1. Class Introduction
forget started. I want to introduce to you my team. Over here. We have Dave my digital check and no, my first assistant. Thank you guys. Remain here. All right, So, um, what we're gonna accomplish today in our session is a sort of, Ah, I talked about this a lot in my other creativelive class, but I'm sort of extrapolating it and expanding on it because it's basically it's part of my process. And it's something I do every time I shoot. And I just want to sort of spend more time and look at it a little bit more in depth. So first I'm going to talk about and I'm only gonna talk for a little while and then we're going to do a lot of demos. But first, I'm going to talk about how easy it is to do a successful shoot. We get so caught up in the gear and the locations in the time of day, and what's what's the person gonna be wearing? And then we want to make pictures that look like the cover of Vanity Fair, and we just get so caught up in everything that we I think we stumble and So I want to s...
how you for my process how I navigate all of that. The next thing I'm gonna tell you about is the misconceptions of celebrity photography. And I talked about this a little bit before as well. When you're going to shoot Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio by the time you're there in your career, you think it's gonna be rainbows and unicorns, right guy? And I can tell you that it's just that's just not the case. Nothing really changes, except you get a little bit more confident you get better, what you're doing get better executing and you still have to do it efficiently. And in a short timeframe, most of my shoots are very, very fast. They always say, we're gonna have 15 minutes. It ends up being roughly about five. Sometimes it's 15 and I'm gonna talk to you about a shoot. I just did with no up in Toronto. When I'm talking today, I am going to be referring back to my shoots, which are very quick. Doesn't have to be a quick situation. You don't have to rush, so I don't want you to think that this is only applicable for 10 minute shoots, 15 minutes. Utes. It's just a process and how I approach all of my shoots, whether it's an hour or an hour and 1/2 and whether it's minutes, Um, I'm gonna walk you through literally. What happens when I walk into the room? What I'm thinking about how I'm going to set up the shot. And I'm also going to tell you about transitioning from working alone to working with a crew. So how many of you worked with assistance? Can I ask why you guys don't work with assistance any any answers? Financial. It's good answer. I work with kids, so it's usually just very, very intimate, and other people would be in the way. Perfect. Okay, good answer. Anyone else? Any other reason is the reason potentially, that you're intimidated by working with a crew, because that's what it was for me for a very long time. And I will talk to you a a little bit about how I started working with a crew, how to sort of take the baby steps, but it's something you have to have in your sight line because you can't get to my level without working with a crew, it's just not possible. And I'll explain that an answer, any of your questions that you have about it. So then I'm gonna tell you guys all sort of while I'm working Just how I'm looking for light and how I'm being flexible, what my processes. And then finally will go to, uh, our demo in our live shoot. So I'm going to try to make all of the shorts. We get the work. But again, this is my I said this in my original class, but this is the very first photograph I ever had published, if not let very well, particularly for particularly anyone here does still life. They can see that I really was not shouldn't be a still life photographer. But then a lot of people ask me, How did I go from this Cristante, which ran the size of 1/4 in the New York Post and was credited to Getty images. So I didn't even get credit for it. But you know, how do you do that and end up shooting more high profile people? Well, when people ask me that I try to come up with the answer I find that the answer isn't a technical answer, it's not. I learned this particular lighting set up in this scene or I learned this cameras. It's just that my process changed and I evolved, which is why this class is a process class. There are a lot of educators out there who will show you how to use every modifier and every light. Uh, you know, every camera, alternative processes, whatever you want, and I think that's really important to learn on two. Push yourself in evolve. But when it comes to my process, it's about trying to capture the most out of my scene. So the most from my subject in that period of time, whatever the period of time is. And it all started this from my time at The New York Post. This is the real headline. Top his body Sorry, Headless body in topless bar. And the reason I always help everyone about my experience in the newspaper is that that's where I learned most about who I was a photographer. I learned the most technically because I was asked to do some crazy things. But most importantly, I learned toe light there, and I had an editor who was very demanding. I'm just going to go back for one second. Tell you when I got to the paper, there was an editor there. Who said another photographer as well is that there's a lot of photographers here. A lot of photojournalists. How are you gonna be different? What are you bringing to the table? You know, how are you gonna contribute? And that's when I decided I was gonna learn to light so I would go out on the shoots and I would drag my gear by myself and that we didn't have the B ones, the Ares and the light lithium batteries that I love so much from pro photo. We had much heavier packs that I would be dragging them down the streets of New York, maybe trying to get a taxi. And no one would pick me out because they all thought I wanted to go to the airport. And so I would just lug everything everywhere and I set it up and I would experiment. And I would figure out what worked. What didn't work? What I liked what I didn't like. But sometimes I would go up to a shoot. Let's say it was a chef at a restaurant and I would have this idea and I would