Something very exciting is about to take off in my life.
Awhile ago I made a list of things that I've been able to do since I moved to Los Angeles, well, another one must be added to that list. Never ever would I have thought that I would be on a photo shoot in LA. Even more surprising, I never imagined that I would be playing such a key role during one.
Last year at around this same time my friend and roommate Gina asked me to accompany her to Lake Arrowhead, CA to help her shoot the 2011 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar and I gladly accepted. Well, this year her offer came again and I of course jumped at the chance to work with her, her amazing photographer and talented makeup/hair stylist. This year we proved to be the dream team to work with. Of course I say this with no biases at all. : )
So, perhaps you are wondering what exactly do I do on these photo shoots?
Well, first I help the photographer look for outlets for all the lighting equipment and then we set all of it up. In the process, I’ve learned about the different lighting techniques and how to operate it all. Next, I determine where exactly at the location Gina should pose and specifically what positions she should get into. Then I examine what props we have for that location and how they would work into it. Sometimes I’ll even have to build a prop and make sure that it looks good for the camera. I’ve created a picnic scene, arranged fruit in a grocery store, moved people out of a shot, applied whip cream to waffles, moved flags to their proper position and many more things. I also make sure there is nothing obstructing each picture, I’ve moved plants, traffic cones, barriers at museums and even a dog once. I like to have several pose ideas in my head before Gina even gets there.
Once she arrives on set, I get her into position. Then I begin calling out posture and facial expression instructions like “stand tall,” suck it in,” “chest out,” "put your foot there", “turn this way and move your hand,” and much more. You wouldn’t think these instructions were all that important but the littlest thing like the lift of a finger can really make or break a shot. Since we are so comfortable with one another, this rapid exchange of direction cues works very well for us. I even will occasionally fix her bra and make sure her cleavage is looking it’s best. I’ll straighten her dress, remove lint, arrange her hair and more. I also feel like it’s my job to keep Gina calm and entertained throughout the shoot. For instance in this last shoot, we were using an ice cream sundae that was melting and dripping down her hand so I quickly thought on my feet and licked the ice cream dish to stop the dripping so we could resume shooting. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do to get the best shot. : ) I can say for certain that our photo shoots are always the perfect balance of fun and professional.
All of this takes about an hour to be completed: set up, shoot and breakdown. We’ve done this enough that it’s become automatic for our team. We know our specific duties on set and oftentimes carry them out with little communication. Once the camera stops clicking and Gina is satisfied that we’ve got the “money shot” as we call it, I help the photographer take down his equipment.
We usually shoot about 70 frames just to get that one perfect moment captured, ultimately freezing that moment in time. This is what it all comes down to. I strive to create harmony with all the elements in the picture; the props, her costume, her body language, her facial expression and the location. All of these must be in-sync with each other in order to produce the kind of quality photo we want. We want to create a memorable photo that remains in people’s heads long after the initial viewing.
Now who is responsible for doing all that? Well, have you ever looked at a photo spread in a magazine and wondered how it all came together? No? Well, if you have, the title of this individual in charge of all of that is the Art Director. An art director’s job is to create the visual concept of the photo. They are trying to evoke an emotional response/connection from the viewer. It’s important that the art director understands what the viewers are looking for and what will connect them to the picture and why it will do so. Essentially, there’s quite a bit of psychology thrown into it.
Growing up I’ve always been interested in interior design. I think that I’m good at moving things around and creating a new and interesting look. I also have always enjoyed taking pictures with friends. Perhaps, it’s the combination of these two things that has brought about this new interest in art directing.
What started as a simple friend helping a friend look her best for her pictures has turned into so much more. I now want to be an art director and work with other people on their photo shoots. The photographer, the makeup/hair stylist and I have decided to continue working together. So if you or anyone you know is interested in getting pictures taken here in LA, please contact me. We certainly are a one-stop-shop service. We’ll take head shots, band pictures, beauty and commercial photos, gifts for loved ones, maternity pictures, special events and so much more.
Please contact me at my new work email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am so excited to get this new venture started!