Monthly Guest Photographer: Rick Wenner

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: April 3, 2010

Category: General

I recently worked the most stressful but also the most rewarding shoot of my life. This was my first fashion test shoot with a full team of stylists and 4 models. Here’s how it all went down…

I have been trying to educate myself as much as possible by attending photography workshops here in New York. One was hosted by Zack Arias (www.zarias.com) and the other by fashion photographer, Simon Gerzina (http://www.simongerzina.com). If you are ever able to attend either of these guy’s workshops, I highly recommend it. Especially if you need a good kick in the ass to move forward and take your photography skills to the next level. Zack inspired me to just keep working as hard as I can to get where I want to be in my photography career. Simon did the same but mainly focusing on the fashion photography industry. After attending Simon’s workshop, I was anxious to coordinate my own fashion shoot and put my newly learned skills to work. Simon made it very clear that this is not an easy thing to do but the end results are worth all the hard work. The man was right!

Whenever I’m looking through magazines and websites, I seem to be attracted more to moody and dramatic photographs. Lots of shadows, great poses, and of course, great models always help. So, I decided that’s what I wanted to do for my shoot. I started coordinating the shoot by contacting a hair/makeup stylist that I met through Simon’s workshop, Anna Webber (www.annawebbermakeup.com). Anna did a great job styling our model and seemed very friendly at the workshop, so I got in touch with her to see if she’d be interested in the shoot. I was happy to hear that she was available and we scheduled her for the full day of shooting. I honestly could not have been more happy with my choice in Anna because she did a lot more for me than just hair and makeup for the 4 models. She gave me advice during the scheduling stages and even some words of encouragement during the shoot. Anna’s been doing this for a while now, so I was very open to what she had to say. Alright, I’ve got my hair and makeup stylist scheduled and now I needed someone to dress these models cause I can’t just have them all standing there naked…well…I could but that’s another kind of shoot! I got in touch with an old friend from college who is a fashion designer and he was available for the shoot as well. Carlos is a very talented designer with a nice line of clothing, so I was very happy to hear that he was available. After discussing some of my ideas for the shoot, Carlos suggested that we have one of his friends, Tia, who is also a designer, come along with him. This was an extra bonus to me because I was given extra options for the shoot. Sweet! I’ve got my full team ready to go!

Now I needed somewhere to shoot. Sounds like an easy thing to figure out right? Not so much. I was scheduling this shoot during mid-winter in New York City, so it was around mid 20’s during the day. Not exactly ideal weather for shooting outdoors. Well, unless your name is Glyn Dewis and have a reputation for cold and windy days at his shoots. Amazing how his reputation can spread all the way from London to New York! Anyway…I had to find a nice studio for the shoot that had a few specific features. First was that I wanted a very large CYC (cyclorama) wall. This was important because it would simplify the look of my photos and is easy to control lighting on. Second was a makeup room for the stylists to work in that was separate from the shooting space for privacy. Anyone who has worked in NYC and Brooklyn knows that there are literally tons of studios that are available for full day rentals. I feel like I went to every single one of them! Of course, I decided on the very first studio that I looked at, Brooklyn Studios (www.brooklynstudios.net). They have a HUGE CYC wall and a very large room for the stylists. I was able to schedule the studio for the day at an incredible rate.

This photo is Rachel from BMG Models NYC. Although this photo wasn’t included in her portfolio, it is my favorite shot from the entire day.
Elinchrom Ranger AS – 39″ Deep Octa – High Camera Left – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/13 – 1/160

So…it’s the day of the shoot. I’ve barely slept because I was so excited (and nervous) the night before. I’ve loaded all of my gear into the studio with the help of my assistant James and start setting everything up. The stylists have arrived a few minutes late but it wasn’t a big deal because the models haven’t shown up yet either. I’m starting to see a trend here…people are late, people aren’t showing up…this could be a problem. 30 minutes pass and the first model has not yet arrived. I’m getting more nervous. 1 hour passes and she’s still not there! I’m starting to think she isn’t coming at all, that I’ve lost a lot of money (rental), and that my shoot is going to be a miserable failure based on the first model being a no show. But, I keep my cool in front of everyone. I contact the model’s agency and find out they told her the wrong date! Are you kidding me?! They were able to get her to come to the studio on “short notice” but she wouldn’t get there until 2 1/2 hours passed when she was originally supposed to be there. Great…

This is the opening photo to Rachel’s portfolio at the agency. I couldn’t be happier that one of my photos was included in a NYC agency portfolio!
Elinchrom Ranger AS – 69″ Octa – High Camera Left – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/8 – 1/160

I loved the furniture that the studio had to offer. This shot was a lot of fun.
Elinchrom Ranger AS – 39″ Deep Octa – Overhead of model – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/9 – 1/160

What seems like 4 days passes and then she finally arrives! We get her into hair and makeup, the wardrobe stylists start doing their thing and I’m starting to feel much better. Let’s get shooting already! I’ve done all this work so far and haven’t even picked up my camera yet! Ah, the life of a fashion photographer. After about 45 minutes to an hour of styling the model, we get the shoot going. I was so excited to finally get shooting. I shot a lot of photos for the first model’s look…I mean A LOT. I was so excited that my shoot was finally underway that I didn’t even realize how deep into thought and into the flow of the shoot I was until someone said to me “Hey Rick, you want to try another look or even another model?”  I tend to get carried away with shooting when I’m in the flow of things and happy with my subjects. Imagine how I was on this day, with 4 gorgeous models who were all professionals, in an amazing studio, and with an incredible team behind me. I’ve honestly never shot so many frames in one day as I did on this day. This was no “spray and pray” shooting either. I think I show around 1,500 frames and had a hard time narrowing it down to about 70 for each model.

