As many people may have noticed on my various social network sites (Flickr, Facebook, etc.) that I recently photographed a model named Laura. Laura is not just any model that many of us here in the Raleigh-Durham area, but a celebrity model.
Laura was the runner-up on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 13. Several people have asked how I got this opportunity. Well, Laura is my great-niece. Her grandmother Wanda Sue is my sister.
My family has been suggesting that I get a chance to shoot her before she heads off to the Big Apple to pursue her career. I had a very narrow window of time to do that. It had to be after the show finished and before her time demands make her unavailable to even family. That time was this past weekend.
I knew I wanted to accomplish several things while shooting her. Those included a beauty session, a couple of editorial sessions showing up some Wanda Sue’s Fashions. Wanda Sue (we just call her Sue) had made several of Laura’s outfits that she wore to the judging panel and Wanda Sue became kind of her own celebrity. Then I wanted to do a couple of high fashion looks.
To do this, I would need a styling team. I wanted someone excellent with hair and someone with a lot of creative makeup ideas. It would have been easy to pack up some limited gear, fly to Kentucky and shoot on her schedule. I would struggle to find the talent needed and even then, I wouldn’t have a working relationship with them. I also wanted to shoot the editorial shots in an urban setting, so it seemed logical that shooting here in Raleigh-Durham would be perfect. Stylists I trust are here and my location looks are here.
I contacted Jennifer at D’Jin Salon in Durham to see if she would be interested and she jumped at the opportunity. Her salon would serve as a perfect base of operation, doing studio shots in the salon and the editorial looks around downtown Durham.
For makeup, I had recently worked with Daniel from Libra Looks. He had a book of makeup ideas that he had been working on and was a fan of the show. Though Daniel and Jenn had not worked together, I got them emailing back and forth and let them have creative control over all styling related issues. Hey, I’m not a stylist.
They make Laura look good. She poses well. I make sure the photos are sharp and lit well and surely magic would happen.
While dodging interview after interview and local shoots, Laura and I worked out a plan to get her here. 37,500 frequent flyer miles and some taxes and fees later, she had a flight from Lexington to RDU.
To add an interesting twist to this, my youngest son’s Junior Ice Hockey team was playing two games in Wake Forest this same weekend and we had arranged to feed the team before their Saturday game. My wife’s parents drove in from Kentucky to see Chris play and help with the team meal.
My MIL has been watching ANTM all season and cheering for Laura so my wife and I decided to make this a surprise that Laura was coming in. In retrospect perhaps I should have had them pick her up on the way!
The surprise would have to be delayed 12 hours as filming for the Tyra Banks show caused Laura to miss her fight. The next flight wouldn’t get her to RDU until 8:30am the next day instead of 9pm the night before.
We also caught a break. Tropical Storm turned noreaster Ida damaged the fleet of vans Chris’s team was planning to use to get to Wake Forest. So they had to bring a bus and the driver limits prevented the team meal from becoming a reality.
The night before the shoot, the stylists hinted they were nervous about the shoot. We had no idea what wardrobe was coming and they saw an opportunity with a celebrity model as too important and didn’t want to blow it. I was worried too because other than the vague outline of what to shoot, I had no idea what “looks” to do. I don’t get chances with models of Laura’s calibre very often either and I didn’t want to blow it. But I had faith in the styling team so I knew it would be okay.
I also invited Tom Winstead to come shoot with us. Tom and I shoot a lot together and he has always helped me out and this was a good way to repay him for everything.
With the team set, we now only had to dodge the two hockey games because I don’t get to see Chris play often and with the in-laws in town, they were not to be missed. We also wanted to have at least one meal with him.
- Saturday, 8:30am
- Laura arrives at RDU. A quick trip back to my house for breakfast and then off to the salon.
- We arrive in Durham and the stylists start looking over the wardrobe and talk with Laura about the ideas. We start setting up lights, backgrounds and such while the styling beings. Visitors arrive in the form of my wife and in-laws to watch the beauty shoot portion. By 2pm, they depart.
- We start the first of two editorial shoots. In between, we keep the the styling, but add a little additional makeup and Laura becomes a marionette puppet. A quick studio session with that look, then we style for the 2nd editorial look. Then back inside for the final two fashion looks.
- Leave for Wake Forest and the hockey game. Luckily my wife brought the computer to the rink, so I was able to download and get some photos up quickly from the WiFi at the rink.
- Leave the game for home. We arrive a little after midnight and its back to editing for a bit and we probably get to sleep after 1am.
- Sunday, 8:30am
- Time to start day 2. The hockey game was in the middle of the day, so after a breakfast, it was time to drive to the game. I got a little more editing and posting done before we departed. Its a 45 minute drive from home to the rink.
- The 2nd game commences with more photoshop work in between periods. The game ends and we head to the local mall food court with the team.
- We leave Wake Forest for Durham to start the second day’s photography. Its a 45 minute trip to the Salon. The stylists planned to get as many looks in as they could before we had to call it a wrap. Several of them were complex and required considerable styling time. Before we had to quit at 11pm, we got in four complex high fashion looks.
- Finally home, a quick edit to get some shots from Sunday up and then call it a night
- Monday 6:30am
- The alarm goes off. Time to get Laura to the airport to send her home.
Through out this whole process, we all were in pure awe of how talented Laura is. I’ve never had this many keepers from a shoot. All of her poses are strong. Her facial expressions are spot on. Clearly she took Tyra Banks’ advice about “Smizing” (smiling with your eyes).
Laura is also incredibly versatile. Each look was different. Even within the same look, one angle would be completely different than another. Jenn describe her hair as perfect. She was a wonderful canvas for her and Daniel’s ideas. Laura hit it off well with the stylists which I now realize may be some of the most chemistry needed at a set. When sitting in a chair for over an hour being poked, prodded, glued and tugged, having a good report with them is important.
Then the camera turns to her and and infinite number of poses appear beautifully before the camera. It was the most incredible shoot I’ve been part of. Enjoy the photos.