How to Utilize Costumes, Props & Locations
I've got some options for you guys here for costumes, and this is just like a really quick, simple ways that I find my costumes, I would say, so bedsheets. I am like 50% of the time wrapped in a bed sheet doing something stupid for a photo shoot. 50% of the time. I have recently started setting up a backdrop in my garage to do photo shoots with, and I find that, when I'm doing that, the neighbors all love to go on walks during that time, and then you're just there in like a sheer piece of fabric with a backdrop, and you look crazy, so that's been a constant issue for me lately, but I love bed sheets as dresses. I think that they're totally nondescript. They don't have a time period associated with them. They're really simple. They're plain. You can drape them in whatever way you want, so I would say a lot of the time I'm using a bed sheet as my costume, or loose fabrics. Same thing, just different way of saying it. I often search on Etsy in the vintage department of Etsy to see what th...
ey have. I know it's very pricey a lot of the time on Etsy, but still a really good option to find one really nice piece for your wardrobe. There's a place called Western Costume that's based in Los Angeles, and they have an online rental department, I believe, so this is just one example of where you could rent costumes, which is a really great option. If you don't wanna invest $300 in a Victorian dress, then don't, you know? See if you can rent it. Go to costume shops, and especially local theaters are the best. I've been to my local theater a number of times. Sometimes they do like garage sale type things where they'll sort of get rid of their old costumes, bring in new costumes. How wonderful, so go to your local theater. See what they have to say. Rusty Zipper is an online website that sells really cool costumes. Ballyhoo Vintage is another one, so it's just a number of different online websites that I'm recommending. Adore Vintage, and then my last note here is just about bold colors, so yes, there are lots of places where you can get costumes, but I often try to either get something in a really antique color or a really bold color, so my wardrobe is sort of like bright red, bright orange, bright purple, and then white or cream, and I don't really have a lot of pastels, and the reason for that is I'm thinking about editing, so I'm thinking about how can I change this image in editing later, and one of the ways to do that is with bold colors. If you have a bold color dress or costume or whatever it is that you're photographing in, then you're so much more likely to be able to change that color more effectively to whatever you want. You can make it lighter. You can make it more pastel. You can make it a totally different color, so I often think, if I have a choice of costumes, and there's a bright red one and maybe a light pink one, I'm gonna go with that red one, 'cause I can make that red one pink, but I can't so easily make that pink one red. Does that make sense? Okay. And then, locations. So, how I'm finding locations, first of all, I'm always taking stock shots, everywhere I go. I am taking images of spaces with nobody in them in the hope that I can one day put somebody in that space, so I'm always collecting images, everywhere I find myself ending up. Location agencies are really good for that type of thing, so if you search by city, I wanted to give you examples of location scouting agencies, but it's so by city that there's no point, so if you search, for example, Seattle location scouting agency, you're very likely to find somebody who specializes in finding locations, and yes, they cost money, but bring your friends and split the cost and it can be great. And that's how you find friends, I find. I started doing that a long time ago. I would post in like a Flickr group, and I would say okay, I've rented this hospital. Does anyone wanna go in on it with me. If we can get 20 photographers, it'll only cost us $30 a piece, and then we all go, and then I have some friends. Location libraries, same thing, so if you don't want to go to an agency, per se, there are often libraries of locations that you can look through, and this will help you to just find a location that maybe you can contact directly yourself to rent, or to just shoot at. You don't always have to rent these places, so these are just key words for you. Location agency versus location library, things that you can search and Google. Google Maps. I mean, have you guys ever done this, where you just put your little man down and walk around and see what you find? I've found lots of abandoned buildings that way, like in certain regions, you know? It's pretty good for that. Searching abandoned or derelict or any word you can think of. UrbEx, I guess, is another one that you might search for. Oh, look at that. Forums for UrbEx. They're all over the place, because if you've ever talked to somebody who does urban exploring, they're so into it, and like there are so many forums talking about this stuff. Alright, the way that I think about images in terms of planning your photo shoot are in two