Creating Wardrobe and Props
The same thing over here where I'm using the same dress that I bought off a market in London. You know, when you're starting out, especially if you're an amateur photographer and you are starting out, you don't have access to designers straight away. Renting adds up as well. So you might be wondering where to get, like how to get clothes and stuff. So I can honestly just be like, keep your options open, look at thrift stores, go to markets, and a thing that will set one dress apart from another is texture. So in this case, I like the lace and the thinness of the fabric, so I bought it. And this dress ended up being so versatile I used it again and again and again because it was neutral toned as well. So if you're looking for a piece in your, you know in your collection of go-to things to quickly shoot with, then go for something that's neutral toned, so either nude toned, white, or maybe black that's fine as well, it's very versatile. Go for fabrics that are a little but like thinner, ...
at the moment the reason why I really like this dress is because it's sheer, and at that time sheer fabric was very big on the runway. So I was like, oh it looks great on those models and it'll look great in my photographs and you can see bits of like skin peeking through. So I bought that for that reason as well. And the texture of it, the lace, the embroidery, detail made it look a little bit more that what it was. So I was also shooting, and I used it here because I felt that it added an heir of innocence to this portrait as well. So this is the first shoot that I had with my friend Scarlet. Again, Scarlet, I approached her on, like I just approached her randomly and I was like, Hi you don't know me, but I'm a photographer and I love how you look. Because I saw her eyes and I was like, I really need to shoot that girl. I was like, you know, I'm a photographer can you, you know here's my card, give this to your mum, 'cause she's a little bit younger. Give this to your mum and just tell her to call me. And then her mum called me and she goes, Oh hi, Bella. I know you're mum. 'Cause Oxford's tiny. And everyone knows each others mum's. So yeah, it turned out, She turned it was a family friend after all. But our first photoshoot together, she was very nervous, and that's why I brought this dress because it was really, you know simple, young looking as well. Because she's young, I just thought it just, you know she has a little breast underneath, and I style appropriately for it. That's the point I'm trying to make. I'm styling appropriately for the portrait that I wanna capture. And I used baby's breath, because again they're very simple, delicate flowers. And the portrait I think, for me just symbolizes that sense and heir of innocence. And again, that's just pulling from what she's giving me as a model. Another shoot that I did with Scarlet. And this is a few shoots down the line, but at this point you can really see that we are very comfortable with each other. So I've managed to transform her a little bit from our first photoshoot session together. This is her wearing a dress from eBay. So I often go to eBay and I just type in, vintage gowns, vintage wedding dresses, I type in like vintage white dresses. Lace dresses, lace gowns, all of these things 'cause you know eBay has people just name them as loads of different names. So you just wanna search through all of them. And I found this dress for 15 pounds, which is $20 bucks. Um, again, 15 pounds. The lucky number. (laughing) So yeah, 15 pounds or $20 bucks, that was that dress. And it was, it's really long and it had several layers of lining that made it a bit thick, so what I did was I just chopped out the lining. I mean, if you're gonna pay $20 bucks, you can like chop and change that as much as you want. So and that's what I would encourage you to do as well. So don't just be put off by, if you come across a dress on eBay or Etsy for example, and if it's a bit on the cheap side, but it looks interesting 'cause it's got some texture. This had like ruffles, I thought that if the ruffles go too much, I would just chop 'em off. But actually I quite liked it. So be open to chopping and changing because you won't see that in a photo necessarily. All of that stuff can be hidden. It doesn't have to be perfect in real life. A lot of costume designers get away with this, because you're seeing the costumes from far away, so they don't necessarily like, the seams aren't like straight or perfectly cut, because you're not gonna see that. So there is that. But now I am working with designers and there's also a very specific reason why I enjoy working with designers. Reason number one, I feel like it elevates my work to another level because if you're gonna make your picture each one better than the last, then this is just a natural growth. I'm not a designer. I can't make my own clothes be as opulent and as beautiful as I envision them to be. So what I will do instead is look to other people who can do that better than I can and then work with them and collaborate