Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Art Directors want: AllSaints, Yokoo, bad boys, rich girls ...and Chanel.

I was recently having a conversation with a Seattle photo agent about things that commercial creative/art directors look for in a photography portfolio when they are hiring. This is the list we agreed on:

- shooting for your portfolio and so with a low low budget? Do not buy cheap things, borrow/return if necessary. Spend the money on a MUA/hairstylist (or trade if you can). Trade with local stores that have a web presence and require fresh images but do not have a budget specifically for that. They are also more innovative and will let you shoot the way you want it (try doing that with a paying client).

- shoot good quality/expensive items ...and make them look even more expensive.
Why? Because then you will get work for higher budget projects.

- do not shoot cute talent, shoot interesting/ethnic/publication worthy/expressive talent. I do not mind working with the same model a few times if he/she looks good on my images, especially for tests.

- do not shoot what is current now, but take a chance and try to predict what is going to be relevant in the near future in terms of looks, lighting schemes, palettes and topics. Scout on foreign magazines and websites and small photo/design publications for inspirations. If it's on Vogue or Lady Gaga says it's's already too late to be in your portfolio. I often ask designers for obscure sources of inspiration, they are good at that and have different eyes from those of a photographer, so they provide perspective.

So I wanted to shoot a portfolio image that summed up this conversation...

I like the fun challenge of location, but the weather is not great in February and it is good to brush up on the skills required for studio shoots, where everything has to be perfect and controlled (or at least fixable in post...ehm). To this I added the challenge of shooting at my studio,which is small and mostly designed for product shoots.

Ari (Filipino/Swedish heritage) is wearing a 'scowl' from Yokoo, an Atlanta based fashion designer who knits amazing pieces. Knitting is the new black...The oversized wool jacket is from All Saints (Now that the shoot is done I finally get to wear it) and the bag is a Chanel limited edition (borrowed from a large local store, thanks to 'Mr. Frederick'). I liked the idea of combining seemingly disparate styles into a common look/palette. The big topaz ring belonged to my grandma.

The lighting is simple: a flagged beauty dish powered by an Einstein 200w/sec, f16, ISO100 at camera left, soft fill light at -1.5 stops and a white board to the right. The postproduction uses different layers (high pass, paint daub and multiply....), to achieve a painterly look. Flagging was essential in a small space. Note to self: I need to get a grid for the BD.

What story does this image tell? Of a modern girl who can afford a classic bag, can mix it with a different style from a small, talented, up & coming independent designer to make it current and has a boyfriend with an urban sense of style from whom she just stole..borrowed a cozy wool jacket from a relatively new company, at least here in the States. It's a good story.