ways. One is image design, and the other one is compositing, so this is what I mean. When I say image design, I could also say set design, and what I mean is an image that is created on location, an image where you are putting as much as you can into one scene, and then photographing that scene, and then I think about compositing, which is where anything is possible. You could put lots of elements from different photo shoots together into one, and then that would be a composited image. And I like to think about them in terms of two separate categories of photo shoots, because it drastically changes how you're going to approach the shoot. If you plan on creating set design, well, obviously, you're gonna source all of your props and get everything in the space and do it that way, whereas compositing, you can do it in a much more free form way. I have often really wanted to buy props for a set design shoot, but I can't afford the props, so I'll go into that place and I'll ask them if I can photograph the prop, and then I do, and then I can composite it, and I never had to spend that $ on that really awesome clock. So, I do that very frequently, go into antique stores, ask if I could shoot something, put it in later. It works really great. Alright, now, a couple of questions that I think it's important to ask when you're planning your photo shoot. First one, is this topic something that I have a strong opinion about? So we did talk about the importance of opinion, but really, why? Why are you doing this? What is your opinion on it, and is it strong enough to sustain your vision of this image? For example, this picture right here, where I'm sitting in the forest, writing once upon a time. It's actually quite a nice picture. Not like pretty, but in terms of just like not being creepy, it's doing alright there, and I created this image because I feel really strongly about this topic, about fairy tales, about creating your own reality, writing your own story. So yes, I have a strong opinion about that. Is this topic something that I have a lot to say about? Do you really have a lot to say about what you're doing? Because I find that a lot of people will create one-off images, and it's just fun and it's nice, but really, that's it. Like it lives alone. You don't feel the need to create a series around it, but I wanna remind you that we are, our goal here is to create a series, okay? Like over the course of this class, I would love for you to create a series, and me as well. That's gonna be my goal, too. So, do I have enough to say that I can create multiple images on this subject? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Is this topic something that I want to explore more of? So maybe you have an opinion. Yeah, you have a lot to say, but is there something to learn about this topic? So much of art is about what we learn about ourselves through the process, and if we allow it, what we learn about other people and other other cultures and other things, so is there more to learn? Is this something you want to explore more of, and then, is is visually compatible with your brand? I do not want you to ask yourself this question and then give up if it's not. I don't want you to be like okay, I have this idea, but oh, man, it doesn't fit anything that I've done before, so I shouldn't do it. What I want you to do is ask yourself this question, and if you say yes to the other questions on this board here, then perhaps that means that that's the direction you should go in with your art, not that you shouldn't do that, but that you should explore this new way of creating, which is where I am right now in my career. I'm at a point where I'm about to start doing something that I've never done before, in a way that I've never thought to do it, and yeah, it's going to be off-brand, but who cares? Maybe that'll be my new brand. You never know, so always say yes to that one. Okay, does this topic allow me to present an idea in a new way? Is this topic meant to be represented visually in a single frame? Think about that one a little bit, because we get a little bit trapped as photographers. Like okay, I'm a photographer. I'm a photographer. I'm a photographer, and then, suddenly, you're a photographer and that's what you have to do, but is this idea really best represented that way? Or should you be branching out into another medium to express this idea that you have? It's really important to think about, to do it the right way. And then, why am I drawn to this topic? What is your reason why for that particular idea that you have? Okay, so I've got a video here that we're going to play for you guys, and this is a behind the scenes video of a new series that I created last year. Okay, so we've got me and my friends in fast motion here, and that's what you're gonna see is just the whole behind the scenes process, so what I did was about two years ago, I suppose, I went to this portfolio review that totally changed the way that I work and the way that I plan my shoots, and this is what I was saying. I rented a studio. This is the creepy room in the abandoned high school that I rented, which was regrettably