Fashion photography is a crazy thing. It conjures up visions of eccentric fashion designers, stylists running around with a hundred different products and hair and makeup artists begging for more time with the model’s face. Finally, primped and preened the model is ready for the fashion photographer. Walked to her mark, looking down the barrel of the lens and often surrounded by lights, cables and the odd wind machine. So, this is where what is on set magically transposes into the digital images we all gleam over in the many magazines, websites and social media posts. But alas, rarely does the model, the makeup or the fashion simply “do its thing”. The process is organic and occasionally needs quite some “watering”.
Majority of the time a theme, a colour palette or a mood dictates the shoot. There is a story to be told and the photographer and his team are responsible for telling it. It’s not up to the makeup artist to create her most colourful look whilst the stylist brings her most outrageous fashion pieces. The photographer then doesn’t apply a dozen lights with multi-coloured filters, a smoke machine and perhaps some whacky props. It must all gel, cohesively be strong without one thing overpowering the other. After all, we’re here to sell the fashion, not the multi-coloured, feather lashed, smoke-machined model.
The way everything comes together and appears effortless yet beautiful is the strength of the advertising visual. The photograph must show the product as well as invoke the mood in the audience that is needed to persuade them that they need this product. They want to be in this photo. So as a team, we strive shot after shot, to obtain that perfect photograph. It’s not done in one, two or often twenty shots. Fashion can behave like a living beast, sometimes working with the model, sometimes against. It can be a fight to make it look the way it needs to which is why anyone who says models have it easy and just stand there, have never modelled or seen the process. These girls and boys are often exhausted. Photographers and stylists constantly telling them how to move, why it’s not looking right and to “give us something else”.
When the agreed images have been captured comes the second phase of the advertising might, the retouching. The path a photo takes from initial capture to final delivery is lengthy. One might say the darkroom slowed us down and now things are faster, which in a way is true. In reality, with choice and technology, we simply have way more options. More photographs, more software, more people with just enough knowledge on the process to be critical. The photographer retouches the clothing correcting irregularities. Perhaps the models had a bruise, a scratch, the hair is out of place, oh heck, just replace the hairstyle altogether, you can do that right? The requests become more flippant and complex because it can all be “photoshopped”.
So hours disappear and although the development process of film has long left us, we now have the movie-magic of digitally creating what we couldn’t shoot. All to finally bring that allusive image to life for an audience that may never know the intricate path that fashion photo took for them to glance at.