How to shoot a swimwear campaign in November in the UK!
Last November, just before we went back into lockdown I picked up a small commission for a new swimwear brand right out of Ibiza. Our main problem being swimwear in November and in the UK, not necessarily a great mix?
Sometimes a client’s wishes often can exceed their expectations, giving you the creative photographer or Videographer a major headache. You want the work and so you can be quite open to their ideas but in my experience, this can sometimes really come back to bite you in your heel.
This was the first time ever that a client who has been in the business for a while working with other campaigns had really tried to launch their own brand. They asked me as I had previously worked with them on a few shoots. I thought that it would have run very smoothly considering. It started off quite slow and without much momentum, which I can normally bring to a shoot without a problem but for some reason, the client was a little moody and subdued. In fact, many of my ideas were being shut down or simply not listened to.As a photographer, you learn to understand and interpret a client brief but on occasion, this is quite a complicated process as really they have no real idea on the production or what they really want and this creates a tension which is felt with the team throughout and this was one of those types of shoots.
For the location, we were at a fabulous house in Ambleside Hatfield London which has been used for many TV shows. It was a beautiful house with a pool, gardens etc but in November we had the chance of rain at any time. The team was an eclectic mix of people who had never worked together before. The biggest change for me was that this time the client didn’t really engage with me which was slightly strange. Normally I would take the client and representatives around the location verbalising the potential shoot areas and how I could interpret their vision and mood boards but this didn’t happen. My job, therefore, became tricky as I not only had o get on with the team, the social media guys but work with the model to get an idea of what the client liked even though they had no idea.
For this shoot, I was using the Nikon but had just purchased the Profoto B1X TTL lights and so wanted to give them a run for their money. I have used the Profoto battery packs for major campaign shoots but had upgraded to these for their sheer power and portability but also the fact that I can use High Sync Mode on the camera to overpower the sunshine and use shutter speeds up to 1/4000 and 1/8000th of a second. I would also be shooting the e-commerce pictures on the day which was additional.
Being honest, I have not done a swimwear shoot for a long time. mainly as avantgarde photographers are not usually in the mix for this style of work. I also like good preparation in advance so I know exactly what I need to capture. The number of looks, outfits and the time we have to accomplish this. If you don’t know in advance the day can sometimes get drawn out.
Casing The Joint
Before we had started I was sent a link for viewing the house in general and there was a recce done but not by me. This is important really as it allows me when doing a recce on the day to see the model and how they fit within the location but normally everything can change from the original concepts and whilst the recce had given an overall perspective I had to work it out for myself i.e. working out lighting and how to work with the weather which was pretty grey and overcast. This was not a sunny Ibiza day by a long shot.
Working Out The Lighting
I worked out that overexposing using the ISO of the camera would lighten the images enough overall and give a punchy sunny look but outside the light was very cool and blue especially in November. Even by increasing the ISO it still looked very cold and so I used the colour balance module within the camera setting menu in the Nikon interface. I used this to push the colour balance to a warmer redder tone to take out the blue. The flashlights themselves were giving a flash which was quite balanced overall and so the mix of lighting, colour and ISO settings were giving me the correct look to take into my shoot production workflow. Knowing your final output potential from your settings is often crucial if you are controlling the output and retouching for the client.
Kit Used on the Shoot
When doing production on a smaller scale such as this then I use my Nikon D850. I use this as right now I am not really invested in the Nikon or Canon Mirrorless lenses at the moment as this would be a major shift as I have many of the Nikon lenses. I also think that moving forward as the price of medium format Fuji is so good that I could potentially move this was, especially after my Lambertz Campaign Trip to Iceland where I predominantly shot it all on the Fuji GFX50S.
My kit therefore for this was the Nikon and the use of the 24-70mm lens and the 105mm Prime lens. These were the only lenses that I utilised on the day. To trigger the flash I used the Profoto wireless trigger for Nikon. All images were captured directly to card which was the Sony XQD card which is super fast and reliable. The actual lighting control I used for both heads was not the Profoto recommended softboxes, only because I could not locate them in time and therefore purchased some prosumer styled softboxes which were so good and sturdy for less than £100 each, I will stick with them now and save £400 as they seem to do the job just as well just less the branding! It’s not always about the kit but how you utilise what you have.