[BTS Video] Backstage At A Victoria's Secret Shoot With Photographer Russell James

Russell James is perhaps my favorite photographer of all time. His images of sexy women never look cliche, and basically everything about his photographs are brilliant. But few people probably know what steps Russell took in becoming one of the world's most successful photographers. Check out this behind the scenes video as Russell photographs the 2011 Victoria's Secret Christmas campaign and dives into his history of becoming a photographer. I love how much attention goes into making the models comfortable and creating a connection with them. If it wasn't for Peter Hurley teaching me otherwise, I would have completely gawked at Russell's lighting and production. In reality, what makes every one of Russell's images stand out is his subject's connection with the reader. Hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.

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awerllow's picture

Lucky bastard  ;0P

That's great that he got his "big break" with VS, but how the hell did he work his way up to shooting the cover of SI Swimsuit???

Jens Marklund's picture

You guys will never stop promoting that Peter Hurley dvd huh?

Yeah, Russell James is a big inspiration for me.  Great to see an Aussie doing well in the industry.

icie's picture

Great video. Usually when you see the word "lingerie" and "photoshoot" in a description of a video, it's some vacuous PR-type BTS, but this actually goes to the core of what differentiates the successful from the no-name photographer. Everyone can set up lights, but not everyone possesses that human connection.

You would think much of photography success comes from a wealth of skill or camera time. Not saying he doesn't have that because he does, but at a certain point technique is just effortless and vision comes into play. Once vision has been mastered, you still have to convince someone to actually want to look at your work and give you a shot. All photographers in this industry are GIVEN a break. Your portfolio is very important, but so is your personality. Keep in mind also you have to either be very unique to an important person in that industry, or very connected already.

Many of you wont ever make a lot of money from your art simply because you are not connected to the right people. This may seem sad and unfair but it is the truth. Being connected and given a chance is vital. There are so many good photographers world wide, its very difficult to stand out and yet be seen by those that can PAY for your stand out qualities.

I suggest many photographers spend just as much time networking as they do shooting.  

Tracy Nanthavongsa's picture

I could not agree more the this commentator. You can take the most amazing pictures in the world, but knowing the right people in the industry will probably get you a little closer to landing that gig shooting for Vogue.

John Godwin's picture

Spot on. You always make decent posts on here.

Thanks for the kind words. I have learned over my career in photography that skill is very key, but once you get to a certain level the skill becomes marginal and the powers that be really don't care if you are the best at metering a shot, or that you can make skinny hot models happy. Peter Hurley is a great photographer and more fun than Russel James, but why is Russel James shooting for VS and Peter is not? Peter was a model, then he was taught personally by Herb Ritz and yet he is not shooting anything close to what herb had him assisting on.  And I know that Peter would love to shoot more big projects simply by his reaction when he shot the people from Lost.

The dividing factor is that Russel got a break. Mario Testino got a break, even Anne Leibovitz got a break. I wished many photographers would spend a little more time networking HARD and a little less on worrying about what Nikon is making or what Canon is making.

My uncle is an extremely big movie producer and every project my company reaches out to him to shoot his promotional work. We get tons of run around and we are actually very good and would probably shoot his promotional work for free simply for the exposure. We see him all the time and its always the same blah blah. I soon learned that you wont be handed anything in these big time entertainment jobs, and you must humble yourself and approach big clients humbly and strategically. We do this and we are allowed to now network and big strong relationships with some pretty big names in fashion and motion pictures.  Every phone call and email is a humbling process because you are just looking for that one person that believes in your work.  The problem is that many people that are given a shot, forget what its like to claw your way into a big meeting. My uncle received his from Spike Lee, and the rest is history.  I wait for mine, and in the meantime we shoot the best we can in the most unique way we can. Beyond all of this we work on selling ourselves with humility and confidence mixed at the same time.

Photographers are a dime a dozen now. We are not that unique anymore due to the rapid spread of education and technique, thus we can no longer run around like we are the only people that know how to do this. Dark rooms are no longer the norm nor learning curve that separated the photographers from the fauxtographers.

I recommend you all shoot, keep shooting, and keep knocking and asking. Someone is a fan of your work. Keep in mind some of your fans may be your broke friends and not American Vogue. 

Derron Campbell's picture

Did they say $20,000/day just for the Studio x8 Days = $160,000 WOW!