on the second floor, which you'll see why that's regrettable in a moment, and I decided I was going to change how I create. I wanted a studio. I wanted this space, and the reason was this portfolio review, so I went into the review. I did not know what to expect. I had never had my work properly reviewed before. I went in and I sat down and the first review was a little bit weird. Like, we sat down together, they looked at my photos, and the response was kinda like okay, what do you want me to say? We didn't connect. They didn't like my photos. I didn't like their feedback. It was not a good relationship, so I moved on to the next person, who said, "Oh, well, I only deal in "black and white photography, "so I can't really help you," and I was like okay, and I moved on to the next one, and it was kinda like that all day, until finally, I got to this reviewer who had very harsh words for me and very helpful words for me, and the harsh words were your images have no story. Your images have no depth. You are not a real artist. You need to work on your craft. You need to work on your concepts. You need to work on everything, and I had this reaction of oh my gosh. I didn't know that I wasn't an artist. Like you have this epiphany, like oh, wow, somebody thinks that what I'm doing is crap. Now what do I do? And I took that information and I internalized it, and then I sort of spit it out, and I said who is this person? I don't care if they think I'm an artist. I am an artist. I'm gonna do what I want, and then I started to really listen to their advice. Not just here's what you did wrong, here's what I didn't like about what you did, but what can I do to move in a slightly different direction that still true to me? And that was when I decided to listen to what they had to say about creating depth in your work, something that I have always felt lacking in my own work. So I looked at what I'd been doing, and I said okay, how can I do something different? How can I create a cohesive series, which was part of their advice? How can I create a whole series of images that have more depth, more layers to them, that mean more to me, that will mean more to other people, that are more interesting, and I started to think, okay, what would that look like for me? What topics am I interested in? So I went out to Home Depot, got made fun of a lot at Home Depot, as often happens with me at Home Depot, and I bought all these pieces of wood and I built this room. And I started to construct this set, which was four walls with no windows or doors. The wall on this side that you're seeing now was contractable. Is that a word? Contractable? And so I was able to open and close the door, which was the wall, and I started to decorate my little set with different things, so we put the baseboard along the wall. We painted it, and, sorry, this is a squeamish part. I know, I know. It's okay, guys. She was fine. She's my sister in law, so it's all okay. So, I mounted my camera to the ceiling, and I shot every single image looking down into the room, and every single image had to do with what we feel that we keep inside, what we cannot share with other people, so every image was something that we feel trapped by, that we feel in our heads about, that we don't tell other people. So, this particular image was one that had to do with giving so much of yourself that you have nothing left for yourself, and I wanted somebody who was really pale. I wanted this red yarn to symbolize the fabric, and so I created that image, where I had my sister in law sew under her hand to mimic the pattern of the floor onto her hand to show that the blood was coming from her, from her giving hands. And then I started to create more and more images in this series. This one was with sand. We're actually gonna play with sand later on, but this one was 800 pounds of sand, which is why it was so silly of me to get a second floor studio, because that was a lot of sand to bring up and down the stairs, among many other things. So I created this image to show the passing of time, the way that we sort of believe that time will never stop for us, until suddenly, it does. The way that we age and how we deal with that, so I used sand to symbolize that, and this old bed that I found behind a warehouse that I probably should not have purchased. We ended up with black mold all over the floor because of it. You tell me if that's bad or not. I don't know. I think it's fine. And created this image, and for this one, I actually went to my grocery store and I saw this woman who was just perfect and I went up to her and I said, "Will you model in one of my pictures?" And she said, "No," and then she emailed me later and she said yes, and so she ended up doing this photo, and she was very sweet. So then I created another image, and, clearly, repainted the room a couple times, and for this one, I created with wax, so the whole goal here was to fill the room with a new element, a new natural element that would communicate a new theme, so that every image was shot looking down at the scene. No windows or doors. Completely enclosed. A new subject in each room, and for this