15hour course: intro to location & studio model photography

Alfie setting up a Westcott parabolic umbrella with model, Shinyong Lee: photo by Paul Church

UPDATE November 15th, 2014

Due to recent changes in tax and increases in the cost of living, the basic 15hr course has gone from 45,000¥ to 50,000¥. This applies to the fashion course and to other 15hr courses that I run. 

Fashion photography and shooting with models is a lot of fun. But it can be daunting to start photographing models. From looking a little at the history of fashion photography, location-scouting and shoot-planning to shooting twice on location and once in the studio, this introductory course aims to give you a good academic and practical grounding.

[Photo of me and Shinyong, setting up the massive Westcott umbrella for a recent shoot, by Paul Church]

Shooting with models [amateur or professional] and making stunning photographs of them [especially on location] is one of the things I really love the most.  But when you are starting out with this sort or photography and are yet to have a single  shoot with models, that first time can be really daunting…..

  • How do I pose them?
  • What sort of clothes are going to work best?
  • Is it hard to find locations and shoot in them?
  • What if the model doesn’t listen to me or take direction?
  • Am I going to need loads of lights?
  • But I’ve never been in a studio…..!!!

After running lots of one-off, one-day and weekend workshops in shooting with models, I decided it was time to do a short course. It’s something you can take one-to-one with me or if you fancy doing it with a friend, in a pair. This course isn’t going to be taught in any group larger than two students. It’s concentrated learning and gives you plenty of time with the model.

Click here to see a selection of my own fashion photography

Here’s a run-down of what we’ll cover in the 15 hours…… [exact details of each lesson may vary]

1. Introduction to the Course [3hrs]

  • We meet at the Canon S Tower Library in Shinagawa or Tsutaya in Daikanyama: both are nice locations with lots of seating and a great collection of photography books we can browse through.
  • Intro to the History of Fashion Photography: we look at some pics by some of the great fashion photographers throughout the history of the medium. We build a reading list for you, to help with your ongoing research and shoot-planning.
  • You come armed with some model and fashion photos/links to photos on the web which you like [on your phone, iPad or laptop]. We analyse them and put them through the set of visual literacy questions, which I have written an article about here and which you can download as a PDF. We go through a little of the history of fashion photography, some of the ‘greats’ through the ages.
  • We go through the basics of location scouting and location shooting: choosing a place, choosing best time of day, choosing gear, establishing a ‘theme’ or concept, managing the location as regards other people, security guards etc. We do this by going for a walk nearby.
  • We also discuss the basics of studio model shooting, just so you can begin to get an idea of what’s going to be involved.

Homework: you scout a location, build a plan of attack for lesson two’s shoot, which is a location model shoot. I don’t leave you on your own for the planning. We can ping-pong the details around, via a Google map, and discuss merits/pitfalls of your location.

2. Basic Location Fashion shooting: ambient light only [3hrs]

  • We shoot our model in your chosen location using ambient light only, then ambient light with reflectors. No flash is going to be used in this lesson.
  • We plan for the location to get us three cuts, minimum…. that’s three separate shots from the same spot that show some thread of location through the set of pictures. Common elements of the location or at least some thread that means the shots tie together when they are seen displayed together.
  • We deal with the shooting issues, the requirements, the final shots you have to deliver. We deal with exposure, lighting, location variables, model welfare, model communication, coming away with ‘enough’ so that you can take the shots to the next stage with post-processing, if necessary.

Homework: choosing a second location for lesson three which compliments or contrasts your first location. Putting together a ‘mood board’ for the shoot. You can see some examples of mood-boards I have used for previous model shoots, here.

3. Advanced Location Shooting: using ambient light & flash [3hrs]

  • Same as lesson 2 but now with added flash!
  • We use small speedlights on location, the kind of small, off-camera flash that you can easily afford to buy for your DSLR. [see my gear list below]
  • We run through the basic light setups [split, Rembrandt, long, short, butterfly]
  • We shoot your concept, working through two or three cuts [different shots/angles] and aiming to get at least six finished shots that we can make into a magazine style spread

Homework: using Tumblr, iPad, whatever you feel is most useful for you, get a scrapbook together of at least 20 images you like – which would have been shot in the studio – and that offer some inspiration for the studio shoot we are going to do together. Remember that we have just 2hrs in the studio and limited resources to make the shots work. Be realistic but don’t stop being creative!

