For many of us, photography isn’t merely a means to pay the bills. As creatives, we use it as a medium to express ourselves, a way to connect to your audience and the world.
The moment our countries locked down, a gasp could be heard amongst those of us whose genre of photography demands collaborations. Portrait & beauty, fashion, weddings, families & baby photographers switched off their cameras, confused and lost, looking for different ways to fill that creative gap and stay creative.
Soon one idea blossomed and started filling our timelines: FaceTime Photoshoots.
If you’re looking to have a go for yourself or trying to improve your remote photoshoot game, here’s how they work, why they’re great, and what to look out for!
Not able to shoot in studios and homes, a FaceTime photoshoot is the solution to setting up a shoot while keeping social distance.
At the same time, while bridging the gap between you and your subject, they also fill the need of connecting to others. Most people I spoke to pointed out that lockdown loneliness and isolation were lessened by interacting with like-minded creatives.
Lui Cardenas, Louise Clewlow and Donna McGowan kindly shared their experience and images with me.
The most commonly used method of shooting remotely is connecting to your subject via laptop, tablet or mobile phone. During a video call you have the option to screen capture your own screen or that of the model in LiveMode, depending on who’s device offers a better image quality.
Fashion Photographer Lui Cardenas shows us stunning examples of what that can look like:
Rather than using FaceTime, the second option to shoot remotely is hiring a photographer and their studio space. The lighting will be set up to your specifications and while a model poses in solitude you’re able to trigger a professional camera remotely via Capture One. The LiveView of the software allows you to watch your model pose in screen share mode. The advantage in this case being the professional lighting and camera equipment.
Photographer Louise Clewlow, teamed up with model Amie-Jayne have done a fantastic job at doing just that:
Louise enjoyed the opportunity to keep creating while having the fully kitted studio of Chris Conway at her (virtual) fingertips. She was able to play with modifiers and backdrops she wouldn’t usually have available… and no setting up or tidying away after!
The biggest downside when it comes to screen captures is without a doubt the poor resolution. Images easily look grainy, especially in darker conditions. Embrace it like fellow photographer Donna McGowan does! For Donna the grain looks similar to the effect film cameras give you and adds to the charm of FaceTime shoots:
Phone cameras have a tendency to blow the highlights of your images so bear this in mind and find locations without harsh lighting conditions. Lui discovered that the “front” camera performed better than the “selfie” camera when it came to preserving highlights.
Not interacting with a model face to face can pose challenges when it comes to communication but these can be great practice to improve your directing skills.
The delay in triggering your images requires your model to hold poses a little longer. Make sure you explain this before you’ve lost that great angle.
A little tip: Remind your subject to look at the camera, as they would on a “real” shoot rather than at themselves on the screen.
Not being familiar with your location could be a further downside but don’t let this put you off, here’s how to prepare and get the best possible results:
As with any good shoot, communicate the goal and vision of the shoot before the day. Set up a virtual FaceTime meeting with your model to build rapport and brainstorm ideas collectively.
This is a good opportunity to explore their location, props, and outfits. This way you have a better idea of what you’d like to achieve on the day of the shoot.
Make sure the Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to deliver clear images. When faced with a poor connection, Lui had to improvise and change location in order to establish a better signal for FaceTime photoshoots.
Mobile phones offer better cameras than tablets and laptops, make sure the operating system can facilitate FaceTime LiveView (IOS11 or higher for iPhones).
Discuss how the model’s device will be propped up so he/she can have her hands free during the shoot. Phone tripods are a great inexpensive way to get creative with angles.
Donna and her models used pillows, books, and chairs to achieve different perspectives:
Remote photoshoots are not only a way to fill the creative void caused by social distancing regulations but challenge you to push yourself out of the comfort of your own routine. Explore what you can do without your usual equipment, challenge your communication skills and stay creative by exploring different genres of photography.
“I believe there’s nothing like the personal connection you create with your model […] but I realize how we as photographers sometimes focus too much on the equipment, and it was great to focus on the most important things, the model, the lighting and your composition.” – Lui Cardenas
Discovering remote shoots gave Louise the option to shoot models that couldn’t otherwise be reached and she will keep the concept of FaceTime photoshoots going, even after lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
I hope the stunning examples from photographers all over the globe have inspired you to get creative and experiment with remote photography!
If you’d like to see more of Lui, Louise and Donna’s photography work, take a look here:
I’m excited to see what you create, feel free to share your remote shooting images with me on @tina_eisen.
Tina is a commercial and editorial beauty photographer based near London, UK.
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