Before you get to the shoot, there is a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes. Coming up with the creative for the shoot can sometimes be the hardest part but you never know where and when you’ll have a flash of inspiration.
One recent shoot was actually inspired by a trip to the dentist! I saw this cool space called ‘Banning Dental’ and thought ‘that would be a great place to shoot something’. I quite like going to those sorts of extremities. I like finding weird and original locations, but it is getting harder and harder to come up with places and ideas that haven’t been done before.
So, with this cool dentist’s surgery as the location, it was time to come up with the story behind the shoot. I was there, 46 years old, waiting to get my teeth fixed, and all of a sudden the idea that came to me was ‘Lady and the Tramp’. I thought it would allow me to show a range of different styles in fashion, it is about the space as well, and that weird juxtaposition - why would somebody ever shoot at a dentist, that would scare most people.
With the concept decided, the next step is finding the right people to collaborate with. In the same way that I have my own style of photography, I want to work with stylists and hair and make-up artists who have their own style, but one that also complements mine so we can work together towards the end goal. For the dentist project I worked with Amy Still for styling and Tom Gillian for hair and make-up. They take the vision and concept I have then add their own style to it.
It is important to work well as a team, so I have a couple of things that I always do on my shoots. The first is that I will always be the first person there and I will take the time to speak to everyone. Then I will get the coffee! I won’t get an assistant to do it. I want to create a great vibe on set, and that has to all start with me.
My secret weapon
It can be hard when you have a lot of stuff going on in your day to day life, but it is so important that you arrive on set with a swing in your step. Taking the image is almost the least important part. One of the ways that I do that is through music. I always keep a Bluetooth speaker alongside my Sony α7R III in my camera bag. That speaker comes with me everywhere and is something of a secret weapon. I will nearly always choose the music on set, and I have a few different playlists depending on the shoot we are doing.
When it comes to kit, the α7R III is my go-to camera all the time because I work so much with flash so I can shoot using the mechanical shutter at 10fps, using flash. It sounds contrary as the α9 is often associated with capturing fast movement, but if I am shooting some action using the flash, I generally shoot with the α7R III.
The lens that I probably use the most is the Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens. That is my ‘go-to’ lens. It is light, extremely sharp and the backgrounds looks really nice. It is always the first thing in my camera bag. I also love the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens. It is just incredible; I can’t rave about it enough. When I’m shooting on a set that is very small, and I can’t step back far enough to get the composition I want, that is when I will switch to the 55mm lens to get a similar effect, but a little wider.”
Finally, I think the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM is a great lens. I only really get to use it when I am shooting catwalk shows and I need the flexibility to create a variety of shots, which is a shame as I’d love to use it more.
Final words of advice
My advice for anyone who is just starting out comes right back to people and making connections. Go and assist a photographer. Speak to picture desks at magazines. Use Instagram to make connections. Tag the stylists, make-up artists, models. Tag the magazines and picture desk editors, and don’t be scared to pick up the phone too. When you don’t get a response, just keep going, keep creating! It is all about getting the contacts and creating the content.
"Anyone can take an image on a phone these days but few can master the art of creating an image"