I loved hearing Annie Leibovitz say that the “snapshot camera of the day” is the iPhone. Now that adding filters and different effects to images is so easy, it’s possible to create your own dreamy, gorgeous, glossy fashion feature.
Here’s what it takes to build a large-scale fashion feature. Yes, we definitely have a ton of extra resources at our disposal. But by following these steps, you can create a DIY photo-shoot with your own phone—seriously! Once you’re done with yours, try uploading it onto Glossi.com, and email us the link on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to see it.
Step 1: Coming up With the Concept
Sometimes this is the most difficult part. Often for me it starts with a single image or item of clothing that strikes me in a profound way. For example, last season’s boxy shaped tops at the Derek Lam fashion show. When they came down the runway, we just got the urgent sense that we were seeing something really new and really cool, that could inspire a new sort of look. And that inspired an entire story. Or perhaps it’s a old picture of Brigitte Bardot (I never tire of her) walking in her nonchalant way in the south of France. I look at a lot of blogs, check out a lot of fashion and photography books from the library, and I read almost every fashion magazine.
Step 2: Mood Boards
Once you’ve defined your shining gem, you have to elaborate and build it out with several other reference pictures. We make our mood boards with cork boards and push pins. It’s still the easiest way for me, because you can quickly remove things aren’t quite working, or cover up parts of an image if it’s just the feeling of the skirt or the lighting that you like in a picture. The mood board is mainly a communication device. (In our case, for pitching to our editor in chief for approval, and then later with the photographer and stylist.)
Step 3: Selecting a Photographer and Stylist
Once concepts are approved, we brainstorm about our roster of photographers and stylists to decide who could best execute the vision, and bring something of their own to the concept. Some photographers are exceptionally good at capturing a specific sort of light, while others are known for being great with movement and energy. Some stylists are more edgy and fashion forward, and others are more practical and can do a shoot that is inspiring but also not intimidating.
Step 4: Story Boarding
Once the concept and photographer have been paired, we show them our mood board and start a dialogue about how the shoot will be played out. We also begin discussing location. Never underestimate the importance of location. Sometimes, it’s simply a studio, which means we need to think long and hard about lighting. If it’s outside, this step can be a little looser. Some photographers prefer to know they’ll be working with great clothes and a great subject in a great location, and just let the magic happen the day of the shoot. Other times we will want to plan out each shot meticulously. Do we want afternoon light? Or should we shoot with a long lens that would ensure backgrounds are blurred out, bringing more focus to the clothes? All of these elements must be discussed.
Step 5: Bookings
"Getting a good girl," as weird and slightly unsavory as it sounds, is something you hear a lot in the fashion world. Basically, what we mean is finding a model that works for the story. Some stories require a model that can really move well and is experienced, or has a certain physical attribute that fits the story. If we are doing a mod story and know that skirt lengths will be mostly short, we want to focus on finding a model with amazing legs. If we’re doing a story that is in studio, we might need a girl who moves really well and has a lot of energy. Booking the right hair and makeup artists is also important. Their aethetics must match the concept of the story. A day or so before the shoot, the bookings department will send out a "call sheet" for all of the people involved in the shoot, with arrival times of the parties involved, addresses, and contact information.
Step 6: Market Work
Once the concept has been solidified with the photographer, stylists and editors, the market team get to work calling in the clothing and accessories for the story.
Step 7: Styling Up
As designers and brands begin sending products for the shoot to our fashion closet, the stylist begins building looks from the racks of clothing and the closet of shoes. We build these looks on a grid in the closet and often have a fit model come in and try them on.
Step 8: The Run-Through
Time to really focus. This meeting will include Editor in Chief Brandon Holley, our art director, photo director, executive director and senior fashion editors. Everyone comes together to decide the looks that will be shot. Sometimes it’s quick, other times everything is taken apart and reworked, and someone we will have to go out for snacks to keep brain glucose levels where they need to be. This step requires a lot of focus and at times can be rather intense.
Step 9: Shoot Day
Shoot days typically begin before the sun comes up. When arriving at a studio shoot, flash bulbs are already popping while the camera crew prepares to perfect the light. This can be unwelcome at the crack of dawn, but can help to fire up the adrenaline—which you will need! On location. a location van is home base. Trunks are unpacked, clothing put on racks and steamed, shoes neatly arranged, jewelry carefully set on trays on tables. Tools from the prop kit (things like binder clips, safety pins, and double sided tape) are ready to go so as soon as the model is out of hair and make-up, we can move along as quickly and efficiently as possible. In a studio shoot there is always music playing. Part of a photographer’s talent is what they are able to bring out of their subject, and I think music can play a key role in that. Ben Watts, who often shoots our covers, plays a mix of hip hop and rock and roll that makes you want to move and dance. The photos reflect the high energy and playfulness that happens on set. Ruven Afanador is known for creating a beautiful moodiness—the last time I was on set with him, he was playing an Arcade Fire inspired Pandora mix. Most photographers these days use digital film, which allows us to look at the shots on a monitor between takes, to make sure we’re getting what we need. Things don’t always go according to plan—something doesn’t fit properly, a trunk of clothes didn’t arrive, it starts to rain…. You just have to roll with it and do whatever you can to get the best shots. Sometimes you get something amazing that you didn’t expect. Once all the looks are shot and everyone feels like they got what they need, it’s a wrap!
My favorite part of my job is without a doubt when the film comes back in. Sometimes it’s the next day, other times we have to wait a week. There is no better feeling than seeing a glorious image that is a result of all of our hard work.
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