Being that my main focus in photography is shooting fashion, it was long before I would get the call to shoot for fashion catalogs. Iv’e been quite the fan of fashion catalogs, especially with brands like Free People and Anthropologie, you can’t help but notice all the beautiful imagery and thought that goes into one of those spreads. I think they are more like small fashion editorials revealing that latest styles in a very clever and story like way. Another great catalog to check out is GUESS. They are usually easy to find, just walk into and GUESS store at the mall and you should find a few copies. IT doesn’t get much better than this catalog, very well thought out with plenty of content to read and photo to enjoy.
My catalog start began with a local designer based in Palo Alto, CA, Ruti. She’s an Israeli born fashion designer that carries some beautifully crafted garments. She has 5 stores located throughout California.
A typical day in a catalog shoot consists of between 60-90 garments that need to be shot on a model. For Ruti, I shoot with an all white background, this allows the images to seamlessly work with her website look and feel. Most will tell you that lighting for an all white background to shoot full body is no easy task. First, the space needs to be considered as you need alot of room to place the lights precisely where they need to go. The intensity of the light hitting the background needs to be controlled so that it does not spill onto the model and create a hazy, milky effect.
On set we typically have a model, makeup artist, the designer and a few of her team members. One may steam clothes on the rack while the others watch the images as they come in and begin the selection process of which shots are keepers. Shooting tethered is a must when shooting for catalog as the client wants to see how the garments are looking on the screen.
The process is very basic and repetitive. 8 hours is a very long day for a model when she has to put and and take off over 60+ garments. It’s even taxing as the photographer as I’m constantly focusing and composing the shots to the last inch. Some shots are taken below the lip or under the nose and getting it right in camera saves alot of cropping in post production.
Once the shooting comes to a close, the finals selections are made and it’s off to post production. This is where it’s really important to get the best shot out of the camera as you possibly can, including keeping that background and floor white. Now we all know that given the conditions that ma not always be possible. In my case, I may end up with areas that are not 255 white on some areas of the floor around the models feet. When you need to deliver 150+ images from a days worth of shooting, I strongly recommend staying away from Photoshop. The best way to handle this is using the adjustment brushes in Lightroom. Increasing both the exposure and highlights on an adjustment brush will come a long way to bumping those almost pure white values to where they need to be.
Shooting for catalog may not be the most exciting shoot for fashion but it’s a great way to learn precise lighting and really get the practice of working with the client, understanding clothing and textures, the workflow, and much more.