Some time ago, CiCi asked me to write a post for her blog. At first I was a bit stumped – what do I know about vintage fashion? But then she explained that this would be more about the process of creating one of her outfit posts and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.
That didn’t necessarily fill me with inspiration, as essentially I’m just the guy who drives the car and takes the pictures. But as I had more time to think it over, I began to realise that there is perhaps a little more to it than I had first thought – and as CiCi often reminds me – my involvement in her blogging has helped her to keep it growing.
The best way to talk through the process behind one of our shoots is to break it up into pieces – so without further ado here’s my 7 step guide to a CiCi-Marie photoshoot:
Usually this will begin with me asking CiCi if she wants nature or buildings for the shoot location. Sometimes the outfit will have more specific requirements – like being near water (the recent nautical dress was photographed at a marina) or including a specific prop (like the red telephone box we used back in January).
Having grown up in the Cambridge area I know the city and the surrounding area pretty well. So it’s never too tricky to find a good spot that we’ve not used before (I feel it’s best to keep all the shoot locations different) [CiCi: Although we do revisit some of our favourites – just maybe from a slightly different angle].
If we’re away on holiday we always make sure to get a shoot or two in – just to make use of the different/more glamorous surroundings. This isn’t always easy, as being in unfamiliar territory can make it difficult to to find a good spot [CiCi: Like the time we walked to a part of Valencia to find a location without realising it was the dodgy end of town, resulting in walking all the way back and taking the shots 5 feet from the hotel!].
Living in Britain and trying to take outdoor photos all year round carries an extra challenge that people in warmer climates might not appreciate – wind and rain. These are the two worst enemies of our photoshoots [CiCi: You’d never know this would you? It’s not like I ever mention it. Ever.].
We usually have to fit our shoots around what the weather is doing. This means we have several weather apps installed on our phones which can sometimes show conflicting weather info. Once a break in the weather presents itself, we go out and get the photos done but can still be caught out by unforecast wind.
We live in Cambridge – a city notorious for its congested traffic and expensive parking fees. Sometimes we will use the city and its historic architecture but only if it’s somewhere we can park relatively close to and without paying a fortune in parking fees.
We’re often more likely to drive to the outskirts of the city or into the surrounding countryside/villages – which (with a bit of local knowledge) means we can still find picturesque locations without getting fleeced for parking charges or spend most of our time stuck in traffic jams [CiCi: It’s worth mentioning we make good use of Google Maps to see what traffic is doing and which roads to avoid, as it’s a waste of precious minutes of daylight to get stuck in a jam!].
I’m certainly no professional photographer but I do enjoy taking photos – which helps and I like to think I have a reasonable sense of composition. But the single most important thing for making our photos look their best is lighting. We learned the hard way that a bright sunny day is actually far from ideal and produces lots of overexposed photos with CiCi blinking constantly [CiCi: To be fair, I’m bad enough on a gloomy day/indoors/in the dark]! Instead, our best photos are taken on overcast days (of which we have plenty).
Solid, consistent cloud coverage creates a giant lightbox effect – which diffuses a warm soft light that seems to make skin tones look their best. If we are stuck out in bright sunshine, we’ll often try and find some sort of shade (like a tree).
To get the nice looking portrait photos we use on the blog, CiCi’s camera is fitted with a portrait lens. Without going into lots of detail these are lenses specially designed for taking photos of people close up. They have a shallow depth-of-field which simply means that objects in the foreground are in focus and the backgrounds are blurred.
This is something we’re used to seeing in things like movies and fashion photography – it emphasises the subject and distinguishes photos shot in this way from the photos you’d get from a point & click camera or a camera phone.
However, this sort of lens is at its best when shooting portraits of of people from the waist up or closer. When you move out further to get the whole subject in, it can struggle as this isn’t really what it was designed for. This means we can often get quite a few out of focus full length (i.e. whole body) shots which need to be sifted out at the end (once we get home) and also means that we probably end up shooting 2-3 times as many full lengths as we do for the other types of shots.
6. People, children and animals!
Apart from finding a location that fits the outfit we also try and find somewhere that’s not too busy. CiCi is by her very nature quite a shy girl, which is ironic considering her hobby involves standing around in public being photographed… [CiCi: A fashion blogger’s got to do what a fashion blogger’s got to do…]
But a little privacy does more than just placate CiCi’s modesty – it can be a little awkward and sometimes annoying when people either wander into the shot or children stop and stare as if they’ve never seen anyone having their picture taken before [CiCi: And sometimes the little darlings deliberately ride their bicycles in and out of shot on repeat the whole shoot, while their mother’s watch like it’s totally ok behaviour]
As for animals – I’m sure CiCi would love a dog to wander into the shot but (based on experience) insects and swans are most definitely not welcome!
7. Finishing touches
When we get home from a shoot, CiCi has the task of sifting through 150+ photos to find the ones she wants to use. This is where she’ll discard all the unusable shots – for example, blinking, funny faces, out of focus or hair being blown by the wind [CiCi: I’d like to add laughing – I am not an attractive laugher in 2D].
She does this all by herself and though I initially showed her a few Photoshop tricks for things like removing creases and folds in clothing [CiCi: I really hate ironing], she’s quite a pro at it now.
So there you have it – that’s pretty much how we put together an outfit photoshoot. Somehow we manage to do them pretty much every available weekend, all year round – regardless of what the British weather or life in general may throw at us! [CiCi: And sometimes, like last week, we do two in a row which involves me changing in the car. Very glamorous.] And best of all we’ve never really fallen out or argued about it – this is part of our lives and I wouldn’t change it for the world 🙂
I have to admit, I felt touched when I read that last sentence, as I had kinda assumed there was low level resentment from those days I drag us out in the depths of winter! This blog really is a team effort, and I couldn’t do it without B – so a huge thank you to him, which I really don’t say enough.
So while we’re here, if there’s anything else you want to know about how we go about getting pictures, do feel free to ask!