The workings and my thoughts behind the Vintage Cherish The Dress™ portrait shoot.
I started my vintage quest online, by looking to the past for my picture style inspiration. It seems that today’s trending looks have been here before and it is always easier to get them right second time around. I found plenty of fine examples of period photographs that capture the essence of the times. The hair styles, false eyelashes, dress designs and the all important poses make up a look that is captivating and bang up to date.
The vintage image genre is about the sense of freedom and hope, evoking a feeling of fantasy far removed from the drab existence of normal everyday life back in the day. It takes a bit of time to understand the subtleties of what makes these pictures work. When you are recreating them, It’s just not enough to have your clients hands and arms in the right place. You need to work on the posture, the care free and fly away gay abandon bits too. Do it right, and do it well, was very much the order of the day then and needs to be the same now. Research and learn how to do it well and your photography will be in big demand.
Chloe and Jenny, our models for this shoot had done their homework too. [tip] Make it easier for your clients and creative team by sending some pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Audrey Hepburn to them in advance so they can get to grips with the looks you want to recreate ahead of any vintage shoots you do. The whole process should be fun to research and exciting to shoot. The Dresses for this workshop were custom made for us by Kathryn Hanson, make up was by Samantha Gardner and the hair styles were created by Victoria Cunningham of Salon 7 hair. Having a great team involved makes the shoot process a joy and gives the pictures sparkle.
Location, location, location. With over 140 heritage railways in the UK and Ireland it seemed fitting to use one for a Vintage Cherish The Dress workshop. We chose to use the East Lancashire Railway in Bury because Chris Hanley, my fellow tutor uses that facility as the location for his Vintage Cherish The Dress client shoots. As with any good retail business model, the customer experience is at the heart of the product. The ELR station in Bury has it all, Chris sourced this location because there is a cafe’/ bar onsite for refreshments and a handy changing room for a make up artist to work in.
A variety of covered shooting areas are needed to stay weather independent. The station platforms at Bury have roofs, so if it rains, everyone stays dry. In the event of rain there is also the opportunity to shoot a few frames with an umbrella at the far end of the platform, if you have a vintage umbrella that is. The ticket office is another key location to shoot in at this station and there are various waiting rooms too. We arranged for carriages to be at the platforms to give us plenty to shoot and opportunities to share with our delegates.
How could this kind of operation work for your business? We are in a product led society so getting this level of vintage detail into a shoot is a sure fire way to fill your order books. Hiring this kind of facility isn’t cheap, so how can it work in the real world. Well there’s nothing stopping you shooting four clients in one day, charging £500 for the shoot to include a vintage make over, a 90 minute shoot at a classic location and the first six pictures on disc. That way, you cover your costs and have £1000 for yourself before any extra picture sales are taken into account. I understand this business model won’t work for all but it is easily achievable with the right clients. Cut the shoots to three in a day and lay on some Champagne and you could charge £1000+ each for an album inclusive package, doubling your initial profit. There are many ways to package this kind of experience shoot. So think wedding business model rather than portrait business model. Add a steam loco footplate experience for the guy while the make up is being done and it might just be the icing on the cake. The business possibilities are only limited by imagination. The Cherish The Dress™ business model is suited to non bridal make overs as well as the more obvious post wedding shoot in the wedding dress. The big difference with a Cherish shoot over a Trash shoot is the dress is the star not a victim.
Other great locations for vintage Cherish The Dress™ shoots include classic yachts and ships. There’s a 1950s super yacht moored in Bristol called Harmony with teak decks and oak paneled cabins. Art Deco hotels and old theaters with classic dressing rooms and foyers are great vintage locations too.
Lighting with the classic Fresnel spotlight. The vast majority of shots taken on the workshop were lit with continuous light from a Fresnel spot light or two mixed with the ambient daylight. Chris also shot using his panel light reflector to redirect the sun and I rigged Speedlights on stands for a couple of the pictures for the purposes of covering the syllabus in this full on training event.
The Arri 300w and 150w Junior Fresnel spotlights I used are mains operated and provide precise control of the light direction and intensity pattern via use of the flood/spot control and the barn doors. It’s not just the control that makes these lights special, it’s the quality of light created by these ‘soft edged’ spotlights that makes them sought after. I have just put into production a 12Ah battery with an inverter for the Arri 150w to make it mains independent. Details will follow very soon.
I also had my Kobold 400w HMI daylight balanced Fresnel Spotlight with me at the shoot. It’s not easy to get this kind of kit anymore but there is an exciting new range of HMIs Just arriving with us in the UK at the time of writing. They are Fresnel lights with built in ballasts from Lupo of Italy. These new compact, tough, lights will give the quantity and quality of light we need. They are low power, high output units with cool running. The great news is HMIs are daylight balanced too.
Back in the day, fresnel spotlight sizes were vast, 10,000w, 5,000w, 2,000w and 1000w were all common place on film sets and the 1k pup was considered a small lamp. Now with 800 ISO regarded as completely useable on most DSLRs a 650w lamp is considered fierce. The 300w Junior Fresnel light by Arri is the most popular size now among our customers with the 150w as a favourite second light.
Lighting talk: Is continuous light is the way forward? More and more LED light units are entering our marketplace from China. They have multiple LED arrays and often have the ability to change colour temperature, or change focus by using LEDs of different properties in the same unit. These lights are low voltage, about 50w in power consumption delivering a light output equivalent to a 300w tungsten lamp. Because these lights are cool running they are perfect for TV news rooms and video installations. The light output is not pretty but it does illuminate very well.
Other lights coming into regular use are based on arrays of fluorescent tubes. These too are a bit too fragile for general location photography and are more suited to studio use.
It is likely that most of us will be using continuous light compatible with the video functionality of our DSLRs at some point soon. The new HMI Fresnel units we are about to import from Lupo, like our Arri 150w units will run off a battery with inverter or a mains supply. It is likely we will use the HMIs to supplement daylight both inside and out while the classic Arri 300w and 150w lamps will continue to be used to light tungsten lit interiors.
The other very popular continuous light I’ve not mentioned is the Lowel 100w battery light. It is the most compact of all my lights and will run from a 7Ah or a 12Ah battery. The Lowel is perfect for wedding shooters who need a fast,simple to use, compact hand holdable light.
Chris Hanley and I would love you to join us on a Vintage Cherish Shoot masterclass. You will shoot a fabulous set of pictures you can use for self promotion on your website, or in a portfolio. Plus you will get the knowledge needed to recreate the lighting and looks you see here. On the back of the success of this masterclass workshop we have added another date at the same location with the same models and team. Be part of this wonderful Vintage Cherish The Dress event on Tuesday 17th August.