This Inspires Me
If you've read my blog for a while, you may know that I hate posts that purport to inspire people. I don't think we need people to ram inspiration down our throats. Instead, I prefer to discover things that inspire me, and this photoshoot really inspires me.
Warning: My Inspiration is Not Safe For Work
This is a YouTube video of photographer Karl Taylor working on a lingerie shoot for Ava Corsetry. I discovered it on an fStoppers article. Before this article, I never knew about Mark or Ava, but now I'm fans of both. The video is 17 minutes long and has a scantily clad model wearing Ava's lingerie. If you're uncomfortable, don't watch the video.
Now with that warning out of the way, you gotta see this video!
Here's Why This Inspires Me
Will this inspire you? I honestly don't know. Maybe you aren't into portrait photography. Maybe you don't care to photograph scantily clad young models in corsets wrapped so tight they could give an eight year-old boy cleavage. Those are all valid points, but that isn't quite what inspires me. Don't get me wrong, I like portrait photography and I like scantily clad young women in portraits, but those things are a dime a dozen. The part that inspires me here is the vision and execution to make that vision happen.
1: The Video Educated Me
You see them building the set early in the video. They didn't go out and look for just the right location to go with the vision for this shot – they just made it happen. Like many other photographers, I know of some locations that I truly love. I also know of some that I want, but can't quite get the access I'd like. Well, access doesn't have to stop you. Make the scene you want to shoot. Yes, it's nice that he had studio space to do it. I don't have that space, but I know where I can rent it locally. I know where I can get carpet, old furniture, wallpaper and everything else in that photo. Yes, it'll cost some money, but it doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
2: It's Dripping With Style
I was going to say oozing with style, but that's gross. Whatever you call it, this photoshoot had a theme and style that remained consistent from start to finish. That shows in the set environment, the stylist for hair, makeup and the wardrobe. Even the lighting was evocative of the period and style of the shoot. Karl surrounded himself with talented people to help create his vision and I think he achieved stunning results. Much more stunning than simply having a model put on the next corset and walk out on a white seamless for a catalog shot.
3: Attention To Detail
Karl makes it clear that he wants this shot to be right in camera, and not require a great deal of post production work. You see the model making adjustments with her hair and posing. Karl sprays an agent on a lamp to dull the reflection. He's using seven lights – not just to light the model, but to establish mood and create highlights on the set. It shows both a good sense of planning and the flexibility to make adjustments during the shoot, ultimately to bring out the best result of his vision.
4: Lighting Supports The Vision
Although I love the lighting in these photos, they aren't about the lighting. The photos are about his concept, which is supporting Ava Corsetry's products. I think many photographers worry too much about light as a result in and of itself. Karl isn't showcasing his lighting. He's showcasing the fashion by placing it in context with the scene. The lighting is appropriate for the scene. It's like the music to a movie. It sets the mood, but the movie isn't about the song. These photos aren't about the lighting.
Karl uses a lot of expensive lighting here, but you don't have to use the same gear. I don't even have seven lights. I have six, but I'd probably only use three in my version of this kind of set. A key light on the model, a hair light and the glow on the background wall.
5: Karl Is Being A Leader
There is no doubt that this is Karl's show. He's taking the photos. He directs the light. He directs the model. Basically, he isn't equivocating anything here. He's in charge of this shoot so he can deliver his vision to Ava. Leadership doesn't mean barking orders at other people. Leadership means that he has to know what he wants, or at least know what he wants to try, and confidently direct others to achieve the results. It's all on him to create the vision. Clearly, this is more than a one-man job. Karl is the thread that binds everything together, though.
What Happens Now?
Now I have to define my own vision, assemble my team, and build the right environment to make it happen. Perhaps one of the reasons this particular video caught my eye is because I've been giving a lot of thought to corsets and other fashion wardrobe items. Not necessarily lingerie (though this makes it look tempting), but I've been eyeing styles from other eras that I'd like to create in a scene.
I've found that much of the styling I have in mind is very inexpensive. In some cases, I can find stylists who already have the items. As I mentioned, I know of a few local studios for rent. The hardest part for me is building the set, but I can likely find folks who can knock out those pieces with ease.
When other people show me photos that are meant to inspire me, it usually doesn't work. Maybe I'm never going to photograph a celebrity. I may never get to New Zealand. I'm afraid my photo of a polar bear will be of him charging to eat me. Basically, it's easy to make excuses as to why someone else's photograph doesn't apply to me.
One of the reasons this inspires me is because it demonstrates the process almost from start to finish. That makes my photo concept a bit more “real” to me, which means it's something I can achieve, instead of some photography fantasy. I don't have to travel the world or meet famous people to make my shots happen. This shows that a little creativity, some teamwork and an ability to direct folks is within my reach and can make my photographic fantasies come to life. Now that's inspirational to me.