I am often asked about the process of bringing my small business to life, from, "how did you design the bag?" to "what is it like to do a professional photo shoot?" I thought it would be fun to share some behind-the-scenes scoop and pictures. This post will focus on the professional photo sessions; I'll pull together additional posts soon to tell you about other aspects of starting the business!
Our photo shoots were broken down into two parts: 1) shooting the bag by itself and 2) modeling the bag. Of course, I thought, taking pro pics of my bag when it's just by itself on a platform will be super simple. Boy was I wrong! I have such a profound respect for professional photographers. Product photography is very complex. Certainly it is easy to manage the bag by itself in terms of focus and energy as it doesn't have to pose or doesn't get tired, but the lighting and showcasing aspects of the bag are challenging. For instance, you want to photograph the inside of the bag,
but don't want a hand in the shot. It takes a bit of magic to prop things up, hold them apart, etc. I think one of the coolest insider tricks is using fishing line to hold the handles of a handbag straight up. The fishing line is so transparent, it is very easy for the photographer to remove in the final phase of editing and leaves you with an awesome picture.
We spent about four to five hours shooting photos of the bag by itself, with a number of hours ahead of time to prepare (researching possible angles and setups for pictures) and significant time afterwards in the final editing phase. The product photography shoot was the most interesting in terms of technical complexity. I learned a ton about lighting. It was also neat to see the photogapher rig things together to get my bag doing what we wanted (like using various clamps to hold it open at certain angles, or in the photo here, using a tall ladder to shoot the bag from above). I stood there watching my amazing photographer thinking about how much time, effort and hands must go into shooting all of those pictures in magazines! Or an entire collection of clothing for just one season. Amazing!
The second day of our photo shoot was the most fun! I have a wonderful friend from college, Jessica, with modeling experience, who agreed to work with me on this project. Jes is a mom to two beautiful children and works in large communications company; she is simply gorgeous inside and out. The model shoot took a lot of preparation; clothes, shoes and jewelry to choose, hair and makeup to consider, and of course, all the lighting and staging complexities. Plus making Jes comfortable and creating great energy in the studio!
We brought many more outfits than we would end up needing, but that is critical; some things that seem like they will work well don't look great under the lights, or don't convey the scene you are trying to create. The prep work also included pulling out the outfits and accessories, matching things, steaming out the wrinkles and trying them out on Jes.
Jessica is such a talented model; it takes a little time to warm up (I mean all these people are staring at you and you want to do an awesome job!) and she quickly got into the swing of things. Some of the posing is a little more firm, like, "hold the bag on your shoulder, smile and stay in that same spot," while other poses
were more relaxed and fun (dancing around, kick up your heels, make some funny faces!). While the photographs were taken, we did have to pause at times to fix Jes's hair, touch up makeup and reposition the bag.
My photographer had his camera connected right to his computer, which made the entire process so much easier (within a split second of snapping a picture it was on the computer screen). Looking at the model live with your own eyes is a little different than seeing how it translates into a digital photo. It was helpful to have the computer pictures to provide Jes with guidance on poses, to fix any flaws, like flyaway hair, as well as move on to a new outfit if it wasn't working for us. I also found it much easier to choose the final photographs I wanted because we deleted bad pictures right then and there, before the editing phase, reducing the number of photos to review afterwards.
It takes a lot of hands just for one shoot with one bag and one model! We had the photographer there of course, the hair/makeup stylist, the model, myself and an assistant (who just so happened to be my amazing fashionista sister, Annie). We shot both the product and the model photography at a local studio, which had hair/makeup rooms, offices, a runway, small platform and this really cool seamless "cyclorama wall" which gives the illusion of there being no real "sides" in the photograph.
The end results of our two-day product and model photography shoot for Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags ROCKS! You can see for yourself below and on our website. Photography does involve a bit of magic; the lighting, the setting, the post-editing; they all contribute to a fantastic picture. But I also learned through this experience that you have to have the right foundation: a great product, a beautiful, charismatic model, an amazing team of photography/production experts and a lot of energy and creativity.