We have been planning this French Baroque test shoot for our portfolio with food stylist, Tamara Kaufman, for the past year. After several months of production, set building, planning and scheduling, we are excited to share the results.
Our creative vision was to show a table full of desserts and other luscious foods with a "Marie Antoinette" styled model in a beautiful but dark opulent room setting. Easy enough, right...? The important lesson from this project was realizing that sometimes you have to turn "test projects" into actual jobs to insure that you complete them in a timely manner. The unexpected lesson from this project was gaining essential experience as the producer AND the client.
As a client you get to experience the excitement of your dream becoming a visual reality. As a producer, your job is to make the client's experience a smooth, relaxing event with all of the right elements and talent fulfilling that vision. As the photographer you work at balancing the client's expectations with the producer's reality, working within in a predetermined budget to put it all together into beautiful imagery. We may have created the perfect storm by combining all of those people into one. This taught us how all of the titles above work (and sometimes conflict) with each other in getting to the final shoot day. If you want to learn what it takes to be an advertising photographer, I recommend that you create 1-2 projects a year that force you to do the job of each of the roles I have mentioned above.
For our commercial/advertising clients we will hire a producer, stylist or experienced assistant to "produce" a photo shoot if the budget allows for this. Many times our clients may not have the budget for this or would prefer that the photographer produce the project. The more experience you have with putting together a photo shoot the more it will help in doing so for a client. At the very least, it will allow you to gather important details to share with a producer/assistant in helping projects flow smoother from beginning to end.
|Chocolate cake creation, Winter Wonderland cake with deer and the entire table scene created by Tamara Kaufman. Beautiful floral centerpiece (top row, center) created by Daffodil Parker. Props courtesy of Constance Abode, LLC.|
For this project, we started with a rough idea, French Baroque and food. Next we started pulling together imagery and notes that we felt matched that vision. For this, Tamara and I utilized Pinterest and our favorite Art History books to share ideas of paintings from the French Baroque period and specifically some history on Marie Antoinette. More importantly, we made a decision early on that we did NOT want this to be a historically accurate representation and simply wanted the inspiration from the time period. At this point Tamara began to gather supplies to build the room set and we worked together in roughing it in until we could bring in our set builder, Tony Anderson, for construction of the set.
|Behind the scenes photos from the early construction (top left), Tamara creating the sweet goodies (top right), lighting the set (bottom left and bottom center), Kendra completing the hair on our model, Emma.|
What we learned-
• Put it on the calendar, give it a job number, schedule and hold the people you want to work your project. Schedules not lining up...? Then negotiate rates with your favorite vendors that will allow them to treat it as a real job they can schedule but stays on budget for you.
•Think about the scope of the project, what you can complete on your own and what you need help with. Work as a team, talk through ideas and always speak up if something needs to change or be added to make it all come together the way you want (a client would do this, remember you are the client on a test shoot as well as the photographer)
• Think outside the box when visiting your hardware store or builder's supply in finding bits & parts that together create great details.
• Hire the right people for the right job. For example, we found a great dress (within budget) but it was not quite as refined as we wanted and the fit was too large for our model. We hired Danielle McKinney Haberdashery to complete all the detailing & fitting. Also, our set builder gave us great ideas for finishing out the set based on all his experience that cut the construction time in half.
•Expect to put in some long hours and extra weekends if needed. Tamara and I had busy schedules we had to work around but committed ourselves to specific times to get together and work on set construction, food preparation and prop shopping.
We were blessed with great beauty and talent for this project. Thank you to our model, Emma from the Rock Agency, for such a great job and spending the many hours in the dressing room with the hair construction -she absolutely looks the part, bravo! Also thank you to Kendra Gassner our hair & makeup artist for creating that awesome hair do. Danielle (Determined Minx on Facebook) for the the perfect dress, Mark Gillespie for his patience on set and his understanding with all the post production and retouching. Emily Kuh and Joelle Olmsted for painting, organizing, painting, coproducing (did I mention painting?) and all of the other little odd jobs that come up with this type of project. Daffodil Parker for the gorgeous floral centerpiece, there was no way we could have pulled a few flowers from a store to get the look that they created for us. Constance Abode for the amazing supply of props, furniture and crazy little things we thought of at the last minute- miniature red & gold carriage, coming right up!
I also want to thank Tamara for her skills, vision and hours of frosting many cakes... it's a tough challenge working with and for someone simultaneously -I appreciate your enthusiasm through it all.
Additional detail photos shot with Emily Kuh standing in and cat Steven showing off some diamonds on the settee. Tamara whipped up some fresh mini cakes for a few extra photos.