with them. So keeping very true to my own vision and to my own growth as a photographer and as an artist, but then at the same time this works on another fold as well, because these designers then wanna work with me and then commission me for shoots for their portfolios and their websites. I use these pictures now that I shoot with other people's dresses and approach other designers and other companies, clothing companies, and like hey look what I can do, hire me for a campaign. (laughs) You know? So what started out as a very small, small very humble beginnings, naturally if you keep that mindset in mind you just wanna make each picture better than the last and you know really try to grow and evolve with each photo as well, then this will just open doors. Because you're opening those doors up for yourself, as well. So yeah here I'm now using dresses from other designers and really consciously thinking about them because I wanna stay true to myself, so this bush is by the side of the road, surprise surprise, but it's also bright yellow and the dress isn't. So the dress is actually the same color that you see right now, but all this around her was like bright yellow. And I still decided to shoot there because I liked the texture of this. I thought that was a rally beautiful, the fullness of it I thought was really interesting. And it was a bit of a test shot, because if it didn't work out and I did tell the model this, I'm like if it doesn't work out, like don't hate me. And she was like, eh it'll be fine. And it turned out to be fine. Because in Photoshop I knew what I was gonna do, which was take away the yellow and make it neutral toned and have like a wintry scene. And because I had that vision in mind from the beginning, we made her lips like a deep red berry toned color, because you know winter and berry red go very nicely together. So that was the inspiration for that. And then I had blue flowers on her fingers because it was spring time and I wanted, I liked the combination of, for me it's like blue bells are coming. I wanted to let people know spring is coming, even though she is surrounded by flowers, but I thought the combination of the blue and the red and then the white would go really nicely together. So I wanted to ask you guys, what do you think makes this image striking? Because this is one of the photos that I'm most recognized for. A lot of people still reach out to me for this photograph and yeah, I wanna know what are you guys thinking? What do you think makes it striking?
I think the repetition of the red tones throughout the image and the textural repetition from the pearls on her headband to the sequins on the dress and then the texture of the plants, it all ties together really nicely.
Yeah, it's very nice. Yeah thank you, yep.
I like how the shape of the red foliage in the background kind of mimics her hair.
Yep, you know what I actually didn't think of that. Yeah, I didn't. But you're actually right, now that you've mentioned it I can't unsee it. Yeah there's a curve to the foliage and there's curves in her hair. That's really cool. Does anyone else wanna say anything?
We have from John Christian Ashby, says the color contrast is really bold. So the fact that you have contrasting colors makes it all stand out.
That's very true as well, so yeah. Hi John, yep. Brilliant, yeah he's absolutely right. So I actually kept the color palette fairly neutral, fairly simple as you can see. These flowers were yellow, so they weren't actually orange. They came out more yellow when you took a photo of them. Her hair was bright orange, and when I was editing I realized that it was too distracting having the flowers one color and the hair another. So I played around with the hue saturation in Photoshop just to see what my options were and when I hit upon the similar color tone to her hair, that's when the image really began to sing and I could see the connection there. I also realized that I very much like tying the girl to the scene as well. So it's almost as if I'm bringing a plant of flower to life and having that connection gives that kind of same vibe I think as well. For me, mainly it was expression. I love the expression here. And we shot, especially for the expression. I kept having her toss her hair, look off into the distance, turn her head down, whatever it was, but the moment we got that expression, I was like Camille we're gone. Like we got the expression. And then we worked on the rest of the picture. So this isn't actually one shot. It's about, I would say it's about 15. Because the face was one picture. The crown in the original picture was cut off. That was my fault because I was too busy focusing on her expression. So I grabbed a crown from another photo. I tidied up the, I'm glad you mentioned the pearls, 'cause actually those are tidied up. Very deliberately so that they would look, I mean they looked great there, but you know when the hair is flicking sometimes the pearls are going in different directions? So I tidied them up in post form different photos that they were like there. And then her body is from another photo. 