Planning a professional photo shoot – by Peter Downie

Hair:  Peter Downie  Photography: Eric Draht
Model: Hailey Ponting
Location: Intermezzo Restaurant /wine cellar

Chatters: What process do you use to plan out a photo shoot?

Peter: I plan out everything from the lighting and location to wardrobe.

Chatters: There’s so much to consider, where does one possibly start?
Peter: When I am creating a story line for a photo shoot idea I first start with the concept idea of the shoot. For this you can create a story board. For me this is mostly conceptualizing, so  I start with a hairstyle concept that I want to create. It must be one I feel is beautiful and relevant to the current future fashion trends.  I try to stay away from fads or  concepts that are too exploited. Right now I’m excited to create more loose editorial styled shoots where my model is in an environment that creates a story with the hairstyle and evokes a feeling or emotion.

Chatters: Sounds excellent and there’s a lot of careful planning involved. What’s next?
Peter:  I then ask a series of questions.
  • Do I want my image to whisper, talk or scream?
  • Who is my audience?  What is the purpose of this photo?
  • What colours and textures are you wanting to see?

Chatters: How do you choose the right model and photographer?
Peter: I select a model that wants this look and wants to work with creating the vision. I choose a photographer that is creative/talented and that shares my vision. I cannot put enough emphasis on this point. There are so many images in our world now and there is a need to try and search for the new and unexplored with adding traditional elements of beauty, design and style.

Chatters: We know lighting is important,  just how much do you get involved with this?
Peter: Yes, to some degree I do as well, and collaborate with my photographer. Lighting is crucial to a great shoot. The right light should create life in your photo, depth and a sense of movement or action. Are the elements of the style able to be seen. Detail? Profile? Texture? Perimeter ? Shadows?  Lighting in any situation is what creates the feelings in an environment.

Chatters: We’ve seen some pretty creative work from you. How do you choose your locations?
Peter: Location for your shoot is the foreground and the background for your model. Does this tie in with your vision and add to the image and create a feeling ? Or is this more of a neutral feeling so your model or art you are wanting to feature stands out ?

Chatters: We know that style and photography are two huge passions for you. What else can you share with us about your process?
Peter: As of lately I have been working with creating images that I feel are more fun , playful and classically beautiful. As the old story goes “If you see the band wagon it is probably because it is passing you”. This means if you just seen 1,000 images of a certain style do we really need to add any more too it? I think its cool to stay on trend but why waste your time trying to be a copycat? Put the time into practicing the technique and working to make it your own.

Chatters: So true, these are great words of wisdom and artistic intuition. What else can you share with our readers to help them, especially new stylists?
Peter: I’ve learned as much as I can along the way. I do believe that personal taste is something that is left solely up to the individual. If you are feeding your artistic mind with the right food it will help you be more on track and on point with the direction of the industry. In turn this will make your work stand out better and potentially be more sought after by publishers, blogs and shares on social media platforms.

Chatters: Let’s talk more now on the actual photo shoot itself. What tips can you share about the logistics?
Peter: Do the color and cut before the shoot and plan how the shoot day will go in your head. The shoot might have some bumps and unexpected things that come up and be ready to roll with it. When you have a plan and schedule things will work out smoother usually. Your model could still come in hung over and ruin your shoot, the hair might not work as well as planned etc. You already have serious investments now so work to make it happen to get something out of the shoot. Perhaps it’s not exactly as your original vision but you still might get a great image. If your shoot isn’t going great you are all adding energy so maybe take a break and come back with a refreshed new vision and try something different to eliminate what was not working prior. This exact scenario has happened to myself a few times and oddly enough one of the shoots was when I won the Chatters/Redken Makeover Challenge 10 years ago. The hair was good but the background wasn’t working. I left to take a break and came back to the studio and shot right into my soft box light and in 3 shots I knew I had the one I needed and we where finished. I was beating my head against the wall before this and the fresh look and rework saved when I almost gave up.

Chatters: Some great advice here, things to consider when planning a shoot. Do you have pre-shoot guidelines for your models?
Peter: Yes, a few. It’s been a trial and error process for sure. Here’s some suggestions: Ask your model to please respect your time as well and the effort and tell her to do what’s necessary to look her best. This includes whatever is going to be in the picture. Nails, teeth, body hair etc. Mention for them to not drink alcohol and go to bed early with lots of water. Professional models know this . Amateurs may not.  Consider not shooting on weekends when social schedules tend to conflict more with the shoot day for all involved parties.

Chatters: There’s so many moving parts to planning a shoot. Share with us some tips on creating the right wardrobe for your shoot.
Peter: The wardrobe choices really depend on the shoot. It can help you create your story or it can be simple so it doesn’t take away anything from your hairstyle. It doesn’t have to be expensive necessarily. I start with looking for a neckline that flatters your style and model and that doesn’t take away from it. I also make sure that the colors and patterns of the garment are cohesive and add to the desired vision. Remember that your image is two dimensional and it only matters what the camera and shoot angle is showing in the photo. This goes for hair as well. If you are shooting the front of the hair don’t have half of it down her back. Pay attention to the details that are in the frame of your shot and what is going to be visible in your final shot .

Now start to plan your own shoot and remember that you are doing this to have fun and be creative. Don’t be too hard on yourself at first but do take criticism and study your shot so you can evaluate yourself and learn for better results on your next shoot.

Chatters: Excellent advice Peter. Thank you and we wish you continued success in 2018 for your work in salon and on shoots. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us and encouraging us to be braver, more creative.