just walk in and I would not leave until I had that photo and I came back and I handed the photo to my editor and I was so excited. And I was like, Look, I made this amazing portrait and he said, That's great where the other options I was like, I'm sorry, What? Come again? What do you mean? And he said, Well, I'm a newspaper editor. I don't know if it's a vertical space that this picture is going in and know if it's horizontal. I don't know if it's gonna end up being a cover, because maybe this guy is now dating Beyonce. You never know. Right? So he said, I am sending you on an assignment. So in return, I expect options. I want, you know, tighter beauty, sort of head shots. I want potentially a full length because the New York Post, where I worked as a tabloid size paper, So there's a lot of vertical portrait's Um, nowadays they want more and more horizontal is because the Internet is horizontal and he would want me to. He told me at some point he wanted me to change lenses at least once during the shoot, so that's not really that important. But his point is important. You have to see differently. You have to keep moving. And the lessons I learned there and that style of shooting continues into my portraiture. Now it's very photojournalism based. I think you'll see him a little bit like a chicken with my head cut off around the set, but I have. I know where I'm going and my crew was great to support me. So now I can tell you a little bit about a couple stories, and then I'm gonna get to a shoot that we just did and walk you through it step by step in and we'll do our demo. So I started working for The Associated Press and they sent me to shoot Katy Perry, and first I went to her hotel room and I set up. We get a phone call after waiting about an hour that she's still shooting a music video, and could I come to the studio and set up their sure, no problem. Pack everything up, throw it in the taxi get across town and I walk into the studio over here, actually on the west side of Manhattan, and she was finishing shooting a music video. So I walk in with me and my assistant carrying all of our gear, and I look around and there is a huge set, their set after set and there's lights everywhere. And I was so intimidated I couldn't. I was intimidated because I was on the set of another photographer, Number one that alone just sort of. And then number two, I'm shooting Katy Perry and I'm nervous, So I had to figure out what I was going to do. So what I did. Waas stood in the corner and watched for a minute. What sort of wanted to see what she was wearing? I was in the studio with white walls like this, so I had a bunch of different colored. Seamless is, and I watched the photographer just do his thing and I was watching all the lights, and I couldn't quite figure out what was happening. And then I realized she was on the floor in the sort of cat suit and because her perfume that she was beautiful. It was called Per and I realized that only two lights were firing. So there was this, just like jog and pony show. So many lights everywhere all over the place. I'm sure you use them at some point. Or maybe he had them just in case. But when it really came down to making the image, it was just two lights. And I thought, That's great because I only brought to life. So I set out my to Seamless is at an orange one and a pink one. And when she was done, she changed into this outfit and came over, and I did the shoot while the other photographer stood behind me and I was pretty intimidated. But I was really pleased with what what I was able to get. And from there I took the idea that it can be a dog and pony show a little bit. You just It's about the work. It's about the portrait. The things that are important is that you have to be prepared. You have to be flexible, and you have to think on your feet. So those are the three things that helped me as a photographer. This particular picture with Ryan Reynolds. I walked into this bar, set up all this stuff I shot over here, and I was about to say, I think we're done. You know, you get had been shooting low. I stood up, I turned around and I saw the light coming through the window behind me. And I was like, So can I just think it is? I didn't say thanks so much. Thanks for coming. I just said, Oh, I have one more shot over here and I had him come over to the window and I kept one light that was just bouncing to add a little bit of extra light. Not something I planned not was not plan a Plan B or Plan D, but I saw it and I asked for it and he was willing to do it. So here's a couple stories for you. I was up in Toronto for the film festival, and I had told myself I was going to try to make more environmental poor trips because I'm in a studio a lot or in a room that's not very attractive, and I've told some of these stories before, but I'm gonna reiterate my point. I shot this in this room. They put me in this room and they're like, here. Have at it. You have 15 minutes and I just looked around and I'm going. And I'm talking to my assistance because it's definitely collaboration that I have with them. And I'm like, What do we do? How do I make this an environment? And eventually I just said, Forget it and I went back right into my sort of routine. But I had, you know, I'm really had the rat on the wheel. I was really trying to figure out more and more ways. So here's another behind the scenes photo of me shooting. And this is the photo that came out of it. This is the lobby of a pet store, right? So my point, of course, is that you can make a beautiful image, literally, anywhere you just have tohave have the confidence in yourself to do it. But you also have to be able to see how to make it work. And in the end, just to simplify. So here Steve Martin shot him in this employee, um, conference rooms or of employee lounge and this person over here was getting ready to do a shoot with him following me. So we're right on top of each other. And this, um, Marshall Speaker that he's sitting on is actually a refrigerator that I found in one of the employees lounges when I because I get there so early to set up and I do this thing, I did it here today. I walked in and I started walking through all the rooms and I