After beginning his career by building elaborate photography sets and lighting setups in his living room, Clay Cook now shoots fashion and editorial spreads all around the world. Contrary to most photographers, Clay learned to shoot his first images using only artificial light and only later incorporated natural light into his work. This has given him a broad understanding of how to shape the lighting from any scene into a beautiful image.
Fstoppers.com has teamed up with Clay Cook to produce Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography, an 11.5 hour long video tutorial on how to photograph high-end fashion and editorial pictures. In this video tutorial Clay explains everything about the workflow and techniques he uses to create his brilliant images. The tutorial is broken down into a progression of simple to complex lighting and shooting lessons. Whether you're just getting into editorial photography or are already a professional in this field, the scope of Clay's lessons provide plenty to learn from.
In addition to covering his shooting techniques, every lesson comes with image files which let you follow along with Clay and his high-end retoucher, Jordan Hartley, as they retouch every final image from each lesson. Not only does he cover his shooting and retouching techniques, Clay also covers the gear he uses, set creation, collaborating with teams, and the business side of booking editorial and commercial jobs.
What's Covered in This Tutorial
Clay's Favorite Photography Gear
Before stepping out on location, Clay walks through each piece of gear he owns and explains why it is a vital part of his work. He also explains his tethering setup and workflow station that he uses both on location and in the studio. Each item is also listed on Clay's gear page.
On Location Shooting
The shooting lessons are designed to start simple and build in complexity. First, Clay begins by shooting in one of the harshest possible light conditions, hard sunlight. Although most photographers shy away from this difficult to use lighting, Clay demonstrates how you can use mid-day lighting to your advantage. Next, Clay teaches how you can use back-lighting, dappled light, and shade to further control the light illuminating your model. After covering natural light, Clay proceeds to incorporate various lighting modifiers into his setup including large scrims and small reflectors. In the final "mastering the basics" lessons, Clay begins combining both natural light and artificial light by incorporating a simple speedlite on and off his camera.
Once the basics of natural light have been covered out on location, Clay invites you into his personal studio where he steps up the complexity. It is here where you will learn how to build unique sets and backgrounds using easily accessible materials found anywhere. The first studio lesson incorporates both studio strobes and natural light. As each photoshoot progresses, Clay shows you how to effectively use simple one light setups as well as how to build more complicated lighting schemes with a wide variety of light modifiers. Clay even throws in a lesson on how to create one of his signature color images using gels. By the end of these lessons, you will understand how Clay approaches his studio lighting as well as how he solves many of the common problems he is faced with on a daily basis.
Working with a creative team is a huge part of Clay's process. Throughout the studio sessions, Clay brainstorms with his stylist, Project Runway's own Gunnar Deatherage, and makeup artist Bethany Hood to create the most interesting images possible. This process offers invaluable insight into maximizing the talents of those you work with as well as seeing how Clay uses the strength of his own team to elevate the overall production.
The on location shooting lessons conclude with Clay applying everything he has taught prior and applying it into two separate editorial shoots. The first editorial session revolves around a single fashion image that involves three models.
The second "mock editorial spread" takes you to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and one of Louisville's most iconic landmarks, where Clay photographs a local singer/songwriter couple for assignment.
Post Processing with Jordan Hartley
At the end of the shooting portion of each lesson, Clay hands his images over to his high-end retoucher, Jordan Hartley, where each image is meticulously edited. Similar to the shooting techniques, Jordan works progressively through each raw file and explains various post production techniques he uses for his own photography clients. Both raw and jpeg image files are provided which allows you to follow along with Jordan as he demonstrates each step he takes to tweak color, exposure, texture, and skin issues.
Once Jordan finishes his retouch, he then sends each image back to Clay for a final color grade. It is in this final step where Clay explains the importance of giving your photography a specific "look" and walks you through the steps he takes to create his signature look.
Business and Marketing
Perhaps some of the most valuable information in this entire tutorial is shared within the business lessons. Clay not only shares how he got started and became successful in the industry, he also offers business advice on pricing and marketing. He distinguishes between editorial and commercial work and gives examples of how he might price and invoice specific jobs based on their unique markets. Additionally, Clay covers a variety of ways to market yourself effectively as well as his tips on how to optimize your social media presence. In the final lesson, Clay sits down with Lee Morris from Fstoppers and talks about success and what it takes to get to the top in your own local market.
This Download Includes
- 11.5 Hours of Total Video Content (17.3 GB, 1080p 23.98fps h.264 mp4 files)
- Clay's Entire Studio Gear Guide
- 18 On-Location Lessons with Studio Post-Processing
- Tethering and Building a Portable Workstation
- 6 Chapters on Business and Marketing
- 5 Sample Estimates and Invoices
19 RAW and JPEG Files from Each Shooting Lessons
Access to Clay's Private Facebook Group for Additional Private Mentoring