Being a photography intern at Pattern Magazine has brought me many opportunities and learning experiences, but last Friday I was able to have one of the biggest learning experiences yet. I assisted for a photoshoot for the upcoming Pattern issue. Not only did I assist for my first real editorial shoot but I assisted for Ilycia Kahn, a product stylist who has an extensive portfolio. I was also able to meet Chris Whonsetler, a commercial photographer with a focus on product photography. To me, this was already a little intimidating. They both were so nice but I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by their talent and experience. And to make things more nerve-racking, I was going to be working with one-of-kind Miriam Haskell costume jewelry, which was worth thousands of dollars. But I found that once I was on set, it was pretty relaxed and I learned a lot about what it takes to be on set for an editorial shoot.
The preparation for a product shoot like this one is very involved. Each shot calls for different props and I learned that it can be hard to find all the items you need to pull off each set up the way you envisioned it, so you really shouldn’t get hung up on specifics. When you’re on set sometimes you just have to forget the exact vision you have in your head. Going in with some flexibility built in helps with not getting so frustrated when things don’t go quite as you planned. Start with a general notion and go from there.
Observing the communication between Chris and Ilycia was interesting. I went into the shoot thinking that the stylist and the photographer’s jobs intermingled the whole time. This wasn’t exactly the case for this shoot. Ilycia would set up the whole shot and arrange everything the way she wanted and then Chris would take the picture. He didn’t watch and pitch in suggestions like I thought he would. His main focus was lighting and catching things in the photograph that needed to be changed. He would show Ilycia the shot and they would talk about possible changes and go from there. The communication was very relaxed and interesting to observe.
Watching someone who has been doing this for years was really eye opening. I had no idea how much time and effort goes into each shot and the flexibility that you have to have on set. There were many times where we had to compromise and deviate from the original plan. Some props didn’t look like we thought they would, and sometimes what looked good to the naked eye, did not translate well to “film”, so the set up would need to be adjusted.
The most important thing I learned was that the key to a successful shoot is to be laid back and not get too stuck on a very specific outcome. Having a team that was relaxed and willing to work through challenges without getting frustrated is really important as well.
Photos courtesy of Chris Whonsetler