The making of a successful celebrity shoot

For around 20 years I have been involved in photographing celebrities, whether it be capturing the action during a TV or Film shoot, or a private commission to shoot an individual for a publication or advertising campaign. I’ll now describe how we execute a successful celebrity shoot, from start to finish.

Firstly, teamwork and planning is everything and it all starts with a brief from the client. This may be accompanied by sample images as a guideline to the style of photography that’s required. This could include lighting and posing styles, props list, background colours etc. My colleague and Art Director, Andrea normally puts the reference shots together in ‘storyboard’ fashion and we reorganise this in the most efficient shooting order. Props are purchased or obtained from hire houses and food, transport and accommodation may also need arranging. If required, we will organise a make-up artist and a hair stylist, who will also receive the reference shots. All this is half a day’s work before we even start pressing the shutter.

If the client hasn’t already done so, I will create a ‘call sheet’ which describes every detail – location address, arrival times, contact number, etc. This is delivered to every member of the team involved, including the model.

Most shoots these days take place in a hired studio, although on occasion we have shot in hotel rooms and even in an auction house! We therefore often find ourselves in unfamiliar environments and for this reason I always carry my own Elinchrom lighting kit as back up, even if we have pre-booked a fully equipped studio. Working quickly is the essence, so being very familiar with all photographic equipment is paramount as we often only have half an hour or so to set up before the model arrives. I also have a back up for everything – a spare Nikon camera body, at least four flash heads, plus other essential accessories. In addition, I carry an Apple laptop for backing up the images immediately after the shoot’s over.

Most of the current Checkum shoots span over about three to four hours from model arrival to completion. Since the model is completely nude for the majority of the shoot, it’s essential we work quickly to maintain a comfortable environment. We also have to consider keeping the model warm and relaxed, something my colleague Andrea is pretty good at!

Once the shoot is complete, we back up the images via a card reader to the laptop and on my arrival home, all Nikon RAW files are processed, currently via Adobe Bridge to jpeg. This usually takes another couple of hours. For the Checkum shoots, I don’t usually do any retouching or effects myself, all images go to the client as untouched files. For other shoots (especially female), I have in the past spent many hours softening the skin, whitening teeth and eyes and adding colour effects, etc so many more hours of work can be applied after the shoot has taken place.

In conclusion, a successful shoot is the result of a strong team of professionals working together to create the best results for the client. Without my trusty team, coupled with my Nikon camera equipment and Elinchrom lighting, we would never achieve the kind of results you see here.

Click on any image for larger view. Flickr slideshow here

Hot off the press! – Ian’s Dale Howard shoot has been used in Heatworld


Leave a Reply