Monday, 11 October 2010

Pro Digital Fashion Photography

Bruce Smith has set out to show you everything you need to set out on the road to being a fashion photography. Whilst I don't think that it gives up all of fashion photography's secrets, it's a pretty good starting point and there is plenty to consider when you embark on a fashion project of your own.

The link here is for the US version of the book but I have the UK version. The UK version now appears to be out of print and worth a lot more than I paid for it. However I contacted Bruce and he has confirmed that the US version is identical to the UK version.

The first chapter on equipment is fairly brief and explains all the choices you can make. It covers cameras, lenses, computer hardware and software, location lighting, gadgets and cases. It doesn't go into a great deal of depth, but he explains from personal experience why he uses each piece of kit.

Despite the fact that the book was first published in 2008 it's already out of date, Moore's law dictating a tenfold increase in diskspace. I can't imagine anyone owning a 4 Megapixel DSLR let alone using one to shoot fashion. But guess what? That doesn't really matter because the message is that there isn't just one tool, you choose the right tool for the job at hand.

The next chapter is on building your team. The emphasis is on the importance of your team and your relationship with them. The team members are your models, makeup artists, stylists and assistants. It also covers casting and shooting tests with agencies.

The chapter on pre-production covers all the elements you need to pull together for a successful shoot. From choosing a location, to building a set. Its also talks about how to get your ideas and the timing of the shoot. Theres a lot of information in this section and you could use this to give yourself a checklist of things to plan for on your own shoots. Some of the discussion is about the practical aspects of the choices you can make such as daylight studio vs location. The pre-production chapter also dicusses lighting. The lighting section has an extraordinarilly detailed description of how to set up a white background using 4 lights. Running over two pages this description has multiple setup shots and tells you what f-stops to meter at. There follows 30 pages on different lighting techniques, but these are more general and less detailed than the white background setup, but no less valuable. Lots of diffeent scenarios are discussed, from ambient, to ambient plus flash and pure flash photography. It would certainly get you off to a flying start if you wanted to reproduce the lighting styles that Bruce has shown in this book.

The next chapter on production is about what happens on the day. Some of the sections in this chapter may seem more suited to pre-production for instance the section on knowing your market and knowing your client's needs. also knowing what the layout will be, but it is something you would do well to remember on the day.

There is a good section on composition and how it relates to the thing you are selling and the layout of the finished shot. The subject of composition would make a book in its own right, so he doesn't go into great detail here, but relating it to your final goal is the important thing.

There is some good advice about creating energy on a shoot and on directing models and he also discusses exposure and metering and white balnce. Time management gets a couple of pages devoted to it and there is also a discussion about usage for the advertising, editorial and catalogue markets.

The chapter on post production has some discussion about editing, making your selections and a few pages of retouching for the most frequent types of thing that Bruce might do. However it is a very small section.

The penultimate Chapter is on marketing. Covering promotion, developing style, building and showing a portfolio. There are also a couple of pages devoted to fee structures.

Finally there is a short chapter devoted to inspirational photographers. La Chappelle, Latigan, Perou and Rankin each get a full page photo and a page of text describing their work.

So that's the end of this mammoth review. as you can see a lot is covered in the book. Not all of it in great depth, but it will lay down a framework for you to work from and build upon. I guess you could call it fashion photography 101.

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