Here’s Katerina from Hampton Models, a Long Island based agency.
Although I don’t usually shoot natural/available light anymore, I really love this shot. I’m a huge fan of flare…can ya tell?
Natural light bounced by Westcott reflector – ISO 500 – f/11 – 1/100

Here’s Jackie from Hampton Models. Her agency wanted to keep her shots more commercial and natural.
For this style of shots, I like to keep very easy and simple poses. Looks like she’s just hanging out and enjoying herself.
Elinchrom Ranger AS – 69″ Octa – High Camera Left – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/13 – 1/16
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Justine was a lot of fun to shoot with. This girl really knew how to move and play to the camera.
I’m so happy that I picked this chair for her photos.
Elinchrom Ranger AS – 69″ Octa – High Camera Left – Elinchrom BXR500 with strip bank to camera right – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/8 – 1/160

I love the shape that is formed from Jackie’s body and her shadow in this photo…and it has nothing to do with her “shirt”…I swear!
Elinchrom Ranger AS – bare with reflector – High Camera Left – ISO 100 – 85mm – f/14 – 1/160

The way that I look at these photos, whether technically perfect or not, is that these are some of my best images that I’ve created to date. These photos are the culmination of years of educating myself in photography,. Years of hard work and practice and research. I only expect in myself to get better from here and I will not stop until I am satisfied….which probably won’t ever happen. Huge thanks go out to Glyn for giving me the opportunity to be a guest on his blog and for letting me poke a few jokes at him in the process. You’re a good man Glyn. When we meet up I got the first round!

* To see more of Rick’s work, check out his website at www.rickwenner.com and his new blog at http://blog.rickwenner.com

* If you’ve any questions or comments for Rick, or just want to ‘share the love’ please post them in the comments section below where Rick’s waiting with fingers poised at the keyboard 🙂

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7 Comments

  1. Keith Hammond

    Rick, that was worth waiting for, an interesting insight into that world. Guess what, i got a few questions 🙂
    Jackies curved shadow, is that the result of the cyc wall ?
    Was this shoot to create shots for your portfolio and those of the models/agency or was there a client involved, or were the agencies the client ?
    Now lets talk dollars (if you don’t mind) what sort of fee’s did you have to lay out for the studio / models / mua etc, i know your stateside so cost is not relavant to UK but i’m just interested (nosey)
    I want to try some fashion and portrait work as weddings are a bit thin this year, so i’m going to make good use of the down time and get some studio equipment and get shooting.

    Now am i the only person who can’t get into your site, i get the home page with the timer running but it never loads, i can get on your old blog but on the new one the pics don’t load, i’ve tried it on 3 different machines in 3 different locations but still the same, i want to look at more of your work.
    I will keep trying. Thanks Rick, regards Keith

    Reply
  2. Rick Wenner

    Hey Keith, thanks for the kind words about my work at this shoot. I appreciate it. I see you’ve got a few questions so let’s get to it.

    – Yes, the curved shadow is from the CYC wall. I really love the shape that her body and shadow form here. It keeps your eye moving around and around.

    – This shoot was all for portfolio. That’s typically how a “test” shoot will go. Everyone involved gets photos for their portfolios afterwards.

    – Most often when it comes to “tests” there will be no money exchanged between anyone. Unfortunately, this was not the case for mine. There was a studio rental fee that I covered. Luckily I was able to get a great deal. The hair/makeup stylist was paid for her time also. Wardrobe was not. Now, that’s not how I would like to work all of my shoots but it just so happened to work out this way.

    ** My portfolio website is currently down right now, so that is why no one can get on there. My web designer, Flosites, is going to put up a temporary page with a link to my blog this upcoming Monday or Tuesday. Sorry about that. You can still get on the blog and see a lot of my portfolio there.

    Reply
  3. Noel Hannan

    Great shots Rick, just great. I love the look of the photos, the models and the lighting looks fabulous to me – I also like moody shadow lighting. If this was your frst big shoot with all the stylists, etc., then you did yourself proud, do show the next one! I for one, did manage to get on your site when it first went up and thought it looked great. Well done, best wishes, Noel

    Reply
  4. Rick Wenner

    Thanks a lot Noel. I definitely appreciate everything you’ve said. I’ll be posting more behind-the-scenes of my upcoming shoots in the near future.

    Reply
  5. David Kelly

    Rick, thanks for a great post. I really like the opening portfolio shot of Rachel and the one of Jackie. It reminded me of some of the shots from the late, great Bob Carlos Clarke. You’ve noted on many of them, that they’re shot @ 85mm – was this with the 85mm f/1.8 that seems to be a fav of yours, according to you recent blog posting?
    BTW I think your copyright logo is cool, looks a bit like a Celtic design I’ve seen.

    Reply
  6. Rick Wenner

    Hey David, thank you so much for that incredible compliment. Yea, that was the Canon 85mm 1.8. I am almost always using that lens when in studio. I will sometimes go with the 50mm 1.2 though but nowhere near as often as my 85. Thanks for that about my logo as well. I like it too! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Govind Vekaria

    Love the curvy shadow – it’s the first time I’m seeing such thing.
    Great photos.

    Reply

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