Effective Lighting and Other Model/Agency Expectations



Steve Ellinger
Model: Bex Sollars
Agency: The Dragonfy Agency
Stylist: Loren Whitsett
MUAH: Brandy Gaiennie

As photographers we know what we want to do and see. We know how to make the photography happen with most subjects. And in general, most are hired to do just that, and make their clients happy. In 99% of the situations that happens every time because the clients know less about what we do, than we do ourselves. But in some cases, the subjects actually have an in-depth knowledge of photography, and at the very least what out-comes need to happen from the shoot.

I have authored numerous articles for this publication, as well as others, and those who follow my work know that I photograph professional agency fashion models, admittedly a very narrow scope of work for a photographer. In every case when I am doing a fashion shoot or agency test, I generally know what the model, agency or designer needs.

Model: Michalea Hartnett, Agency: (pending), Stylist: Janet Ehling, MUAH: Jesseca Barstad

First and foremost, what professional models want to see from the photographer is a good eye for DETAIL. And by that, how a photographer and model are in harmony for the symphony of shoot and how to capture the images. Every good fashion shoot is like a three-legged stool. The model doing her part, the photographer doing his/her part, and the styling team doing their part, all working in harmony.

As I am typically shooting, the stylist is only looking at the clothes, jewelry or hair and make-up to make sure it is exactly right. I am looking at the lighting and composition, and the model is concentrating on the pose so as to promote whatever is the intended purpose of the shoot. So when I say “detail,” the details are many faceted. Just as a conductor of an orchestra knows the importance of the flute section if you will, the photographer also knows how to conduct the shoot details to get the perfect results.

Creativity is yet another aspect of getting it right. Posing is paramount. Models want to see if the photographer knows the angles for the intended purpose, and how to crop to draw the eye to the wardrobe, accessory or the model herself. And let me say here that most all of that is contradictory to what the PPA Certification process teaches. That stuff is fine for bridals, senior photos, and family portraits. But for fashion photography, like fashion itself, the looks demand much more creativity than the “PPA look.” It comes with years of experience and a natural creative trait that allows one to see and understand fashion. Not only do models look for photographers who understand that, but so do the designers and agencies.

Just recently, an agency told me that they always look at a photographers Instagram before working with them to see if they understand the creative use of light. Frankly, they could care less about “broad light” or “short light,” both outdated and mostly useless lighting approaches. What agencies and models want to see is “effective light,” ie: lighting that is used to create a mood or draw attention to some aspect of the image to help sell. “Effective Lighting” can take on many forms, including the use of filters, shadows, colors, and a mix of natural and artificial light. There are no rules, just good results.

Model: Michalea Hartnett, Agency: (pending), Stylist: Janet Ehling, MUAH: Jesseca Barstad

Prior to every fashion shoot or agency test, I engage in a lengthy dialogue with the model/agency/stylist several weeks in advance so that we are all on the same page. It is never a one-sided shoot. Unlike most photography “sessions,” the agency and model expect to be a total part of the planning. In fact, the agency and I will typically assemble the team, at times have on-line meetings, etc., with all parties to create a plan with mood-boards, etc. An agency or model will absolutely expect that out of me or any photographer who works at this level.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the type work that I do in photography is the personal understanding that I am just one part of the team in place to do the work. But I understand that the agencies/models expect that out of me. While nearly every photographer has clients who “expect” their photographer to do an excellent professional job, the level
of expectations from agency/model/stylist team is exceptional and the results must be evident. All of the images shown here were the result of
a team of professionals who did their part and expected others to do their part as well.

Steve Ellinger, CPP is a nationally known fashion photographer, author, architect, educator, and speaker. Mr. Ellinger holds a PPA Craftsman Degree. His work is known for being creative using non-traditional photographic techniques. Ellinger is a frequent speaker at PPA events, has presented many educational seminars and programs on his un-orthodox methods and techniques. He was an instructor during the last three years of the Texas School of Professional Photography. His work in agency testing is used by agencies across America. Although primarily working with professional models, his work has launched the careers of many models that are new to the industry.