Friday, June 29, 2012

Learning On The Job – A Test Shoot

by Katelyn Groth

I was contacted through Model Mayhem by a photographer named Wira Maxwell from the LA area looking to do a test shoot in San Juan Capistrano. Since the location was far more convenient than LA, I was really excited to get to work with a new crew. Thus far, I have worked with photographers I know personally, which meant I had a good idea of how to interact with them. This was an entirely new experience for me - not only to work with strangers but to work with multiple professional models.

The mood-board that was provided by the photographer was not very specific and the only description I took from it was a "casual, classic, americana-vibe." The location was a beautiful campsite with horse corrals, dry river beds, and even a windmill. With that in mind, I pulled clothes from my personal collection and asked the models to bring some staples of their own. I didn't receive the official model line-up until the day before, so I planned to do a lot of pinning and praying that things would fit.

When I arrived at the hotel, I had a chance to get to know the models because the photographer had stopped to get us all food. Since we got a later start than we had planned, I felt pressure to get through the fitting process quickly. I had understood that the models would be shot in groups, so I coordinated two looks for each of them.

Keeping in mind that this was a lifestyle shoot and not an editorial or fashion shoot, I felt a bit less pressure to have them in exciting clothes. But I also wanted to show a bit of my own aesthetic (which wasn’t hard since they were wearing all of my own clothes) and have the looks be appropriate for the location.
We hit the ground running at Casper’s Park – literally. Since we ended up being way behind our projected finish time, the photographer was shooting at a very fast pace

There were 4 models and I was constantly fixing and pinning one while he was shooting the others. The place he was shooting was often quite a distance from my car – which meant I was helping the models change into their next looks and I missed some adjustments that should have been made while the pictures were being taken.

One of the models was wearing a pair of jeans that belonged to another model that needed to leave early. She quickly changed out of the jeans and into the only pair of pants we could find at the moment – which were the men’s pants. The photographer saw her and thought I had put together an additional look, so he took multiple shots of her while I prepped some props.

We had planned to shoot bathing suits on the beach but ran out of time so we dressed the remaining models in some interesting wraps provided by the makeup artist to keep them warm and used up the last bit of sunlight.

While much of the shoot didn't go the way I had thought it would, the crew was so fun to work with and I'm happy with the result. Not only did I get some great photos for my portfolio, but I learned that I need to take a stand and be more aggressive when it comes to "stepping in" to a shot to make it perfect. Only the stylist notices that smallest details that make the photos perfect.

Katelyn Groth is a stylist friend of mine specializing in architectural and lifestyle. Her work can be seen at

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Working with the Pro, Two Days of Styling for Cortex

by Samia Lavenant

I was very excited and nervous to be asked by my teacher Susan Linnet Cox to help her for a photo shoot, a “real” one. Her reassuring words about my capacity to do well helped encourage me to pull out my styling kit, which I had put together for last year’s Fashion Photo Styling class I had taken with her at Mesa College. As a student to be asked to help with a professional in the field is the biggest compliment.

It is a well-known fact that San Diego has limited opportunities for styling, so it is my personal advice to read as much as possible on the matter and keep on researching for outlets to reach out to. Once you have booked a job, give yourself plenty of time to drive to the shooting location and even familiarize with the location a day or two before so you arrive on time and present yourself professionally.

Sleep plenty the night before and double check you have all equipment and tools ready to go. It is also important to do research on the client you will style for.

On the day of the shoot I arrived before the rest of the crew, introduced myself to the client which in this case was a high end lab coat company called Cortex. I was very nervous as all the books that I have read on styling can’t prepare you for some real action. Once the crew got there, there was a meeting to go over the shoot details, scenes, what needed to be accomplished, and also review the client’s expectations.

This shoot involved product styling as well as some fashion styling. The objective was to show the details that differentiate the company’s coats such as the lining and stitching. There was a lot of steaming and we even went to a building close to studio/ location to shoot some exterior pictures. We had to take our styling kits with the basics and always be on the lookout for things that might not look good in a picture; such as pins showing or a tie that is crooked. I found it interesting that once you are at the shoot you have to be conscious of everyone’s space. There are all these common sense things that are required yet have to be learned, like making yourself indispensable, asking for permission from the photographer to “go in” and fix something only when it is highly necessary to achieve the final look.

I dealt with models and helping sort clothes options that would complement the lab coats’ features. I also assisted in product styling and had a chance to style a couple of shots which I hope I get to see soon. This was an interesting experience to just see how to style, tricks that I observed from Susan such as creating textures on the lab coats to show fabric. The shoot even included a dog that was very challenging to shoot since he eventually got tired.

For me, it was important to remind myself to keep on working and looking for things to help out in everything I could without overstepping on someone else’s job, like the photographer’s assistant or the makeup stylist. I very much enjoyed this experience and was keeping mental notes on what to do and how to do it. By the end of the two days I was very happy, and it was nice that the crew knew I was assisting and made me feel comfortable about it, like Ken West, the photographer. Another thing I enjoyed was the upbeat and familiar environment that all the crew displayed, the amount of stories that makeup artist Tracey Taylor told us was keeping us going with a good sense of humor.

