What got you into fashion photography?
I love Photography. As a kid I took all the local courses I could, then earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and went on to work for several years as a newspaper photojournalist. When I had the opportunity to work on a fashion shoot in LA with top photographer Shaun Alexander, I was hooked. Fashion photography was what I wanted to do and the images I wanted to make. Fashion is everywhere and part of everyone’s life and I hope to make images of fashion that last. My wife, Jamie, and I are now a team in Miami working in an industry we truly enjoy.
How would you describe your style?
My aim is to create powerful images with special attention to the light and the shadows. When shooting, I am constantly tweaking and making minor lighting adjustments to get the most flattering and interesting images. I really concentrate on the shadows. Of course, fashion photography starts with the client or designer and then becomes about the shoot and the images, but my style really shines when there is room for creative freedom and artistic license.
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such beautiful imagery?
My ideas for photos come from everywhere, but I am usually inspired by imagining how I would light the subject and create a mood. Also, working with other creative minds can be very inspiring – a group of talented professionals on a set can create an energy that is contagious and encourages the production of amazing work.
How important are tools like Photoshop in your final images?
I try to get the image as close to perfect as possible in camera. (For photographers, showing an untouched image is a way of showing off.) Photoshop is a great tool that takes advantage of many of the same techniques that were used in the darkroom. In photos that require combining multiple images, HDR or composites – Photoshop plays a big role in the final product. The degree to which Photoshop is used to produce the final image depends on the client’s vision, the location or setting and the influence of design. But, in the end Photoshop is just another tool to achieve the final desired image.
Do you prefer to shoot in a studio or on location?
Studio and location shoots each have their own strengths and challenges. Studios are great for controlling the light and offer conveniences like private bathrooms, hair and make-up stations and lots of power outlets. Shooting on location offers endless options of props, architecture and surroundings that can instantly tell a story. When shooting on location, you have the sun, which, while enhancing the photograph, acts like a strobe that cannot be adjusted or turned off. Personally, I enjoy the challenges and possibilities of shooting on location. For example, I have an upcoming shoot where I will be in a pool with dive gear on my back lighting garments floating around a model. I can’t wait!
What was your favorite photo shoot to work on?
We recently did a shoot for a hair product being released this fall. What made this shoot especially great was the team of individuals we had on set. After weeks of planning, we were able to put together a team of our favorite hair stylist, make-up artist, wardrobe assistant and models. There was an amazing energy that continued to motivate everyone throughout the day (and night.) It is a good feeling when hard work pays off and things just seem to come together.
How is photographing women’s swimwear different from normal fashion?
Swimwear is its own animal. In swimwear there are no rules. The suits come in all shapes and sizes, colors, patterns and fit. And, they typically have brighter colors than other forms of fashion. Swimwear designers usually want to shoot on location – at the beach or poolside. The water can play a big role when photographing swimwear, and makes it is one of my favorite types of shoots.
What’s your favorite type of women’s swimwear?
My favorite type of swimwear is the one that the model feels most comfortable wearing. If the model is comfortable with the suit – it will show in the photograph and ultimately make a better image. Personally, I prefer a classic two piece or a one piece with a funky detail like a long v-neck or side cut-outs.
Can you describe what makes women’s swimwear photography so visually appealing?
There is something very beautiful about a woman’s form and what better way to capture form and personality than when wearing a swimsuit. I live in Miami. Here, swimsuits are a way of life. It always amazes me to see thousands of women on South Beach, and no two swimsuits are visually alike. Each woman has her own fit and style – like fashion, it is a true expression of one’s self.
What’s the hardest part about working with models? What’s the easiest?
When shooting, we ask a lot from the models. We ask them to do many little things at once, while continuing to be fabulous. We tend to work with models more than once and have been very fortunate to work with great models who are truly dedicated to getting great images. I would say that one of the hardest things is meeting models and getting to know them in a short amount of time so that I will be able to have their personality come through in the photograph.
The easiest thing about working with models is giving direction. Models are usually pretty confident in themselves, but appreciate a little direction and clear expectations. I like to focus first on body positioning, then facial expression and lastly – and most important – the hands. Also, I show them the images throughout the shoot so that we are on the same page, and they have a better understanding of the look I am trying to capture.
Do you have any advice for models wanting to turn it into a career?
Some of the most successful models I have met are very good at marketing themselves. They are very involved with social media and are truly interested in the fashion industry. My advice is to take risks when shooting and shoot a lot of different looks with a lot of different photographers.
What advice would you give a photographer who’s just starting out?
Be kind to the models, if you nail a shot with them they will be your biggest fans, showing the images to their friends, agents and editors. Study photography and photographers and the history of the industry. Draw inspiration from the past, present and future-then break all the rules and trends. Lastly, it’s your job to stay educated – keep up with technology and equipment.
From the perspective of seeing through a lens, what changes have you seen in the fashion industry?
There have been major recent changes. Women are playing a bigger role in the industry, and clothes are fitting better than ever – for example, stylish swim suits with underwire, padded tops and adjustable bottoms. Fashion has also become more responsible in terms of where fabrics originate, the effect on the environment and the pay-and-safety conditions of the workers. These changes, in some instances, have increased the prices for quality items, but seem to be appreciated by the global-savy consumer. Fashion photography will change as advertising continues to change. We are already seeing magazines and publications moving away from print and more to the web. The internet will continue to influence fashion photography and its copyrighting and licensing- especially in regard to sharing, downloading and viewing photos.
As a fashion photographer, do you feel a sense of responsibility, either positively or negatively, when it comes to how the media influences women’s self image issues?
This is a great question and one that is difficult to answer. The fashion industry has been blamed for printing unrealistic images of women and setting standards that are unachievable and undesirable. Many companies are putting women’s self-image first. Take for example H & M’s ad last year with Beyonce or American Eagle’s ad for Aerie, their line of lingerie. Both companies took a different approach, showing real women and making a point to promote that the images are untouched. Aerie went one step further in their tag lines “The girl in this photo has not been retouched. The real you is sexy,” and “Time to think real. Time to get real. No supermodels. No retouching. Because the real you is sexy.”
When retouching images, I do my best to maintain the model’s true look and shape. But of course, I edit where needed to create the best image. When you take a high-resolution photo, every little thing shows in the photograph – what I try to do is get back to the model’s original, natural beauty while maintaining great quality imagery.
What does the following statement mean to you as a photographer, “Every woman can look good in a swimsuit, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.”
When shooting swimwear, I make sure the model is comfortable, and we go through the suits to find the ones that fit the best. Confidence is beauty, and the right fit is everything. Swimsuits are definitely not a one-type-fits-all item, and what a woman wants depends on practicality, comfort and personality. But with all the options available, there IS a swimsuit for every woman.