'Cause then I happen to like the hands in this one and hands have become very very important to me. And then the hair as well is from about 10 photos. So we kept flicking that hair. And I kept like growing it until I was happy with the length and the size and everything of it. And then in the background, the original photo has a truck in the background. So we can't have a truck in our fairy land. So I actually flipped the picture just over and then added a little bit more extra so that it didn't look flipped over. So I might have cheated and tweaked and made it my own, but I'm really glad that you noticed some of the small details that I'd been thinking about. Okay so I wanna talk to you guys about props and making them. Because I started to do this and I don't do it often, but when I do this is one of 'em. This is a prop that I made from loads of eucalyptus leaves that I had leftover from all of my flower hauls. Every time I came home with flowers, I just had eucalyptus leaves that I was just drying and drying cause they use them at weddings and as fillers as well. So I had so many of them and they were just everywhere, and so I decided to make a cape. Because summer was over and we were coming into autumn. I was feeling really sad because all the leaves were dropping on the trees and I always get very sad at the end of summer because that means there's no more flowers until end of the year. So I thought I wanted to extend my own summer. So I grabbed all those leaves, I bought a black cape from eBay for yeah it was about $12.99 from China. Thank you, China. But it was a black velvet cape and because it was so cheap I didn't mind destroying it. I use a glue gun and essentially spent one evening just sticking these leaves onto this cape. And the final results looked like that. And I felt like a designer. I felt lik a fashion designer. I was like ah this looks great! All it was is really simple. It was two things, eucalyptus leaves, a little bit of extra foliage, and a black cape. A party cape off eBay. Like it really doesn't take much. And I made them like flow really long and I had an image in mind and I wasn't sure if I was gonna be able to recreate it. 'Cause you know you've got a vision in mind, but in reality it might not work. Well, this was the final image that we created with that. Near my house is a wall that belongs to a neighbor, but it's covered in hanging Ivy. And every autumn it turns into red. And I had actually shot a self portrait there two years before, so I knew that this location was there, but I just never had the opportunity to go create there. Until I made this cape. And I remembered it. I thought, what would go well with this green cape? It could be a dark background, A, 'cause the green would just (snaps) come out. It can't be a green background, 'cause the green would be like camouflaged and you wouldn't be able to see the cape. I loved the idea of red because we're coming into autumn and there weren't any red bushes or trees, but I remembered this wall and we went to it. And the red against the green turned out to make this image so striking. So this was the final photo. And it has been composited, so I have actually added more leaves at the bottom there to make it fuller and really give that kind of grand, sweeping thing I had in mind. The model happened to have this white dress on her at the time. I actually had my lace dress. And I had the option between the lace dress or the nude leotard. (laughs) I don't think either of them would have worked in this picture now that we think about it. But she had this white dress, because I was like bring anything white. And it had a little bit of fleur, not as much as you see here, so we cheated and threw that dress several times, and with each time that we threw it, I caught it. And then in Photoshop I just pieced it together in ways that I felt followed better and made sense and looked dynamic. And also that lead the viewer's eye up. Because it's the same way as you know when you're wearing clothes and they say stripes, you know you wear stripes or lines in the jacket or dresses, they lead your body shape up. That's what I was doing here. I was thinking of ways that I could just lead the viewer's eye up, and I even had her face pointing up as well because it just felt like we were looking up at a scene. To take this photo I was actually in a bush. Like literally butt deep in a bush. And there were spiders and I was like going for it, like I don't care. The things you put up with to take a photograph, right? Honestly. And I don't like spiders. But for that photoshoot, I was like we'll be friends. (laughter) Honestly photographers are crazy. Headpieces as well, or just something of interest on the head, I always find helps. So if you're shooting for fashion or wherever, having a hat or even like sunglasses up here. I feel connect, connect. There's something about it when you're leading a viewer's eye, uh yeah (snaps) there's a connection there. So for me, headpieces do that for me. They connect from the top to the bottom, there's