one, I went out and found a bathtub, which turned out to be an extraordinarily heavy bathtub that we needed these two wonderful men to carry for us, up the second flight of stairs, in the summer, in Arizona. It was really torturous, and I feel very guilty when I look at this video. So, I'm creating this image, and I'm trying to create as many layers as possible here. I'm trying to make sure that every single element of each image is purposeful, is impactful, and is interesting, so I not only photographed from above, looking down, so that it was sort of a bird's eye view, so they looked trapped, but I also purchased little like Kodak Duaflex cameras, just old film cameras, where I could shoot through those cameras and see the dirt on the lens from that camera, so that I had a natural texture overlay on each image. So I purchased a new camera for every single picture that I did, so that it was almost like looking through someone else's lens when you see the image, and that's not something that, of course, you would look at the image and know. You wouldn't look at that and say oh, I totally get that, but it's a really interesting piece of layer to put into the artist's statement or to put into this series as a whole. So, there's the wax. We tested the wax. I swear I tested all of this on myself first. I totally sewed under my own hand before I had my sister in law do it. It's fine. Children do it all the time. I don't know if you guys know that, but they do, 'cause it's safe. I feel like I'm really advocating something terrible here. And then, I asked my friend to please lay naked in a bathtub for about four hours, and she did, and it was really nice of her, and I practiced pouring the wax on my skin, and then I started pouring the wax on her and letting it dry, and then pouring more wax and letting that dry. Just sort of build up the texture on her, on the bathtub, on the floor, and that's what we did, over and over and over again for two hours straight, until it finally looked good, I hope, and that was this image that we ended up creating. My point in saying this is think about planning the shoot. There's first the building of the room, which took some time, but was okay, and then there's the conceptualization of I only have one shot at this. Like, I've got 50 pounds of wax here. I'm not gonna like to this all over again, 'cause I'm not gonna haul the sand back in, you know? I'm not gonna re... We had a little bit of a hair issue here. That's my robe. Okay, anyways. So, I didn't want to have to do these things again, so I had to make sure that they were right, and that they were impactful enough, and that they had enough meaning put on them. Yeah, so that was that series, and I really enjoyed creating it because of how different it was from anything I had done before, so this is that first image with the red yarn that we laid down, and it took about 60 hours in total to lay down the yarn on the floor, and it was very labor intensive. And I'm not saying this to say like look how awesome I am. I spent 60 hours laying yarn on this floor. The point is that it was a totally different technique, and that technique ends up being a selling point for the image, because in that artist statement, I'm not just talking about the concept behind it, but I'm saying I spent 60 hours laying yarn down on the floor, and that adds value to that image, doesn't it? If somebody's gonna look at that and think maybe she just Photoshopped that in, but no, there was work put into it, and I don't personally believe that there's any, you know, right or wrong, good or bad. I don't believe in that stuff. I don't think that we need to see our art as like, you know, if it's labor intensive, that's better. I don't think that at all. I just think that the more you can think about what will be meaningful for you in that creation process, the better it's going to be for everybody, the more passion people will feel from the project. So, there's her hand, when all was said and done. It took her three and a half hours. It's very labor intensive to sew under your hand, as it turns out, so we did the sewing, and that's a closeup of that, just mimicking the pattern on the floor with all of our little debris in there, because gosh, it was so hard to keep that tacky floor clean. And then there's just a behind the scenes shot of the camera, so the camera was on a slider on the ceiling, like a video slider. You would put a video camera on a slider and then move the camera, you know? So it was on one of those, which I would mount to the ceiling and then slide out to the center of the room, and use a remote to click the camera, and then shoot, and then pull it back. This string at the bottom here was my little pulley system, so I would just send it out and bring it back, and then there's the room from the bottom. This was my test pose with my subject, so just figuring out what pose was going to work, what's not going to work, and then I took a moment to photograph her outside of that shoot as well, just after we finished, coming down and see what I can get. That's my test. My fingers look really gross 'cause I was laying the yarn