Last month, I stepped out of my usual gear bailiwick for this column and plugged a trio of photo books that I liked. This time around, I want to expand my media horizons further and discuss a new educational DVD titled Fashion Photography Exposed, featuring fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell. The DVD is a joint creation by Rodwell and David Skyler, who runs Fashion Photography Blog, and features tips, info, interviews and some good insider dish on how to make it as a fashion photographer.
Veteran photographers might not be interested in this DVD—they may find some of the info a bit too basic—but anyone who is up-and-coming in the business and is looking for advice and inspiration will likely get a lot out of it. Rodwell’s got a ton of experience in the industry and her photos (and the stories behind them) are wonderful; just the sort of thing that will make you want to go out and shoot.
First, a word about the structure of the video: It’s somewhat unusual, but I liked that. Rather than go through a meticulous technical discussion of how to make a good fashion photograph—and who wants or needs that?—the DVD first follows Rodwell as she visits a designer to make wardrobe selection; talks about what gear she likes to use; and discusses the day’s shoot with her assistants. Some might find these sections too casual but, to me, they showed the importance of developing and cultivating relationships in the industry and offered a nice documentary-style approach.
In the extensive chapter on studio lighting, the video turns more “how to” as Rodwell talks about her favorite lighting set-ups including Paramount, Rembrandt, Loop and Split/Side. Along with showing her creating the set-ups and the effects they achieve while working with a live model, the video presents helpful animated lighting diagrams with Rodwell’s narration. Camera settings and gear choices are also outlined in the video and in a handy companion manual of lighting diagrams that comes with the DVD.
Though there’s not a specific chapter on the DVD devoted to how to work with a model, young photographers can learn a lot by watching the experienced Rodwell get the most out of her subjects both in the studio and on location.
The location lighting section is actually my favorite because it shows how to adapt to unpredictable circumstances, such as when a shoot with a model in Topanga Canyon, California, turns unexpectedly overcast and Rodwell decides to go black-and-white with her images and uses a neutral density filter to get more contrast from the sky.
Two long interviews with the editor of a fashion magazine and a model agency rep were interesting and offered great insider information but might have benefitted from some pruning. As they were, they felt more like good Q & As at a photography conference, which is not necessarily a bad thing but atypical manna for our video-addled brains.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Fashion Photography Exposed is a very well packaged, professionally produced DVD that will be helpful to anyone who wants to learn some fashion photography secrets from a real pro. If there’s one major complaint I can make, it’s that at $299, this DVD’s pretty expensive. When I asked Skyler about the price, he said it was set to match other competing fashion photography DVDs on the market. He is, however, looking for ways to bring the price down, so stay tuned. I hope he does find a more budget-friendly solution so Fashion Photography Exposed can be exposed to an even wider audience.
Pros: Well-packaged, professionally produced DVD with helpful tips and info from a fashion photography professional
Price: $299; www.fashionphotography.com