a cohesiveness. So we're gonna talk about what else I did with this prop. It was too beautiful to just use one time. So I decided to the next, when Spring round came it was just hanging in my, hanging, it was standing in my study for ages taking up space, not paying rent. And I decided to reuse it again and this time I used hydrangea heads from our garden. So every spring you cut the hydrangea heads so that the new ones grow. And so I had all these hydrangea heads and so I decided to just put them on the cloak and just build it up more, why not? And I also bought some flowers from a market that I had been drying, 'cause they were getting rid of them. It was the end of the day, they were like one pound! And I was like, I'll take it! Give me 10. So yeah, they were dried and I just added them on there. And we created, this photo was actually made at my workshop. My first every workshop in London. We were shooting it at a park in London. It was, there was nothing. I hadn't location scouted properly, I'll be honest with you. Because we got there and I was like, Okay I have to look like I know what I'm doing. Oh my god. And I noticed these leaves, like hanging leaves, and I thought that would make an interesting picture. Interesting connection. The problem I had, green. There was no, there was nothing dark for me to shoot against. I was literally just shooting against green. So in the end, I decided to darken the whole picture and then darken the background even further. So in this photo the prop isn't green. It isn't symbolizing summer. But instead I wanted it to symbolize a growth, like coming out from the ground like very earthy tones, very neutral. There's a smoke cloud there, which I like to think of as like little mini volcanoes, I don't know. But I've found it just adds a bit of flair and drama. And again, because I'm leading the viewer up, her head is facing up as well. And throwing out some hair flicks, and there strains of hair flicks gives a sense of movement. At this point, I was feeling very like comfortable in myself as well. And this is when I started introducing crowns. So I went form like shooting headpieces, like over those few months, I went from shooting headpieces to crowns. So this crown is from a designer on Etsy. I actually found it when I was just googling crowns on Etsy. And it's a crown for a Balinese crown, which I thought was really interesting. And I just messaged her and I was like, Hey I'm doing a workshop and I'd love to use one of your pieces in my workshop, and we'll give you those images for your website if you're interested. And she said yes, and she shipped it out to me for free. So sometimes just doing that and reaching out to designers, you don't have to be holding a workshop to reach out to designers, but you can honestly just be like hey this is my portfolio and I'm shooting to, I wanna create something really interesting and I think your piece would look amazing in it. I would love to work with you and I'll happily give those pictures to you for free to use on your website or your associated media. And more often than not, designers will probably say yes. Because they, as us, they wanna keep their social media going as well. So I've always found working with designers to be quite like a seamless thing. Once I started getting over my initial shyness, as well as having a body of work to show them. So oh yes?
Just a quick question on that last image, and just in general as we're seeing these come to life, not only about the way that you kind of prop things, but about the characters and how are those elements coming into that character development? Like what would you talk about with regard to that last imagine, in terms of what is her story? What is her character?
So I would honestly say that at this, so I call this picture New Queen Rising. And I honestly like to think of it as like the inner Queen in me rising. I see myself a lot in the characters that I make and the days when I make characters that are very simple and fragile it's probably because I'm feeling very simple and fragile that day. But when I'm feeling strong I wanna channel that strength into a photo and that's pretty much how I felt. This was my first workshop. I was so proud of myself for having sold out. And I felt like yeah, like yes I'm bossing it. Yes, I'm gonna be, this is me coming into my own. Like who knew I would ever be at this place. And that's the vibe. I was like, Lucy give it to me! Look up, look delegate, look strong. And that's pretty much what I was channeling. So it's very personal, but I felt it worked because she's got this crown, this gorgeous like cape thing, which by the way guys this wasn't the whole cape. This was half the cape. I flipped it over (laughs) and then I tweaked it. So you really have to, I manipulated it to make it more grand, but I felt grand when I was taking the picture. And so yeah, that's pretty much it. It was very suited. So I knew that I wanted a grand photo, a strong photo, and I knew that I wanted her to kind of embody that for me. 'Cause I couldn't do it myself, so.