started taking furniture and anything I thought I could use for my shoot. I did the same thing there. I just unplugged the refrigerator and I was like, I'm gonna bring back in 30 minutes. You won't miss it. And then these two photos were taken in my favorite room of all this storage room. I mean, it's Barry's, an apple box. I was very glad that and a ladder if I really needed it, but so there. No excuses, really. I know that's tough. It's a little bit harsh, but they're just shouldn't be there. I make mistakes after shoots. I'm always thinking to myself, Gosh, I should have tried this or should have tried that. That's good. That means your thinking. It means you care means you're trying and I always write it down and think to myself while next time I'm not gonna make that mistake. So there are times when I am stuck. Can't figure out what to dio. So I simplify. Put somebody next to a window. If you overthink it, it becomes too complicated. We get lost in the photography of it, right? This is a portrait we're working on Portrait's. Here's another window. There really isn't a secret to portraiture. It's just about being prepared and being present, in my opinion, and then being willing to step out of your comfort zone and try different things so that you can find your own style. And, of course, working with subjects with Jamie Foxx. I remember walking into the room to shoot him, and he said, What, you're not gonna ask me to take off my shirt and or shoot me in a wet T shirt? And I was like, No, so you're the first person who has not asked me to get into a wet T shirt in the past several shoots and I thought, Well, that's interesting. Why are you telling me this? And he says No one ever asked me how I want to be shot. I think that's really important. Ask your subjects how they want to be shot. It's a great starting point. And if it's not your vision, start there anyway, and you can eventually get to your around. Jamie Foxx is a great guy, and from that shoot, I remember taking away thinking, You know, I went home. I wrote it down. Note to self, you know, ask your subject. But at the same time, don't be afraid to ask what you need for what you need for the shoot to be successful. And I walk into Terrence coz how studio, which is all white. Everything's all right, including the bunny and all the little details in the house. And I thought to myself what would make this a successful shoot? So I asked him if he had anything that was all black, and he said, I'll be right back, came downstairs and this all black coat, which was one of his pieces, is an artist. So don't be afraid to ask what you need for more from the subject, because they're probably going to give it to you. The worst they can do is say no. But at least you tried. I've asked people to sit down on stools or lean on tables, and it doesn't feel comfortable to them. So it's okay. Well, let's try this center. What would feel comfortable to you? You know, it's a conversation, and it's a collaboration. So I started to get pretty comfortable doing my thing, rolling into hotel rooms and doing these shoots very quickly. I show up prepared. I have lots of lighting options, and then the subject walks in. We do this dance and then they leave. And I started to feel a Ziff. It was almost too routine. I wasn't pushing myself. So here's an example of when I walked into the shoot with Brooke Shields at a theater here in Manhattan and I set up my lights and I did my whole thing and I went to go tests my turn it on and to test my life, and my battery was dead. It was my bad ahead in charge fit and which reminds me at the end of every shoot to charge my batteries, which I appreciate very much, Uh, so I sort of stood there for a minute and went OK, Expletive. What am I gonna dio And I just looked in my pelican kit and I had my 24 14 lens, and I just thought, All right, I'm saved because I was in a room with no windows. It was a dressing room of this of this theater, and I said, All right, I'm gonna shoot it wide open, and then I'm going to make it a black and white image. And so I turned around and I said, Miss Shields, would you mind actually, if we shot in your dressing room and she said, All right, let me go in. She cleaned it up a little bit, and then she said, You know, all right, Victorian ready for you. And we went and we made the shot. I never would have made this picture if I could. I was just so in my routine and making, you know, successful but safe save images. So you definitely have to remember when it starts to be too easy. You're not really making pictures anymore. You know, you're just too much in that routine. So, um, challenge yourself and I'm really trying to do that a lot. I've been shooting a lot more Fillmore, Polaroids, just things that make me uncomfortable and you'd be surprised. I love the results and eventually the things that are uncomfortable start to be very comfortable.
Ratings and Reviews
a Creativelive Student
An compact look into the unique and highly successful style of a top portrait photographer. Through intense focus, interaction, and willingness to experiment, she can get in ten minutes what others could not get in an hour. A look at her website shows that her style produces photos with great action and life that seem to jump off the page, in contrast to the static and posed look that is so common. For a more complete look at how she works, and to stretch yourself, also take a look at her CreativeLive course, Portraits Under Pressure. Anyone that is trusted and paid to work with top celebrities–and can produce excellent portraits when given only ten minutes and a closet–has a lot to teach us.
Great class, I felt like I was there watching this live shoot in real time. It was helpful to see how she works through her process and I gained several fantastic tips! Thank you!
More excellent advice and demonstration from Victoria Will. Her casual approach to portraiture and editorial shooting is refreshing! There is a good bit of overlap between this course and her Portraits Under Pressure course, so I did feel like I paid for a bit of duplication. But, they say repetition is good. But, a very helpful, professional course for anyone who shoots people (with cameras)!