Why just taking pictures is not enough these days: How to be a Producer
Photographing world class images comes down to being a photographer, it means being a Producer. What does this even mean? We delve into what makes a high end fashion shoot truly come to life by talking with celebrity fashion photographer Kevin Michael Schmitz, www.KevinMichaelSchmitz.com and www.KevinSchmitz.com who produces his own shoots.
Building recognition and getting you noticed in the high end photographic industry comes down to telling a dynamic story and creating a high quality shoot with production value. The first and most critical component to making images memorable is producing. This entails booking agency represented wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, casting models & talent, locations, permits, lighting equipment, assistants, food or craft services, and every detail of a photoshoot. A professional producer can manage this for you, but most photographers have to take the reins and make it happen by themselves. Here are a few secrets to making your photoshoots really count!
Planning out a Photoshoot: The most critical component to a fashion photoshoot is the wardrobe. You literally cannot shoot a high end fashion photoshoot without a wardrobe stylist, because the apparel is what fashion is all about. I have listed out in order, the most important facets of each photoshoot in terms of production.
Wardrobe: A top notch wardrobe stylist can make your photographs look world class, but this is where most photographers fall short. Reach out to the styling agents in your area: you can find hundreds of stylists and styling agents on ProductionParadise.com. If you live in a more rural area and not in a major city with access to production services, then plan out a shoot in the nearest city with styling teams. There are also options to rent high fashion apparel online and have it shipped to you directly. Better yet: Buy the wardrobe online from Nordstrom, Amazon or any major department store that carries the latest trends and has a great return policy. I often buy thousands of dollars worth of apparel for many of my shoots just to supplement the wardrobe from the stylist. I simply buy online, use it for the shoot, and ship it back afterwards, which ends up being free in the end (other than shipping costs which typically run from $15 to $40). Wardrobe Stylists are rare and hard to find really great ones that are not completely insane or unprofessional. Once you find a good one, treat them right, and never let them go! I have worked with about 80 professional wardrobe stylists in my career, and I have literally only liked about 5. Those 5 get booked all of the time for my shoots!
Location: Imagine, creating a spectacular fashion shoot on location in the middle of a cracked Earth Desert with an incredible sunset beaming through the evening sky. Well, forget about it, unless you want your models to wake up at 4am to drive out to the desert where they will be incredibly uncomfortable, have no restrooms available, and no electricity to be styled with. I have produced fashion photoshoots all over the world from 1500 Byzantine palaces in Istanbul to white sand beaches in the Maldives to sky scrapers in Dubai. In all of my experience, I highly recommend you find a private location owned by private owner friendly to photographers. With a house, mansion or even church, there are always bathroom facilities, electrical outlets, and comfortable quarters for stylists and models to prepare. This definitely beats the elements, and avoids the hassle and expense of obtaining film permits all together in most instances. Once I book my wardrobe stylist, I arrange my shoot location. One great tip to find fabulous places to shoot is to reach out to the real estate agents that handle the most expensive mansions in your area. Build a relationship with them and offer to photograph their listings for free in return for allowing you to do a fashion shoot at their location. This works quite well, and you may even be able to offer publicity by shooting magazine editorials at their location (which can help sell the property).
Models: Strong Talent is VITAL!!!! It doesn’t matter how great your photography is, if your talent is weak. Even some of the top magazines in the world have crappy photography, but spectacular talent. With the right model styled well, its very hard not to take a great picture. First off, ONLY book models from modeling agencies. Don’t risk going to Modelmayhem or photographing your cousin or friend. Even if someone looks beautiful in person, they may not look amazing on camera. Models are flaky and sometimes hard to deal with, so make sure to work with only true professionals that are responsible to an agent. Calling a modeling agency and requesting models that fits your project is what I highly recommend. Research online the top modeling agencies in your area and start building relationships with the model bookers in the the “new faces” division. They are usually very eager to have their hot new girls and guys photographed for their portfolios. This can be a great opportunity for you to access great talent for free, or very inexpensive. Request a “package” from the modeling agency of their best models that meet your criteria and explain to the agent exactly what you will be shooting and how incredible it will be. Send them a pinterest board of inspiration to get them on the same page and motivate the models to work with you. Select your absolute favorite models and then request at least 2 to 3 alternates for each model you choose. Models will be constantly booked on major ad campaigns or huge editorials so its important to be flexible with your casting selections, and just expect to go with alternates if your shoot doesn’t have much of a budget. Once your models are chosen and confirmed by the bookers, they will expect a call sheet. Send them a simple one page call sheet of noting the date, time, location address, schedule for the day and the entire production team with contact info. This will make you look very professional and build confidence in your model booker with you. I like to go the extra mile and actually speak to the models before the shoot to get on the same page with wardrobe and concept, but often times the bookers just have the talent show up without any info or communication whatsoever of the shoot.
Makeup & Hair Stylists: Although makeup artists and hair stylists are the most interchangeable and easiest to find, they are still very important. Make sure to reach out to styling agencies and book an artist who has experience styling editorials and advertising projects, which is very different than working on consumers/weddings/portraits etc. Find a makeup artist that can do more of a “Less is More” approach. The edgier, raw look is in right now, and a makeup artist who doesn’t go too far with makeup and keeps it natural is ideal. Hair stylists that can handle both fashion and lifestyle looks can be great assets as well. I personally like a hair stylist who doesn’t leave fly-aways, and can create any hair design you can come up with and is willing to change the hair between each and every look. As makeup and hair stylists are more interchangeable and can be booked the day before shoot, I tend to focus on this aspect of the production last.
All The Little Things Matter: Its much more than just stylists, models and locations on a shoot, and its your responsibility as a producer and photographer to make sure you have everything for the production. This includes tables, chairs, extension cords and comfortable areas for your stylists and models to prep in. I like to bring at least one or two portable speaker systems with bluetooth to make sure everyone is listening to their favorite jam on set, and to get the models in the mood while being photographed. Arranging food or craft services ahead of time is essential and making sure everyone on set is fed and happy!!! I buy 2 to 3 cases of waters, sodas and coffee for my productions and make sure my assistants cater to everyone on set and make sure those models are happy and have all of their needs met. You will get so much more out of a model and avoid most issues if you make your photoshoot a fun and easy experience for the models involved.
To Learn More about Producing and Making Your Photoshoot Top Notch, I highly recommend enrolling in the Photography Workshop Series. Photograph with a world class production and Top Fashion Models for a massive 12 Page Fashion Editorial with true IMPACT! Contact Us for Details at 310.808.4565