Yeah, and then I control everything else. So yeah showing this again because I had all of these left over. Like I just keep collecting, collecting everything. Two years worth of flowers and stuff. Some of them are dried, some of them are not dried. Some of them are still fresh, but earlier this year it was like beginning of 2017, New year, new start, new year, new me. No it was actually, new year, clean studio because I couldn't walk in it. It was just full of things. There was no room. And I thought, right that's it, I'm gonna have a big haul out before a new haul in. And that's when I decided to take that cape to another level. So the reason why I'm sharing this story about this cape journey with you is that this prop I knew from the very beginning that it was gonna be covered. I didn't cover it straight away because I felt like I still had more to, like more to tell with it. So that's we started of with lean, then I added a little bit, and then I added all of it. And taking, making this decision was something that I was gonna do anyway. And so when it came to this photograph that I'm about to show you, it shows a culmination of everything that I'd been going, like learned and creating from before. And I thought it was a very fresh way to start a New Year. So I put all of the flowers that I had collected onto it. It didn't fill it up, actually, because some of them were just unusable and it didn't work with the vibe that I was going for. I didn't want it to look ratty. So what I did instead was trust my inner self and my ability to add more in post production. And basically just cheat. Cheat in Photoshop. And this is the final photo. So she's off on a journey, about to start a new year, and the cape is full and luscious and it's hopefully like, for me it's just giving the message that I'm putting all of my old flowers onto it and getting rid of them, they're all going away now, and it's like a new start into a new year. And that's where she's looking, she's looking ahead. So, my storytelling elements. So model, styling your wardrobe, color, light, and what else? Props. These are my storytelling elements that I come to over and over and over, but I feel really make a picture. So your choice of model will depend on what you're trying to shoot and what you're trying to convey. So for example, I like my girls to look very, depends, it depends. So I like them to look very, I guess interesting. I like things to look interesting. I like them to have like long hair, which is why I use wigs. Feature wise, I love delicate features. I love the innocence of Scarlet, but I also love the strength of Ella who we saw before with her looking away. She's also very artistic. All of the girls I use are either artists, so Scarlet's an artist, Ella's an artist, or really smart and intelligent. So Lulu who I've used over and over is a scientist. And who they are as well, I feel channels it because they're strong women and I am trying to bring out their strength in my photo, as well. So it's a culmination of both. 'Cause they're, who they are embodies who I'm also trying to capture. Styling, wardrobe, hair, and makeup. I'm very conscious about my styling. If I had to shoot with a lace dress again, I could do it. I wouldn't feel like I'm being true to myself with that lace dress, though. Now, because I feel like I'm at this point now where I can be a bit more thoughtful about what I wanna create. So I'm definitely always looking for new designers to work with. I'm reaching out to people. I'm looking on eBay and Etsy still, because you can find some real gems on there, and then now I'm working with hair and makeup artists as well. So because, again, we're taking things to another level and I'm not the makeup artist. I'm not a hair artist. So color, color I feel unifies your whole portfolio. Whatever it is or genre it is that you're shooting, your sense of color play is something that I think really makes you stand out from other artists. And you have your own preferences as well to color. Most artists do, I guess most photographers do, you're just naturally connected to maybe muter tones or maybe more green in your work or maybe you like a particular shade of, shade or palette of tones that you just like to work within. And that will just unify all your work, even irrelevantly of which showing are you shooting. Somebody can look at it and recognize your work on color alone. Light, I'm always shooting either with natural light and now I've started to use studio lights as well. Again, because growing. Started off in natural light. Later I started adding a reflector. And now and then I wanna throw an actual light in there. I'm working with little blinkies, because growing, evolving. Because growing, like the flower you are. (laughter) Had to throw that in there. Props, so the props that obviously make me stand out are smoke, because I love a bit of drama, flowers, crowns, headpieces, stuff like that. So these are just my storytelling elements. So these are just a few photos. Oh this is, yeah I wanna talk to you a bit about this one. So this is just like a photograph that I feel just completely embodies all of it. So if you're looking for a storytelling photo, if you're looking at a storytelling photo, what would be a storytelling photo to you? Actually let me ask you that.
Pass the mic, thank you.
For me, storytelling photographs have a deep, true sense of character immediately recognizable, and then you've got all of the elements compositionally, lighting and styling that are all attributing to that character, it's not just one thing, it's all of it as a piece.
Yeah, yes, yeah.