I definitely left the shoot feeling excited about pursuing the “Styling Path” and thankful to have been able to be hands-on in a shoot. A teacher’s encouragement goes a long way and in this case I am still developing a networking system so I can further my experience.

Samia Lavenant has been an outstanding student of mine this past year. I was happy to have her assistance on this big project. We will post more results from the Cortex shoot once the product launch has occurred.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moving My Doll House

Going through the process of closing Photo Styling Workshops after nearly six years and moving it to this blog has not been the least bit sad or painful. It's been refreshng! It reminds me of the systematic mental steps I take when I move - and I've moved a lot!

The last time I moved over two years ago (I'm in a very stable period now) I posted this story about cleaning my vintage doll house and I'll share it with you now.

In the process of packing for our move to a bigger place north of San Diego, I took my dollhouse down from the high shelf where it’s been perched. The dollhouse is the identical model that I had as a child. We found it at an antique shop a number of years ago. An antique shop! Oh well.

I took the plastic furniture out of the metal rooms and dropped it in some soapy water in the kitchen sink. Wiping out the rooms with a damp rag I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if it were so easy to clean our own houses? Take everything out and wash it, wipe out the rooms and then put it back all fresh and clean.

Then it occurred to me: That’s what moving is all about. Everything is dusted off, reorganized and sorted, packed in boxes, and placed in clean, new, empty rooms. I like moving. Soon I'll be styling some big new rooms and some familiar little rooms.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guest Blog: A Photo Studio of my Own -- a Tutorial

by Corey Johnston of Relished Artistry
Friday, April 9, 2010

I work with some interesting people at the San Diego Opera. One of them, Susan Linnet Cox, worked at the table next to me, and together we cut out 52 pattern pieces for each tailcoat suit that we assembled. We cut 12 tailcoats, 11 pairs of pants, and 4 or 5 vests (I'm not sure)... We were busy bees!

But Susan also does something else as a career--she teaches photostyling. She shows others how to set up different photogaphs for product merchandising such as food, clothing, mannequins, etc. She actually has her own blog here, as well as her own website and teaching site!

The people you meet in your neighborhood! LOL!

I've picked Susan's brain over the time that we've been working together, and as soon as she starts her next photostyling class, I'm signing up! We exchanged ideas on marketing, the state of the economy, society, people, facebook... I'm not sure there was much we didn't talk about, actually! What a delightful conversationalist! I could talk with Susan for hours if it didn't take away from my podcast addiction! Haha!

Susan and I talked a bit about taking photos--I feel like I need some help with my own, and she was quite encouraging. She prompted me to take a step forward and dive into setting up a little photography studio of my own in the middle of my sewing space!

I bought some stretch velvet and made "body socks" for my dress forms, covering them up so they looked a bit more presentable. I bought both black and grey. Then I bought a background fabric that was neutral in tone and could pick up light from different sources. This picture below is the result!

It's a bit tough being able to take photos without much room, but I didn't have to invest in a bunch of lights either--I simply redirected the clip lights I already had and brought out my desk lamp to light up the backdrop. I'm much happier with the results of the photos over what I was doing before--this kind of set up seems to elevate what I'm doing somehow... I'm very excited!! Thanks, Susan, for the inspiration!!

Until next time--Live life with Relish!

Corey Johnston presents his gorgeous blog - and some fantastic costume projects at his blog Relished Artistry.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Director’s Choice: Studio Pull for Nicki Minaj Starships Music Video

by Haley Byrd of Fashion Rework, April 3rd, 2012

As I have mentioned before, I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with so many supportive, talented and amazing companies for the Nicki Minaj music video, Starships. Here are just a few of the great items that I got to work with from some amazing and very talented people and companies. I feel so fortunate to work with them and many of them created one of kind pieces especially for the shoot in color palettes of neon orange, neon pink and neon yellow which was established by Nicki Minaj‘s album cover make-up that Donald Simrock did.

Thief and Bandit make clothing and amazing jewelry from Richmond, VA. All fabrics are handprinted, which resulted in the perfect feel for neon tribal.

Thief and Bandit’s amazing necklaces, braided bracelets and turbans. Find out more about them here.

Pamela Love has the most INCREDIBLE jewelry ever. The director loved these pieces. They were so nice to work with and have so many other great pieces, check them out here.

Connie from Nutcase Jewelry makes amazing jewelry. She made a special necklace for Nicki Minaj called “Minaj”. Her pieces are the answer to any outfit that needs a lift. She is incredibly professional and incredible fusion of glamorous and bright, check out more of her items here.

Joy from J Dot Designs has come up these feather ankle cuffs. They seem like the perfect way to upgrade your favorite heels. I hope to work with her in the future and ever-expanding collection. Find more of her items here.

These are just a few great companies from that list and I look forward to giving more updates and more photos from the fun array of items I had to pull from when dressing the background for the video. I look forward to posting photos of my designs as well and I’m waiting for the video to drop before I do so.

Haley Byrd was an outstanding student in my Fashon Photo Styling course at Mesa College. She has gone on to work on wardobe for the television show Hawai'i Five-O and many more cool projects. Read the blog post onher blog Fashion Rework. Haley's website is