If you’re interested in shooting production sets, like with fashion photography, you’re going to need to build a team beyond yourself. The truth of the matter is that your success will depend on who you know and what they can do for you. As blatant as that sounds, it’s the nitty-gritty truth about building a team.
Commercial photography is a production and a collaborative effort. It takes a team of creative individuals to create jaw-dropping images, and those same relationships can create new opportunities for you on the business side. I've had the pleasure of working alongside some really talented individuals with a lot more connections that I had and it benefit me in the long run. With that being said, you'll ll have to learn how to effectively work with others, along with respecting their individual responsibilities if you're going to make things work with your team. This is where building solid relationships comes into play.
Building a team of talented creative minds is a lot easier than it sounds. Let me start off by admitting that the individuals that I'm currently working with are not the same individuals that I started working with. Why? I trade up. In theory, you want to find a team and grow together as a family. In reality, if someone isn't growing with you, then you put them on the sideline for a bit until they're pulling their weight.
Before I begin defining roles and responsibilities for each creative individual, it's vital to understand the importance of knowing how to effectively work with others. It can mean the difference between success and failure as a photographer. NO ONE wants to work with a difficult photographer (unless they're getting paid extraordinary well).
TIPS FOR NOT BEING AN A**HOLE PHOTOGRAPHER.
FINDING A MAKEUP ARTIST
Makeup artists are modern-day magicians. A great makeup artist can create the illusion of clear skin, enhance facial features, define eyes, and transform models into visual perfection before you even open Adobe Photoshop. I've found that at minimum, I require a talented makeup artist on set to create stunning images. Yes, you can still create beautiful images without one, but their efforts will save you hours of post processing. Finding a great makeup artist is truly a godsend, since it can mean the difference between creating an amazing image or utter crud.
I've found many makeup artists that I've worked with on Instagram by searching the hashtag #MUA (short for Makeup Artist). You'd be surprised by the sheer number of MUAs in larger cities who are actively working in the fashion industry. Instagram has become an invaluable resource when trying to see before and after photos, behind the scenes, or even who they've worked with in the past. It's basically a photo resume.
Alternatively, I've found great MUAs though Model Mayhem (MM), although MM has an unfortunate reputation for unreliable and questionable “professionals” because of its fairly lenient user policies. ANYONE can be listed as a professional on MM, in a couple of quick keystrokes. The trick to making MM work for you is learning how to weed through the coal and finding that one diamond in the rough. How? Through reference checks and interviews. It may sound archaic, but it is effective. Ask for references. Do you know any photographers that they’ve work with in the past? Ask for their opinion on the MUA’s skill level, professionalism, or even their personality. Setup a meeting before you work together to discuss ideas, exchange portfolios and get to know one another. If a MUA shows up for coffee at your local coffee house, they’re more likely to show up on the day of your shoot. It’s really that simple.
In addition to social media, I’ve found some great MUAs through client referrals and referrals from models that I’ve worked with. If you don’t have access to a large network on social media because you live in a smaller city, consider meeting MUAs the old fashion way, in person. Most MUAs freelance at stores like Sephora, MAC, etc. Don’t be afraid to talk to the MUAs at your local mall.
FINDING A WARDROBE STYLIST
Wardrobe stylists are in charge of curating the clothing and accessories for your photo shoot. A professional stylist will borrow pieces from designer showrooms, in exchange for the publicity your fashion editorial will bring the designers. Note that most aspiring wardrobe stylists will begin by buying and returning items from retail stores. The wardrobe stylist would be responsible for making sure that the clothing is returned and undamaged in those rare cases.
A strong wardrobe stylist is one who can put together strong editorial styling consistently even with the simplest of outfits. In order to have a complete fashion editorial, a stylist will have to put together a goal of six to eight different, but cohesive, looks. If the six to eight looks are not cohesive, or do not fit the aesthetic of the magazine, the editorial will not be published. In addition, it’s important to have a stylist who is reliable, timely, and professional.
Great stylists are generally already working with amazing photographers. If your photography is up to par with who they’re currently working with, you shouldn’t have any issues emailing them and requesting to work with them. If, however, you’re still trying to find your niche, developing your style, or you’re just learning how to turn your camera on, then focus on working with an aspiring stylist.
The quickest way I've found stylists to work with was by skimming magazines for styling credits. By figuring out who styled a particular fashion editorial, I could quickly obtain their contact information. A quick Google search would provide me with their home city, portfolio, and who they had worked with before. This is all crucial information you’d want before working with someone.
These days, I’ve seen an assortment of stylists on Instagram. Stylists, much like makeup artists, love behind-the-scenes photos. You’d be surprised just how quickly you can find a stylist by searching the hashtag #stylist. Lastly, don’t be afraid to skim through Model Mayhem portfolios!
FINDING A HAIR STYLIST
Hair stylists specialize in hair artistry. A trained hair stylist should be able to, at minimum, blow-dry hair, braid hair, and style men and women’s hair, while specialized hair stylists can excel in niche field, such as cutting, coloring, highlighting, and styling. If the shoot requires extensions or specialized tools, those responsibilities are up to the hair stylists.
Some hair stylists are extremely proficient with working with certain textures and types of hair. Not all hair stylists know how to style African American and Spanish hair, since it requires a different finesse and technique than working with Asian hair. As you’re skimming through a hair stylist’s portfolio, be aware of what types of clients or models they generally work with. You’d be surprised how many hair stylists just aren’t comfortable or capable of working with certain types of hair.
As you’d expect, you can find hair stylists at your local salon, but did you know that you can contact your local cosmetology school and request to work with someone? If you have a ‘pull letter’ or are looking to ‘test’ with a hair stylist, don’t be afraid to contact your local cosmetology school. There are many aspiring hair stylists who would absolutely love the opportunity to work on an editorial styled shoot for their portfolio.
I’ve also found many hair stylists I’ve worked with by looking at the credits in the publications I’ve worked with. Be sure to compliment them for their work and note why you would love to work with them.
Finally, you’ll find quite a few hair stylists using Model Mayhem and other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A quick search of the hashtag #hairstylist will point you in the right direction.