For me, your work very much embodies just something that makes me wanna ask a question, like what is she doing? Where is she going? What's about to happen? Like, makes me wonder about the external moments of the image.
Yes, yeah. Anybody else? Okay, cool. So yes, who, what, when, where, and why, right? Because I'm always thinking that. So who is she? And what is she wearing maybe? What is she doing? Where is she going? And where is she? And then, and why? Like why is she there? Why are you there? All of these things, so I always try and think of that because I think this would look very different if she was in a bathing suit. (giggles) Though that would be an interesting story, I'm sure. But that wouldn't be my story. So for me it's all about the character and building that up and asking those questions. And then deciding a location that works for it or maybe I've seen a location beforehand that makes me think of a character that I sort of think, oh this one would look great there. Or I've got this wig and this girl and this dress, that would be such an interesting picture together. So I'm constantly thinking those things. And the same thing as well, depending on whatever it is you're shooting, it's the same process. So before we get started, I wanted to show you this photo because things went very wrong at this photoshoot. So preparing for a photoshoot is pretty important, whatever it is you're shooting. And if you actually make it work, then not only are you A, an absolute champ for not getting, taken aback by things going wrong, which they will, but B, this shows that you are versatile because you can maneuver a situation and just create still. So this photo wasn't supposed to look like this at all. She was actually supposed to be on sea. We actually went to this location. We did everything, like we prepped, we went to the location a week before on a Sunday at the same time to check it out and the tide was out, moss covered rocks were everywhere, it looked stunning and I was really excited to go back the next week and shoot. I pooled people together that week frantically, I was like reaching out to a stylist for a dress and she was like oh a friend of mine can model, so I got her on board and we were gonna shoot by the sea, but then when we rocked up at the right time, the only thing I didn't taken into account was the tide coming in and it was so in that I could not shoot. I could not shoot by the sea, because there was nothing. It was just sand and sea and the tides were really strong because it was still making it's way in rather than going out. And it just wasn't working and I felt distressed because the sun wasn't setting where it was supposed to set, it was setting like, this is LA and I was like, the sun's supposed to set over the sea, but it wasn't, it was setting behind the mountains and I was like, Ahhh the light is wrong. And I was in that space and moment in time, one time only 'cause I actually had my opportunity to use a Phase One for the first time, so Phase One sent me this camera 'cause I'd bigged up this shoot so much, (laughter) that they're like here's a camera, and I was like great and the site's gonna be fantastic, we've prepped for it, it's gonna be so good. And then it all went wrong! And I'm like, god what if I don't get these images to Phase One, they're gonna be like, okay no camera for her like ever again. So we got there and I actually wanted the sea shot to happen so badly, that I was like, guys I'll walk a bit further down, so I actually walked further down and I saw the wave coming in and I mistimed it, And I was like oh no no and there was a rock in front of me and then the wave hit, and I was caught between the rock and then the cliff, and I was like oh! In the water. And I got absolutely battered with this wave. So I was like, oh no. And then I came back to the group and they were like, what happened? (laughter) I was like, yeah we can't shoot down there. So instead I decided to go with the flow. We decided to, I noticed that if we walked a bit further down, suddenly the rock turned into a bit of moss, a bit of green, and it looked like this where it was very like textured. And I thought, okay it looks a bit like it's from under the sea? Let's go with making her like a Siren anyway, which is what she was gonna be, and I put gold leaf on her arms and legs 'cause I thought, 'cause I saw that the ground had some yellows and golds in it, so I was like okay that might connect. And we shot against the, we shot it against on this location, the sun not in the right place, and the final picture turned out like this. So it wasn't what I'd envisioned at all. I had to mute the dark, the background, but then I actually really like it. So it turned out, it was probably a happy accident. I actually really liked it. I tried not to let myself get too stressed. I was just keeping my options open, walking around and looking and yeah, I would say that if you ever get into a situation, which I'm sure you will, A, have a plan B. Which I didn't. But B, know that it's gonna be okay. If you're not happy, get up and move. Which is what we did. And it really was as simple as just going down the beach and finding the shot.