If you aren’t familiar with this series you can check out Deconstructing The Shot: 5280 and Deconstructing The Shot: Alex Odnoralov to get caught up. The goal here is to offer an in-depth look at how images are made from start to finish. The latest is from a recent shoot with singer/songwriter Rachel James.
CONCEPT // I wanted to create a portrait for Rachel that was unlike anything I’d done to date. I figured the best way to accomplish this was by developing a heavy contrast between Rachel’s overall styling and her environment. I’ve always been a fan of the celebrity spreads in Vogue and Vanity Fair which was a large part of the foundation during the pre-production process. While Rachel is a musician I wanted to steer clear of creating a musician portrait. In other words avoid her being within 10 miles of a guitar or microphone. With that in mind I decided to scout spots that had a heavy nature aesthetic.
SCOUTING // I can’t stress it enough; location scouting is vital. More importantly, scouting during the time of day you’ll actually be on set will make the process infinitely easier. These days I tend to scout alone. It’s a chance to get away from the shoot treatment and clear my head. Thanks to today’s incredible technology the process of searching, documenting, and mapping out spots can now be done using my phone. And that’s exactly what I do. I needed a spot that felt a little surreal. A spot that wouldn’t be recognizable. I needed a lot of depth and texture. After a few hours I finally came across a creek bed. As soon as I saw the tree hanging over the creek I was sold.
See what I mean? To be safe I took a few more shots and put the camera down to reassess. It can be tough when everyone is looking to you for direction but it’s vital to not get stressed when things aren’t coming together. If the shot isn’t working, it isn’t working and it’s time to move on. I took a breath and cleared my head. I decided to walk around the area and within about two minutes I came across a spot which ended up becoming the location in the official portrait.
Here’s a wide shot of the set. Gives a solid look at the height, angle, and distance of both the camera and the light in regards to Rachel. Having her simply stand still felt a little dull. Once everything was set I asked her to pick up her dress and walk towards me to get some motion. Joe would walk alongside her to maintain that angle of light. After two sets of walking I had the shot.