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When you’ve been commissioned (or are simply looking to build your portfolio) to do an editorial shoot, you may have more questions than answers. How is an editorial shoot defined? How much creative freedom will you have? How can you come up with a fresh idea that fits within the theme?
Most importantly, how can you ensure that everything goes smoothly on the day of the photo shoot? For starters, editorial work is different than shooting commercial spreads because it is not advertising copy, but rather creative work that is meant either to stand alone or to accompany an article. For example, if the magazine you’re working on is doing a story on Western-inspired fashion, it’s up to you to pick out the clothes, models, hair and makeup styling, and location of the shoot — all within the bounds of a Western feel. How much direction and artistic license you’re able to take with an editorial shoot depends on the publication. Of course, if you’re shooting for your own portfolio, you have total freedom!
Above all, it’s important to have a compelling and unique idea for your spread. Remember that there a million ways to execute your theme, and that a successful shoot goes far beyond the clothes alone. Hair, makeup, setting, lighting, poses, even the way the photos are taken, should all be a part of your vision. To ensure you’ve thought of everything, it’s a good idea to make a mood board of what inspires you. Doing a 70’s-themed shoot? Your mood board might consist of pictures of Jerry Hall, Lauren Hutton, wild prints, and scenes from inside a disco. Remember, clothes may make the man, but a cohesive idea makes the editorial shoot. Anyone who works in fashion knows that a successful editorial shoot takes an army to properly pull off — so be sure to surround yourself with the best team possible. When trying to find hair and makeup artists, models, or anyone else you might need on your set, don’t be afraid to insist on samples of their work and even a few references. You can have the best idea in the world for a shoot, but without the right people, you won’t be able to execute it successfully. Also, if it’s within your budget, consider hiring an assistant for yourself for the day — because you never know when you might need an extra set of hands (even if they’re just to grab coffee.)
Before your shoot, it’s important to arrange as much as possible ahead of time in order to avoid scrambling whilst on set, or realizing that you’ve forgotten to pick up a pair of shoes you needed. Make a checklist and run through it the evening before the shoot. You want to ensure that your set has an organized, prepared feel to it, and that you’re able to complete your shoot within the allotted time frame. Have models’ names labeled on racks of clothing, complete outfits put together on hangers, and of course, plenty of food and water for everyone on set. Finally, if you’ve been given a specific budget by a publication, do your best not to go over it. Nobody wants to work with the person who went way over the budget because they didn’t have the creative juice to come up with an alternative. Sure, the shoot may look great now, but down the line, publications most likely won’t hire you a second time. Whilst on set, be sure to keep a cool head. Wasting time getting frustrated or running around looking for something simply isn’t an option — and it brings down the mood of the whole team. Many a shoot has been ruined by one bad attitude, so be sure to show your appreciation to everyone on set. Still, don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working out or if you’d like to try a different option. And if anyone on your team starts to exhibit a diva attitude, make it clear that won’t fly with you.
Once you’ve finished shooting, it can be tempting to upload your images to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Share it with the world, right? Wrong. While it’s great to be enthusiastic about your work, most magazines (and even most websites) want to have exclusive rights to the photographs. Whether you already have a magazine that’s commissioned the shoot or whether you’re still looking for a home for your photos, no publication is going to want to run something all 6,000 of your followers have already seen. So keep it to yourself — and remember, there’s much to be said for the element of surprise. Though pulling off a successful editorial photo shoot can be intimidating, if you stay organized, focused, and calm it can be an enjoyable process that results in great photographs for your portfolio — and lifelong industry connections. Follow these tips to ensure your vision goes off without a hitch.