Having come rather late in life to the world of professional photography, at the start of 2013 I was still in the process of building a commercial book of a decent standard. Like many others, I approached people on social media sites, with the aim of finding models, makeup artists, and hair and wardrobe stylists who were also looking to co-operate to produce portfolio work. I was lucky enough to come across Anne on the infamous Model Mayhem website.
Using these sites to find good models to work with is not easy, though the sub-culture is fascinating. Perhaps because no money is changing hands, perhaps because the models are usually young and inexperienced in the ways of life, for whatever reason last minute cancellations or no-shows often scupper well-planned shoots, and there are large number of girls who have the desire - but not the look - to be a professional model. However, the upside of not having to pay is a strong one, and in Anne I struck lucky.
Starting as a participant on Britain’s Next Top Model, Anne is now a full-time commercial model signed with several agencies, and at that time had just had her hair cut and coloured for the annual hair stylists competition run by Wella. She wanted to have some photographs of her new style for her book, so when I approached her and asked if she was interested in sitting for me, as the time was right for a co-operation. I suggested some looks I wanted to try out, she agreed and then I looked for - and found - a suitable makeup artist to join us on the day.
I did not need a studio for the head shots I had in mind, so I took some strobes and a black background cloth to a flat in Cambridge where we shot. The shoot itself was a quite standard beauty job - Anne spent around an hour in makeup and then we spent around four hours (including several makeup changes) doing a few different ideas. I had concepts that I wanted, but also had to ensure that I was taking images that could be used by both Anne and the makeup artist in their own portfolios. Anne’s hair colour had faded somewhat from it’s competition depth, so I was keen to have some strong visual elements to engage the eye. After applying a white base layer, we laid her on the floor and sprinkled coloured makeup on her (which had been my original concept) and then - rather on the spur of the moment - I asked Anne to smear the powder on her face, an effect that worked well.
Shooting with a 70-200mm 2.8 at 85mm wastefully stopped down to a studio f8 to give me the depth, a single beauty dish was all I needed for this shot. When shooting beauty it is no great secret that a lot of work happens in post. I usually do this myself, but a friend had suggested using a retouching service in India. As an introduction they asked for a couple of raws to demonstrate their prowess - I chose this picture of Anne to give them, and asked them to concentrate on removing skin flaws and soft downy hair, as well as some prominent bra-strap marks.
This portrait of Anne still graces her model book and has hopefully helped get her lots of work.
Photography is a second career for Ian Essendon. After too many years being a commuter, in 2011 he rekindled his youthful love of picture-taking at the University of Hertfordshire and is now making a poorer but more enjoyable living taking pictures both editorially and commercially (working for beauty clients such as Elemis, Clinique, and Boots, as well as general corporate and architectural work). He is based in Shoreditch, though he has neither a beard nor tight jeans.
See more work by Ian Essendon