Shooting: challenges and rewards


On a Saturday night towards the end of last year, I received a call from an unknown number while I was cooking dinner. I almost didn’t answer because we had guests over at the time, but I decided to abandon my hostessing duties for a moment. As it turns out, the call was from Debut Magazine, asking me if I was available to shoot the main fashion editorial for their December issue that coming Monday morning. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I said yes. I suppose someone dropped out, but I was only too happy to pick up the slack.

The theme of the issue was ‘Celebration’ and the editors wanted the editorial to depict a raucous Christmas party. Well, maybe I added raucous to the brief actually. We were shooting at Bodo’s Schloss in Kensington, which for those of you who don’t know, is an Alpine ski lodge themed bar. Kitsch doesn’t begin to cover it and I’d say they’ve seen a raucous party or two in their time. When myself and my assistant, Charlotte, arrived the first thing we saw was a life size plastic reindeer on wheels. I immediately thought of the iconic picture of Jade Jagger riding a horse in Studio 54 so we made reinterpreting that photo our top priority.

Shooting for clients is a privilege, of course, but I think most photographers would agree that there is often a chasm between what you want to get out of a shoot versus what your client wants to get out of the shoot. You have different priorities and it’s important for both sides to remain respectful of that. You need to appreciate that a client is paying you to shoot what they want but equally the client needs to appreciate that they have booked you for your particular style so there is little point in asking you to make a departure from that. If so, they may as well have booked a different photographer. 

This shoot was no different, there were frames we agreed on and frames we didn’t. Set-ups I loved and set-ups the client didn’t. You figure out a compromise as you go along. Sometimes a challenge can be that a client will want to see an entire look from head to toe. But I feel that an 8-10 page editorial of full looks, using the same focal length, has no cadence and no story. And I'm all about telling a story. 

This red dress was the last look we were shooting and I was finding it quite tricky. Especially as we had shot in every possible nook and cranny of the location already. Below is a shot I thought was really fun, but Debut didn’t like. The shot below that is the one we finally worked out and agreed on. And I love it! 

This shoot was unusual as I slotted in last minute. I normally have more time to prepare for my shoots, get to grips with the mood board and styling and help choose the models. I wasn’t involved in any of the preparation for the shoot and I felt the effects of that. I didn’t quite have the same ownership of and vision for this shoot as I would for others. But you’ve got to challenge yourself, put yourself into new situations, make some mistakes, and think on your feet if you want to improve. I’m delighted I did this shoot and it’s always such a thrill to see your work in print. Thanks for having me Debut!

If you'd like more chat about common challenges photographers face - let me know in the comments below!