By: Scott Umstattd
Date: August 28, 2016
For the past year, I have been designing fashion photography shoots with a dress maker in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Under her Sindashi label, dress-maker Angela Nasta oversees a staff that hand paints every dress. Here is a previous article where I share some more fashion photography tips and how we work in the streets to get the shots.
I mostly do these shoots alone but from time to time I get some help. Having someone to hold a reflector or flash gives me a lot more room for creativity. Ron Van Dyke is a friend who has helped out several times and has seen how I work these shoots.
While I was out of the country a few months ago, a true fashion emergency presented itself. Angela needed new photos of a dress and the photos had to be submitted to a group in Spain in just a few days. Luckily Ron is a photographer and when asked, was ready to accept the challenge and photograph the new dresses.
What follows is mine and Ron's emails to one another over the course of a day to prepare him for his first fashion photography shoot.
Between Scott and Ron
Sorry to be quick with this email. I'm at my parents house....
I shoot raw. Then edit. And then export using 100% JPEG. (And I think 300dpi)
Angela has no requirements. A 5MB image is more than enough for how she uses the pictures.
Go get 'em!!
Thanks for getting back. I realize I have very big shoes to fill here and readily acknowledge I don't have your level of skill or experience nor the gear. I'm not totally clear on Angela's thing right now. 1st it was just shooting the 1 dress that wasn't completed yet on your shoot. She made it sound like she just needed a couple of quick shots. Now it could be that the contest people in Barcelona have actually picked the dresses that will go on in the contest. So,now there's 2 dresses to be shot & it's sounding more serious. Re the models, I'm not sure who she got. She was talking about maybe Mittie possibly being back or the Queretaro twins. I'll find out today.
From what I gather Sean and Mittie are still in the US.
One model can model two dresses, no problem. So she doesn't need two models but that really doesn't matter.
Are you taking the pictures in Centro near her store?
As far as advice and editing, I can edit the pictures if that is something you are comfortable with. I would prefer to get your raw images but can work with JPEG. I won't be at my computer again until tomorrow evening. Maybe you can send raw files through Dropbox.
When taking the pictures, look for even (dull) lighting. Stay away from direct light (even if it's in the background). If there is a hotspot in the background it can interfere with the subject (model) when editing begins. So, shady areas with shade in the background will work best.
Also, if you can try to match the background color with the color of the dress that will add a little something extra to the shot. That doesn't mean a red dress gets a red background. But a red dress with a blue or yellow background color can add a little spice.
Also, the models I've worked with are pros. I let them do what they do and it falls on me to catch them in the act. Of course you can direct them too. But (for me) I typically direct them toward or away from light or to get the background right. Head turns and stuff are on them. But don't be afraid to tell them to spin to make the dresses come alive also.
I would shoot slightly overexposed. Underexposed shots tend to bring out more pimples and facial bumps. If you are shooting on the bright side it's easier (for me) to smooth out their skin in editing.
I forget, what lenses do you have?
My lens is a Nikkor 18-200mm 3.5-5.6. It's my travel lens. I have my original kit lenses as well, 18-55 and 55-200mm. That's why I bought the 18-200 as I was always changing lens, wanted the range. Non of these are perfect. My cam is the Nikon D5200, a cropped sensor.
I always look for focus on the eyes. But if I miss it (a little) I'll let it pass for these shots.
I shoot manual exposure everything for these shoots. I get burned sometimes but I also get burned by using auto. At least in manual I know how to get myself out of a jam because I know where my settings are.
You may want to go to the church across the street (next to Bellas Artes) to avoid street and sidewalk traffic. Actually, Bellas Artes may be a good place too. Should be easy to avoid direct sunlight there.
Also, I don't put any additional saturation, sharpness or contrast on my images in camera. I shoot raw and neutral. I want as clean of an image as possible going into editing.
Your 18-200 will work well. Push the shots to between 150-200mm to help blur the background more. Also, don't put the models close to a wall if you want to blur the background (your lens can't open up enough to get nice bokeh).
Just got a another call. Now Angela's thinking about another location, somewhere up toward Liverpool Mall, a park setting of sorts, cactus "Charco El Del (Elgenios)"????? Do you know it? That's going to be in the wide open with no shade I think....SHit!!!! So it could be the twins then on Friday or.........maybe Ella Mae now because shes available & Angela's under a deadline. What do you think of Ella. You captured some amazing shots of her, eyes. I encouraged shooting Ella sooner just to see if it works & have time for changes if need be.
Not sure about that location. I would tell her to keep it close to town where you know what to expect. You don't want to just be placed in a spot and told to make it work. Angela and Maru have always been respectful in that regard. If you tell them what you want I think they will be happy.
They're gonna go with Ella for tomorrow, 5:00 PM, starting at the parking lot by the church. I encouraged getting it done ASAP & to keep it close to the store. This way there's a little more time buffer if it's needed. Maru said they'd have the makeup person put the makeup on more heavily to make her look a little older rather than the light powdery thing she normally sports. I think that could work.
Not a great way to end it all.
Kinda seems like it needs a dramatic finish. But this is a real email chain and not a docu-drama based loosely on events.
But wait. There's more!
Of course there's a dramatic ending. Here are some of Ron's pictures from his first-ever, not-at-all-planned and totally unexpected fashion shoot that he pulled off in 24 hours.
Many thanks to my buddy Ron Van Dyke for allowing me to share this story and his photos with you.
And thanks to Ella Mae Mackee for modeling the dresses and braving the streets.
I think Ron did a fantastic job with these photos. The Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 is great when you have lots of light and its 18-200mm focal range means you won't have to change lenses - which means you don't have to carry extra lenses. Which is what makes it a great travel lens. But not a great fashion or low light lens.
Ideally for fashion photography you want to work with a lens with a constant aperture at or below f/2.8. The wider aperture will allow for more light (critical) and it can create a better bokeh (background blur). But no one makes an 18-200mm f/2.8.
And, Ron has never done a fashion shoot. I can tell you, as one that has done a few, it takes a while to get your footing during these types of shoots where we work in the streets. Active real world streets.
Here's just a few of the things going through the photographer's mind when shooting fashion pics in the street:
Check out Ron's website. He splits his time between the waters of western Canada and the mountains of Mexico.
And visit Sindashi on Facebook to see a wide range of hand-made clothing.
Are you prepping for your first fashion shoot? Do you have a story about your first shoot? Let us know in the comments below.
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