbox, two strobes in the background with small white umbrellas, one strobe on a boom with a medium honeycomb to create the back highlights and one more strobe carried by the lighting assistant with a reflector and a layer of white diffuse paper right above the camera. The last light is to provide great punchy light with no hard shadows.

For post in Capture One, Pitsch pushes the contrast up to 30% and colors up to 20% as she likes having her images with vivid, strong colors.

Photographer: Donja Pitsch (instagram)
Fashion Editor: Miriam Arruga
Photography Assistant: Sandro Volpe

Images used with permission of Donja Pitsch.

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12 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

I'm getting the concept but maybe i need more coffee, or less who knows, but none of these are really doing much for me. I mean, technically they're great, and and stylized, but none of them evoke any emotion at all. No nostalgia, no longing for Christmas, or that Christmas feeling you get around that time of year, they just were images. I know its subjective, so I'm just sharing my opinion.

Tony Clark's picture

It's an Editorial spread capturing Spanish Actors and Models in fashionable clothing in a holiday setting.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I understood the concept, but none of the photos evoked any sort of feelings at all from me.

Really love this. Nailed the shoot; the models, the props, composition, colour tone. Excellent work!

Teresa Oldenbourg's picture

They just look like higher quality family album photos.

David Love's picture

Never been a fan of that blast in the face harsh lighting that mimics old Polaroids.

Teresa Oldenbourg's picture

I know what is bugging me now, this looks like a bad Americas Next Top Model shoot. They have some weird story and clothes that dont go.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I think I finally figured out what bothers me, and why it's not impacting me at all. If you showed me any of these photos, without telling me anything about them, I would NEVER say these have anything to do with Christmas with the exception of the one with a gold box and wreath in the background, and even then Christmas wouldn't be where I go first.

These picture work because they are famous actors somewhere. Outside of this, they will fall flat.

I do get strong pervy emotions fropm the men in the shoots. the and placement, the gaze... zikes!

David Moore's picture

I kinda don't get the "make it look like it was taken with a point and shoot" look like this.

Almost a Terry Richardson look.

Wandering hands included.