In the past few months, I've had many people message me, asking how one goes about finding stylists, HMUAs and models for a shoot. For some reason they often think that having a stylist, HMUA and a professional model is a prerequisite for getting good photographs. But the truth is that they are NOT.
When I started out with photography, I didn't have the luxury of having professional stylists and models working with me. Actually I couldn't even get my non-model friends to model for me! But I didn't let that stop me from taking photos. Instead I started shooting self-portraits and eventually my friends and other people around me started getting interested in my work and finally one day one of my good friends agreed to model in front of the camera for a few minutes - those were the happiest minutes of my photographic-career (at that time).
I've come a long way since, and these days I often times do have professional models and actors in front of my camera, and talented stylists and HMUAs helping me in achieving the looks that I'm going for. But still they aren't a prerequisite for creating good photos. The only person that can keep you from taking good photos is YOU.
On Thursday evening, last week, I spoke with a good friend of mine, Samuel Taipale, and we both felt like it'd be nice to shoot some projects of our own during the Christmas-time. But I knew that unfortunately I wouldn't have much time to shoot anything over Christmas, and was going on a travel on the next Saturday, so the only day that I could organise a shoot on, would be the next day - Friday. Which meant that I'd need to build up a team, find a model, find a location, and decide on a concept, in less than 12 hours.
Finding a professional model, stylist and a HMUA in that short time-period isn't very easy - and even if I'd manage to find them, the stylist would still need at least a day to find the wardrobe that would match my vision. So instead, I decided to go "back to my roots", if you will, and decided to do it all alone. (Or to speak the truth, Samuel did promise to assist me, so technically speaking I wasn't alone in this...)
Together with Samuel we messaged a friend of ours, who, in our opinion, would work for what we were going for, and asked her if she'd be free to model for us early in the morning. She had never modelled for a shoot like this, so I wasn't sure if she'd be up for it, but luckily she was, and we now had a good friend of ours as the model for the shoot.
Now that that was taken care of, I needed to figure out what our model would be wearing. I'm not a girl (which most of you probably know and have noticed... ;) ) so I don't have any dresses lying around in my cabinet, and I didn't want to use a "normal-looking" dress, but wanted to have something a bit fancier...
So that left me with one last option - I'd have to make the dress myself. I drove to the local fabric-store ten minutes before it's closing time, and bought six metres of fabric that I thought would look good. Now I had the model and the fabric.
While I was looking for the materials for the dress, Samuel had done some location scouting on his phone and found a perfect spot for the vision that I had in mind. So, in less than 1,5 hours we had gone from thinking about an idea, to actually organising a photoshoot! No stylists, no HMUAs and no professional models.
Now I must stress the fact that I have NEVER studied or even understood fashion, so making a dress for a shoot was definitely going to be interesting. Early next morning, we picked up our model and went inside to test out a dress-design that I had in mind. The great thing about creating a dress for a photoshoot is the fact that the dress needs to look good only from the certain angles you're shooting from, which in my case was the front. We could drape the dress around our model, and use safety pins on the backside to shape the dress in the way we wanted.
It was important to test out this indoors, as it was freezing cold outside. We wanted to be 100% sure about what we'd be doing in the forest, so that our model wouldn't freeze to death. ;)
Once we got into the forest we picked our spot, tested out the lighting and settings, and tried to make the ground as warm and comfortable to our model, as possible. Then I directed her through a small set of different poses that I had in mind, (When working with friends or other non-models, it's important to know what you as the photographer are going for, and what are the poses you'd like to see) and in less than 30 minutes we were done!
Final result and the "take-away"
So here you can see one of the final photos from our short set.
But even more important than the photo, is the "take-away" that I'd like to provide you with, through this article. Like I said in the beginning, "The only person that can keep you from taking good photos is YOU". Not having access to HMUAs, stylists and professional models is just a minor obstacle that can always be broken through, if the mindset is right. Sure, they make your life as a photographer much easier, and in the long run, I'd aspire to work with professionals, but it's very important to remember that you can create great work without them as well. You might need to work twice or three times more than normally, and learn a few skills there and here (like with me designing the dress) - but it's definitely possible!
I hope this blog-post will act as a reminder and inspiration for you and me to go out and create something that we've always wanted to do! :)
Photo & styling: Lauri Laukkanen
Model: Riikka Kuusisto
Assistant & BTS-photos: Samuel Taipale