A few weeks ago, I visited the first photography workshop of my entire career. Not that I am hesitant about learning from others. However, as a formally educated photographer who has been pretty busy with his career for the last 25 years (including the countless detours), I injected myself with selected education and inspiration via books, DVDs, and now digital training as well as free content via the web.
The motivation to finally visit Lindsay Adler’s 1-Day “Secrets of Fashion & Beauty Photography” workshop in London had several reasons…
Why I Visited This Workshop
I was aware that I probably would not learn anything groundbreakingly new related to lighting, model topics etc. and that the money I had to spend would not necessarily be for educational aspects only. But there were several other compelling reasons for me to join Lindsay:
- I am always striving to let my own photography style/field be influenced (in this particular case: enhanced) by other genres. Styling is very important in sexy/glam/nude photography, as I have written about here.
Of course, Lindsay’s work field is not about basic styling but rather sophisticated accessorized fashion. It is her takes, visions and ideas regarding fashion concepts and beauty standards.
- I love Lindsay’s body of work when it comes to combining effective styling elements with meaningful, harmonizing (= effective) lighting design and her personal interpretation of beauty.
- She works in NYC! How cool is that?! Of course, this is no hallmark of excellence itself but it puts things in a neat perspective if photographers make their marks and create an emerging career in a hyper-competitive place!
Surely, Lindsay is well known in the digital spheres due to her various education programs but all of this knowledge and experience is based on her real-world work.
Getting insights, pieces of advice how the fashion world ticks in a vibrant place (agencies, contracting, fees, hurdles, untold stories told) are info you will not get easy access to unless you are personally connecting during a workshop.
- Validating my own position and knowledge. While Lindsay and I are commercially working in different genres, our common ground and needs are the same: Working with models, posing, lighting designs, production setup/organization, dealing with clients and more.
I used this workshop as a reality check and to reassure myself that my takes and approaches are valid. And to learn what could be adjusted or changed completely if I debunk misconception in my takes.
- Getting to know Lindsay in person. Although I have plans to tour the US next year (besides doing Australia), I just had to take the chance to introduce myself to her while she is touring Europe. Who knows what could be next, what could be possible.
And experiencing somebody in person while they are working live on spot is just invaluable.
It is the million little things one learns, the observation of behavior and the many invaluable details that are worth every Penny (literally).
- Getting content for you, for SWP. Worst case scenario I thought about – in case of not getting any knowledge, any additional aspect out of this trip – would be that I had a little adventure I could report about. An article, a background story, an insight about a workshop. Admittedly, an expensive article ($500 WS fee + travel + accommodation) but a valuable experience I could share with you.
The Gear I Took With Me
Flying from Prague to London, then taking various train and bus rides, luggage limitation, being only 2.5 days on the road in total: Lightweight touring was indicated. Here is the gear I selected based on those preconditions (4.5 kg / 10 lbs net):
- 1x DSLR Body Nikon D800 (no Grip)
- 1x 85mm, 1.8, Nikkor
- 1x 50-200mm, 2.8, Nikkor
- 5x Batteries + 1x Charger
- Bunch of SD Cards
- 1x Samsung Tablet
Workshop Program: 1 Day Near London
The workshop day took place at the North of London (60 mins. train ride from Victoria station). For foreigners without a car (rental) it is not super convenient to access the Amersham Studios (the organizer of this workshop). But on the other hand, residing outside London makes every aspect like accommodation, food, grocery etc. just much less expensive – it really is an economical setup.
Amersham Studios itself is lovely. It is not a fashionable place in a NYC-ish sense, but rather provincially. But it is calm and perfectly suitable for education, offering state-of-the-art gear.
What I was really surprised about was the amount of participants attending. While the sales page did not state any figures (this is bad), I assumed that there will be around 10 people because the site had an available ticket count which stated “10” in the very beginning (as far I can remember). Once arrived, I found out that we were a crowd of almost 20 people…
Of course, if one is doing the math – 10x $500… – one can conclude that this is no business model for them but nonetheless as a potential buyer I expect to know how large groups could be. Anyway…
Morning: Lecture, Insights, Yay!
The workshop started at 10 a.m.
A buoyant Lindsay walked and talked us through her early work, latest successes, portfolio development, how to start out without money and no connections, how she sneaked her way into NYC while living outside the city, her most important lighting setups, her findings and advice in posing models, why striving for aspirational work (not commercial projects only), that editorial jobs for renowned print magazines only pay about $500 in total, model contracting troubles, rejections, unexpected triumphs, how to keep motivation to follow through and a gazillion other most valuable insights, based on our questions.
This was a 4 hour interactive roundtrip performed in highest excellence.
Afternoon: Shooting 4 Setups
After a short sandwich break (my regards to the UK food habits) and excellent coffee, we now had the chance to replicate and evolve 4 shooting situations that were previously setup by Lindsay with the help of her assistant Chris (who actually is her boyfriend but more importantly an awesome photographer himself).
