Outdoor on-the-go DIY style editorials are really picking up in the fashion world. It is a good skill to have in your toolkit as a budding photographer. In this article, I want to break down how a small team of talented artists and myself went about producing and shooting two full on-location, outdoor editorials for Bullett Magazine in less than two weeks in NYC.
1. Try NYC
As a fashion photographer, I find myself traveling a lot and whenever I have free time in different cities, I love to take on the challenge of creating something! The city I love to do this in the most is NYC. The Big Apple has a special place in my heart. The sheer amount of resources at your fingertips and the “speed” of their creative world has a way of making you work harder, and more efficiently. Not to mention, you also have the widest access to high-profile models, agencies, magazines, and perhaps on the top of that list – couture wardrobe selections.
2. Take Time To Figure Out What You Want To Shoot
For this project, I knew I had a short deadline so I made sure to wrap my head around what I wanted to shoot first and foremost. I had to figure out what the motivation was, and the mood. I asked myself, what kind of clothes do I want? What kind of an attitude do I want to portray? This is an important first step because you need to be very secure in your vision, at least visually, before you approach a crew of strangers if you want them to trust you. Once you know your story everything else can begin to come together.
3. Hunt For Who You Want
Then comes my favorite part of prep: finding the team of creatives to collaborate with. This can be challenging at times in a city that you don’t live in. You definitely have to be persistent. A lot of your plans will inevitably fall through; the job of a producing your own shoot is no joke. But, by the same token, the connections you make in the process of hunting for the perfect crew can be beneficial down the line when you least expect it! In a case where you don’t already have a crew in mind, the Internet is a powerful tool. Don't listen to somebody if they tell you otherwise, you can indeed get in touch with just about anybody if you are driven enough. In our day and age, Instagram is an amazing resource, and a solid Google search can actually yield some great results.
4. Research And Find A Good Home For The Editorial
It’s also very important to study the magazine you are shooting for or hoping to submit the spread to -- make sure your aesthetic is a good fit first. For these shoots, I had Bullett magazine on board from the get-go. I really get along with my contact there and we have been creatively in-sync through the process. It’s magical being able to share ideas freely and back and forth when collaborating directly with an editorial team. It is also vital to try and get a magazine on board from the beginning because their backing can help get a much better crew involved in the process early on. Who doesn't love hearing they can already expect a magazine outlet from the collaboration before they get started? They also provide you with the Holy Grail; A PULL LETTER. Stylists are able to pull straight from showrooms with a good LOR (letter of recommendation). A lot of stylists already have amazing connections but, an LOR just makes everything more straightforward and procedural.
5. Having Great Clothing And Models Choices Is Key
I couldn't’ be more excited about the amazing designers we pulled from on these shoots. Both of the stylists went above and beyond with showroom selects. Some of my favorites were Claudia Li, Phillip Lim, Ellery, DSquared2, Ji Won Choi, Namilia, and Sacai. As far as models go, I love working with Ford Models; they’ve got an incredible crew of models and agents who care about the entire process. Having good friends in the industry is important, try and find people who are genuinely invested in the art and want to help you succeed -- and always pass it forward. My friends at Ford actually helped me find a last-second replacement model 10 pm the night before one of the shoots, life-saving.
6. Location Scout
Location scouting for the shoot is imperative. Especially for on-location outdoor “spur of the moment” sets. I've found that when you do your homework during this step, you don’t have to worry as much about finding the perfect spot in the moment. The more you prep, the more likely you are to run into happy accidents. For example, while we were walking towards one of our scouted locations, a man had just dropped a huge pallet of onions in front of the perfect industrial backdrop. Instead of passing by it and sticking to our original plan -- I scooted the crew towards said onions and began to shoot. The man didn't seem to mind much because he was suddenly surrounded by a flock of beautiful women and getting paid for it! It is a delicate balance of knowing what and where you want to shoot but also keeping your eyes peeled (pun intended). Scout to become familiar with the basics; the atmosphere, the weather, how busy the area is, and the lighting tendencies.
7. Choose Gear Wisely
Another big task was prepping exactly WHAT I wanted to bring with me for gear on such a mobile shoot. I really had to go minimal on this shoot since we were a compact crew and everyone had their own things to tote around. I made sure every single thing in my kit had a purpose, or else my back was going to hate me for it. Keeping in mind I was shooting for two days straight… on foot… in the sun. I had my camera and my favorite set of lenses as a base and then I was pumped to be able to get my hands on some awesome new IKAN gear to help combat and emphasize the sun’s rays. I had the new IKAN NISI Filter Kit complete with a set of Graduated Neutral Density Filters, which were really easy to interchange among my lenses using step-up rings along with a pretty epic Circular Polarizer.
This was helpful when I wanted to quickly change up the shot and still be able to knock down the sun a couple stops, saving me from changing up the camera settings that were creating the images I loved. The other key part of the kit was the super lightweight Nest Traveler Series 65.4" Carbon Fiber Tripod/Monopod, it was compact enough to carry around in a tiny case smaller than my camera bag and the whole thing was lighter than some of the lenses I’ve used. Both of those were my key accessories in achieving the look of these images.
8. Control The Vibe
Even after you’ve done all your prep, keep in mind there is a natural progression on any photo set. It’s a full day that comes with different notes. You have to make sure the music never stops. It’s very true that the beginning of the day is always exciting (no matter how early the call time haha). But after the first shot, which usually ends up being the longest, the midday hump shows up. That's when you have to really step in as a leader and take the time to pump everyone up. Make sure they are taken care of and excited about what’s next. It’s all about not letting the wave of the day bring you down, even if you think you are the most tired. You are the captain of the ship and you’ll be able to rest in glory soon enough!
9. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
At the end of the day, there is an infinite amount of ways to shoot, and so many directions you can take to create the atmosphere you want. I am huge on experimenting with your own style to figure out just what works for you. Each time I shoot I get better because I try to learn from every experience. I sit with each shoot after I am finished, think about everything that went right and what pieces helped those successes. I think about what went wrong, and why and how I can avoid that in the future. I also learn a lot about myself, and my work – each piece and each editorial I create is unique onto itself and infused with the hard work and incredible talents of so many people involved. The gist of it is; just go out and make art. Take bits and pieces from what you read and the rest from what you learn by doing.
Check out the full spread from the first Bullett editorial "Esthétique Époque" HERE.
Jenna (Ford Models) - Instagram
Here is a sneak peek from the second editorial "Système Nerveux" that is currently unreleased (spoiler; it's the onion shot!)
Luiza (Ford Models) - Instagram