down with glue, and it was a very messy process. So, there, I did test it. I just felt it was important to show that, in case you thought that I do torture my family members, which I guess I do, but who knows? So then this is the sand image that you saw. There we are, just hanging out on that dirty, filthy mattress, just for fun. I did a test shoot with my assistant at the time, and just looking at, okay, what does the angle look like? Am I getting this right? Are the colors right? Figuring out how that would look. And then, we have the image of the wax, which took... Can you guess how long it took to get that wax off? I'm just gonna tell you, it was four hours. It took so long to get that wax off. We had a very awkward bath after that. Don't worry about it. Okay, and so, here we are in the tub, and so that was the scene from down below, which I actually really like, and I kind of regret not shooting it from that angle, too, but that's okay. And then I did this shoot with flour, so this was about 600 pounds of flour that we brought in, and like just a soft landing pad underneath, so that she could sort of... It was this process. She would squat here, and then I would say okay, go, and then she would just sort of like fall over into it, just like a little hop, and dump herself in there to create the poofs of flour in there. But I first photographed it with my friend to make sure that everything was gonna go okay, and that was when I realized a couple of things, like okay, it's actually really hard to get a lot of flour moving at the same time, so some compositing had to go into that. Secondly, I didn't like that her skin was the same color as the flour, and that's when I decided to use darker skin in this picture, which actually ended up transforming the meaning of it a little bit. And then, this was the very last shoot that I ended up doing for this series, where I took the room down and then rebuilt it inside a swimming pool in the parking lot so that I could get this flooded effect, which was very fun. I ended up having to composite a little here, too, 'cause it turns out I'm not very graceful at posing in water, and so I had to use just like different legs, slightly different arms, but it came together eventually for this photo. These are some of the images that I didn't use in the series, so I ended up with nine pictures, and this was one of them that did not make the cut, and this was actually a couple people's favorite picture from the series, and I felt like the cobwebs looked too much like store bought, Halloween cobwebs, so I didn't end up using it, 'cause I just couldn't get that out of my head, and that's why I didn't use it. And sometimes it's hard, once you do a photo shoot, to know what's good, what's not good, what will people respond to, what won't they respond to, and a lot of people did respond to this, but I just couldn't do it, personally, on a personal level. It just didn't sit right with me. This one was a disaster. I bought a really expensive piece of like plastic, what's it called? Like acrylic? Yeah, acrylic, and put it on top of my subject and cracked it, and wanted that to look like ice. It was all very safe. I did it safely, and it didn't look like ice. Not even remotely. It just looked like she was being squashed by an invisible wall, and that wasn't good, so I tried to use a ton of Photoshop. I used images that were just like I was testing out. They weren't even mine. Just testing to see if it would look good, and at the end of the day, I said you know what? I don't know how I'm gonna photograph ice. I don't know how I'm gonna make this look good. These aren't even my photos, and it just didn't feel authentic to the series, so I didn't use it. This one, I never even edited. I realized that my flower situation was looking really sad. I think you can agree. And it just looked terrible, so I just never did anything with it, despite buying all those flowers and sand, I mean, and dirt. And then, this one was too much Photoshop to me, too much obvious Photoshop. I felt like, conceptually, it fits so well in the series, but the actual execution just didn't fit in line with the more labor intensive way that I was trying to make this series. These are examples of my film cameras that I used to shoot through, so, again, I didn't shoot with film cameras, but I shot through film cameras just like this, and I used these exact textures to overlay on the images, so if I just go back a couple of slides here, you'll see, on this one, for example, you can see the dark border going around it, and that's that film camera that I used to shoot through. So that's what these are here, and you'll sort of notice that now on all of them, that you can see that little border and the various textures that the cameras picked up from that process. These are some closeups, so I did this image with egg shells, which I don't buy eggs, personally, so instead, I made them out of plaster, which was very difficult. If you've ever worked with plaster and balloons, they don't go very well together. And then just a closeup of our beautiful gray haired woman. And then this was the series as a whole.