Friday, March 21, 2014

Behind the scenes on a professional shoot - Southern Bride Magazine Florida - Michael Allen Photography

Behind the scenes on a professional shoot - Southern Bride Magazine Florida - Michael Allen Photography

Here's is an iPhone photo of Michael and the Team working on a new photo shoot for Southern Bride Magazine.

Southern Bride Magazine has a 20+ year history of bringing inspiration to brides across the Southern US. This past year the magazine announced its expansion to encompass the the entire Southern area of the United States and beyond. The wedding industry has a global reach, and with social media outlets such as Pinterest and Facebook, Southern Brides have changed the way weddings are viewed, and have inspired the strongest new trend in weddings, sometimes nicknamed the "barn wedding" or southern style backyard wedding.

I've been shooting for Southern Bride Magazine for over 6 years now, and love every minute of it. The magazine inspires not only brides and grooms, but photographers. I've had the opportunity to meet and shoot with many of the Souths best wedding photographers, I've traveled across the country shooting or learning with some of the top photographers in the world. I've met and become friends with many of the photographers, which in turn inspires me to stretch and reach further in my quest for beautiful photography. I shoot a lot of projects for my own studio, and get hired for a wide variety of shoots outside of the wedding industry, from shooting for other magazines, the music industry, the indie film world, to shooting for many fortune 500 businesses across the country. I love it when I get the call from the editors of Southern Bride, its refreshing, beautiful and exciting.

For our last shoot just a few weeks back, we traveled to Miramar Beach in Florida to shoot at the newly designed Hilton Resort in San Destin. Hilton Resorts are world renown for their amazing properties, and this location has received accolades as being one of the Top 10 locations in the world by Conde Naste Magazine.  Last year we flew to Puerta Vallarta Mexico on a big shoot for the magazine, and weather conditions presented some challenges, and once again, this last shoot presented even more challenging weather conditions. We'd stick our heads out the door and scramble to shoot until the rains hit in the next hour, then moved quickly indoors scrambling to set up a new scene for the next photo segment. I don't mind shooting in the rain, but when you are shooting a $10,000 bridal gown, the editors get a bit nervous about the gown getting wet. As a professional courtesy, you don't want to send an expensive designer gown back to New York with water stains and spots.

Working with a team of professionals on a magazine shoot is such an inspiration for me, and it's pretty amazing to work on a shoot with a team of people that offer their own amazing creative talents. Without them, I'd have a difficult time producing some of the beautiful images that I get to capture on my camera.

Let me paint a picture for you of a typical photo shoot with the magazine. When you walk onto the location with the team at Southern Bride, they usually have 4 large rooms set up for behind the scenes management of the shoot. First, theres the dressing room, usually full of the most stunning wedding fashions of the season, about 30 or 40 gowns from designers like Claire Pettibone and Vera Wang and more. The magazine team consists of about 15 people working behind the scenes to make these shoots happen, then 3 to 4 models are used, and our photography team can consist of 3 or 4 people. As you can see, we have a large team working very hard to create some beautiful magazine spreads to inspire brides around the world.

The next room is the hair and makeup room, and for many of the shoots that I do with Southern Bride, my lovely wife Janice is the lead hair fashion designer, creating her incredible works of art for the models. Next to her is the makeup artist and her team, with makeup lights, mirrors and a non stop palette of color work. In the next room is the fashion accessory room, with jewelry, shoes, hair accessories, props, and furniture pieces for the scenes we shoot. The next room is the back office and then next to that is the break room, which is stocked with plenty of food, drinks and snacks for the crew to nibble on all day long.

Last but not least, is the camera equipment room, I usually bring most of my studio gear with me, just in case I need a scrim set, flags, studio flash, gels, reflectors or anything else.
I have my own computer table where I can back up all the photo files from each scene, and plenty of backup drives to clone the master files. Most shoots I have a photo team working with me, and on occasion I'll work by myself with some assistance from the magazine staff. I can say that it's a very fast pace, and takes a strong passion for work this hard. It's challenging, exciting, hard work, and takes some patience, as each day can offer challenges.

For the shoots with Southern Bride, I generally shoot untethered, as we shoot in a very fast pace. I'll do a series of test shots, then after a quick review with the editors, I get to work shooting the scenes that we've preselected during our scouting day earlier in the week. Remember, shooting on location usually involves outdoor shooting, so when we have our shot plan ready to go, the weather can quickly change the plan. For this last shoot at the Hilton, the winds got the best of us on many locations. I remember one scene was all set, I barely got a test shot off, then the winds literally blew us away. Fortunately, one of the first shots was simply amazing, and we were able to break for lunch early with a successful morning segment behind us.

Gaining inspiration for me on shoots like this do require some pre planning. I work with the editors in the model selection process, choosing my favorites from the agency. We go over dozens of headshots, and check their measurements to match the dresses that have been picked, and review the hair color for the styles that we want to create with my hairstylists. Getting to work with season models is a big plus for a photographer, but from time to time we get to work with a few new models on the team, so I have to work a bit harder to coach the new models and find their comfort zone in front of the camera. Some photographers use tear sheets from other magazine shoots to inspire them, some pull a few Pinterest favorites, and others just work on the fly. I personally tend to scan some of my favorite fashion magazines, and look toward some of my favorite photographers to see what they are doing. At the end of the day though, you can't rely on copying others works, you have to use your own creativity, dig in to the moment, push the models to new levels and shoot using your professional instincts. I like to work with the fashion stylist and hairstylist for each scene, getting their feedback, and working as a team to capture the final image for that scene.

We generally spend 4 days on a typical magazine shoot. The first day is spent unloading gear, setting up the production rooms, and scouting locations. Depending on the style design of the shoot, I pick locations that I know will fit the editors criteria. The next day is shooting, with model calls at 7 am, breakfast is usually a quick buffet and the first shot is at 8 am depending on the location. Sometimes shoots start at daybreak, but with our all day long pace, 8 am is good for our goals. From the morning shoot we go non stop till lunch, then on till last light of the day. We usually take a break and the entire team meets for a nice well deserved dinner. The same plan goes for each day, which is an incredible pace, non stop shooting, where I end up with over 4000 images and hundreds of video clips. For Southern Bride, I try to keep my lighting setups simple, with a plan for quick changes as needed. If I can shoot in available light, I will, but I'll supplement the light to fit my personal standards and style. I also back up the photo files every hour or two, and at night after the shoot, I may stay up until 1 a.m. until I see that the backups are complete, with mirror backups of each image.

It's amazing how quickly the team bonds, and to this day I try to keep in touch with every model and support them in their careers. Each shoot involves 15 to 20 people on the team, and we all really enjoy what we do. Over the years I've enjoyed shooting for Southern Bride and their team. I've had the opportunity to shoot for many magazines over the years, working with agencies from coast to coast, and working with Southern Bride is always exciting and rewarding for me.

Back in the studio, I spend about a week culling through the images, carefully selecting the very best shots for the editors to review. I run a batch process with my personal presets, then upload the photos for the editors to review. Once they narrow down their favorites, I begin retouching, color balancing and delivery to their layout artist. The whole process can take weeks and months to finalize.

Once the magazine goes on the newsstands, I'll post my favorite images from the shoot. It's very hard for me to wait for several months to shot my work, because I'm so excited about what I shoot, I immediately want to share the images. But I'll have to sign off of this post for now, so please check back in a few months to see the results of this shoot with Southern Bride Magazine.