Results of Assistant on Location

Beware the pitfalls!

On the 19th of October myself and my colleague, Elizabeth Morton, once again embarked on a Fashion shoot on location.  I’m sure most of you will have read her post, Assistant on Location, and what I intend to do in this article is let you see and explain some of the events of the day. Enjoy!

Firstly this was about getting information on what to look for during a location shoot and the trials and pitfalls that can occur if you are not switched on.  Students, when they first get out on location with their models, tend just to see the models face and forget about what they have been taught regarding composition, use of props, dresses hanging properly and suits being tidy and neat.

What I intended to do was show some of the simple mistakes that are made and how easily they are to overcome. For instance, how many images have you taken then noticed a cable from the light behind the model? A piece of mantelpiece in the corner which could have been so easily fixed. (left image)

Moving on, look at the back light shining up into the models arm.  This tends to be missed by learners or they spend half their life trying to fix it in Photoshop. Get it right in the camera and the hours of life you’ll get back is extraordinary! Bare in mind none of these images have been touched with Photoshop.

Next we have the issue of lighting the model correctly.  If you can grasp how lighting works and use your imagination, in the photography world you half way there.  There is nothing worse than getting a lovely model/s and then wasting the whole shoot with bad lighting.  The crazy thing is that it is in front of you, you can see it, you can view it in your camera or on a laptop preferably, as you can’t examine the image properly on a tiny camera screen.   Photographers of my generation had to learn the hard way and because we couldn’t see the results until the film was processed and printed.  If you made a mistake it was back to scratch.  Nowadays there is absolutely no need to leave a shoot without the best images possible.

So with that in mind, lets get started with the lighting.  Like any shoot which mixes daylight and electronic flash, we need to know how to balance it up. The next sequence of images shows you how it should look as you do your tests. From just setting up the flash to getting the correct exposure.  Once that’s done, then you can concentrate on the model/s.

Once you have the image bottom right, you can then change the dresses etc for the shoot and all should be well as far as exposure goes. Look at the difference between the detail on the dress in the final image compared to the one next to it.  Look at Victoria’s hair and skin texture.

Once you have your lighting sorted, it’s time to work the model and watch out for some more pitfalls.  Just getting a model to angle her head slightly can make such a difference to the face as you can see here with these two images.

Next I want to look at the eyes of your subjects.  When you are trying to direct a model, and it may be strange for you at first, remember to use a tripod and a cable release.  You will then be able to see much more than you can through the back of the camera.  You can use your hands to instruct the sitter on what to do, and see those little signs that let you know when to press the shutter, and you’ll whisper, “got it”.  I hear students say all the time look here, look there and before you know it we have pupils stuck in the corner of the eyes.  Get them out of there and have them look at you, or the lens, or something just above the camera, (see below).

Now, same model, different set up, different lighting different location, same mistakes. Only one light used this time and again bounced off an old brown door onto Wiktoria.  Look at the detail lost on the right arm as we look at it.  That’s a lot of post production right there. How do we fix it, “Wiktoria, can you do exactly the same with the other arm”? GONE!

These are all quite common mistakes and the only way to get better is to keep shooting and examine your work closely to see and take note of where you went wrong.  There is nothing worse than a beautiful model, lovely location, a few hours work and then you get nothing!!!  

Lets now take a look at the clothes and hands.  Again it is easy to overlook the obvious if you get too excited or you haven’t been listening.  Look at the first of the two images of the dress,  see the black bit of the dress fold bottom left, all I did was ask Wiktoria to move her hip and it’s away. Now the one thing that can’t be removed from both images is the size of her hand, it looks massive, nothing wrong with Wiktoria, this is the photographers fault. so how do we fix it?

Get her to fold her arms, better but still not right.  “Tilt your wrist Wiktoria” that’ll do the job.

I think that is probably enough for this session so I’ll finish of with just a few nice photos taken at the end of this demonstration.

I hope you get something from this post that can help you on your next assignment.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Look for the obvious, it’s usually staring you in the face.
  2. Take a laptop or some other viewer to check your work thoroughly, and make adjustments
  3. Use your imagination
  4. Use both lighting and camera adjustments to get the shoot right. 

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