We had 2 stages and were rotated for the different shoots. This was great because the large group now got divided and we had a good amount of time to individually shoot and interact with the model. 2 models were booked (blonde + tall, brunette + petite): we got 4 different looks, 4 different lighting setups.
During the waiting time I/we had the chance to personally chat with Lindsay which is another fantastic benefit when attending a real-world workshop.
Late Afternoon: Retouching Insights. Damn!
Having captured a few lovely shots, it was then time to delve into the last part of this day: Retouching.
Knowing that my beauty retouching work is ranging somewhere between catastrophic to mediocre at best, I really was curious to learn how Lindsay (and her studio) is dealing with this utterly important aspect.
Lindsay demonstrated what she is aiming for and how she is approaching retouching tasks the same way every single time but she also revealed her job-related tips, studio specialties and more. Although being most informative and insightful, this was not what I was interested to learn in the first place. In order to ultimately upgrade my retouching work, I actually would need to educate myself over the course of at least 5 days …
So, the real gem I was after was: “How does Lindsay handle her retouching work?” Well, she is doing it by herself. Damn! What the heck…
OK, admittedly not every single picture anymore, depending on job and budget. However, in the beginning of her career and not until long ago, she did everything on her own. Today, as said, she can be selective. If she outsources beauty retouching, jobs are commissioned to retouchers within the US or to artists in the Baltics.
This was eye-opening. Of course, I kind of suspected it to be this way, yet I refused to believe. But Lindsay confirmed it: She is doing it on her own. Sigh, my 2017-To-Do list just got extended by another heavy topic to be taken care of.
Around 6:30 p.m. the day came to an end. Lindsay addressed us with a few last words and once again answered countless questions. Nonetheless, she was still full of energy, enthusiasm and very approachable. What a personality!
My Findings: What I Gained
Here is what I found out, learned, got validated and some of my personal takeaways:
- Lighting design, quality, tech, settings: Nothing new (this is OK!).
- Model collaboration, posing: Nothing new (this is OK!).
- Shooting organization, scheduling, prep: Nothing new (this is OK!).
- Lindsay’s creativity: Countless tiny gems received. Yay!
- New insights into Lindsay’s work environment, her story, her experiences, her fights, her path, and her POV – invaluable.
- Lindsay’s “Fashion Take”: I have learned how she approaches her creations, where she gets inspiration from, why an image looks the way it does, what efforts she puts into her artwork. I finally got an insight, explanation and labor estimate about what happens before she shoots a concept. This is most savvy and helps me to evolve my process in “Fashion Nudes”.
- Validation: We are nothing without our teams! Of course, we photographers have the vision and implement the shoot at the highest possible level. But without our core team we are nothing. MUHA, Stylist, Art Director (every now and then), Retoucher – it is the creative interplay of an experienced team that makes the magic happen. “Fashion (Nude) Photography” is not possible without a strong team, read: strong personalities.
- Validation: Tech is unimportant. Of course: Good resolution, decent lenses, a bunch of strobes providing constant lighting quality and various modifiers are a prerequisite. But brand, age and price level of the gear do not matter. It is the creativity, eye and concept that count, not the latest and fanciest gear.
- Validation: An “Overnight Success” takes 10 years. At least.
Lindsay started her career at the young age of 15. She lived with her family in Upstate New York, a few hours bus ride away from NYC.
Gaining interest in portrait and fashion photography, she quickly realized that the city is the one and only place where she seriously could set foot and start to pursue her fashion photography career.
After several adventurous travels back and forth between her hometown and the city, she managed to get her first jobs downtown. From this point on she was then able to slowly move the centre of her life to NYC itself.
For the last 3 to 4 years, we all have had Lindsay on our radar thanks to her relentless, ongoing educational work, broadcasted by the photography world’s finest and most renowned platforms on the web. But this success is only possible because of her excellent, outstanding signature work. Lindsay is now just shy over 30 years old. However, she has been in business for 15 years.
The various “Overnight Successes” we see surfacing every now and then, those persons we praise and follow: These successes are always founded on hard work (paired with luck sometimes) and they were years in the making. I can tell you a thing or two about it, I am still en route.
In conclusion: I received confirmation for a vast majority of my processes regarding the way I approach and implement my work, got countless (!) creative simulations, very personal and fashion photography industry related insights, and I had the chance to meet Lindsay in person for a short, lovely and enlightening moment.
If you adore Lindsay Adler’s body of work like I do, I recommend you to join one of her workshops in person. She is such an inspiring person!
Joining A Workshop: Set Your Goals!
If you are thinking about joining any kind of workshop, determine what your goals are, what you are keen (need) to learn first!
You have now read about my motives and objectives: I made the choice to attend Lindsay’s workshop because I wanted to experience her creativity live in action, to connect with her on a personal level and to seek validation (or not) in certain approaches/techniques that I am applying. My expectations were exceeded and I do have a good remembrance and feeling while writing these lines.
Lindsay is a bundle of energy, generous, funny, fearless, self-ironic, to-the-point and prepared.
Thank you, Lindsay!