4. Basic studio lesson [2hrs]

The cheapest/best value studio I use regularly is in Meguro. For your future reference, it’s 5900Yen per hour. Minimum booking there is for two hours. This is the exact cost I have built into this course, with no mark-up.

Here’s what we’ll be doing at the studio….

  • Intro to the studio gear: run-down of the gear and how top use it [studio flash heads, modifiers, stands, booms etc]
  • One light setups: what you can do to get low and high-key with one light
  • Adding a second light: effects for low and high-key shots with two light.

Homework: go through all of your shots and get YOUR selection of the best, which we can then go through and see if it matches mine. Form a rough outline of how the shots could work together on the page.

5. Lesson follow-up/editing/RAW workflow/post-production/layout [4hrs]

This lesson is done at my home, where I have an office with all the computer equipment and software we will need to go through, edit, post-produce and lay out the shots into a final series of magazine-style page spreads.

We will…..

  • Edit the pics down to a set of useable shots and develop a suitable RAW workflow for you
  • Process the shots [RAW processing, Photoshop]
  • Lay out the shots into a magazine-style layout
  • Critique and de-brief of the shooting/editing

Course costs:

My fees and the studio costs: Normally my one-to-one lessons are 5000Y per hour. For this course that comes to down to 3000Y/hr. The studio we’ll be using is very good and the best value in Tokyo that I know of for what you get. And what you get is: a good sized space, lots of gear, a nice changing-room for the model, many choices of coloured backdrop, stereo system and online music/iPod.

The Models: A lot of models who you’ll find on ModelMayhem will work for free, in exchange for your photos. I have used that website in the past to find models. Most times the people have been great. But sometimes they have been not so great. I don’t want you to have a bad experience with your first model shoots so I use good models for these lessons, people I have worked with before. People who have great skills. These sorts of people do not work for free but they are worth every penny. Because these people know me and we work together regularly, you will be getting their talents at a special, discounted price.

You can either choose to work with the same model for all three of your shoots, or we can find you three different models. Up to you. The cost for the models [see below] covers all three shooting lessons.

Here are the total costs….

  • Cost of course: [15hrs of teaching and I am generous with my time so it’ll likely be a little more than 15hrs]: 45,000Yen. If two people want to have the course as a pair, the course fees are 30,000Y each.
  • Cost of studio: [cost-price, no mark-up from me]: 11,800Yen
  • Cost of model/s: [all of which gets paid to them]: 15,000Yen

GRAND TOTAL: 71,800Yen

Course fees are payable. in full, on commencement of the course. The studio and model fees can be paid then or when they arise. Once you have committed yourself to the course and paid, the fees are non-refundable.

When do the lessons happen?

We look at each other’s diaries and schedule them in when suits you, me and the model. Two lessons happen without models so they are typically the easy ones to sort out.

Are there many people doing this course?

Two people have started already, which is great as I only announced it on the 20th November. I have had a few more enquiries since then.

How does one book a place?

Just click here to visit the contact page of this site and drop me a message. I look forward to hearing from you.

What Gear Will You Need?

DSLR is useful but not essential as I have a spare Nikon DSLR you can use. But it would better if you had your own camera.  You do not need to own your own flashes. I have plenty and also plenty of modifiers, stand etc for shooting on location with lighting.

Ideal lenses for shooting models? Well, your typical portrait lens is either an 85mm or 135mm. If you are shooting a cropped sensor camera [DX, APSC] then you would get these comparative focal lengths [or thereabouts] using a 50mm and 85mm. But in the last few months, on my own shoots, I have used everything from 14mm to 300mm. So there really is no ‘perfect’ lens for shooting this sort of stuff.

My Gear List For These Lessons:

I am not dripping in the latest gear. As well as paying a sizeable Central Tokyo mortgage, I have three kids and have to be sensible about what I spend on gear. The good news is that my pictures don’t suffer because my gear isn’t the latest and greatest. So, here’s a little run-down of the gear I will personally have at these lessons. If you are a Nikon user, great news for you….. as I shoot Nikon and you will be able to borrow all my gear during the lessons. For non-Nikon users, the flashes I have will work with any sort of camera……

  • Nikon D700
  • Variety of Nikkor lenses, from super-wide to 300mm telephoto
  • Nikon and third-party strobes, seven in all, including SB800, SB26, SB25 and Yongnuo YN560
  • Radio triggers for remote-triggering the flash
  • Selection of portable lighting stands, suitable for location shooting
  • Small umbrellas [shoot-through and reflecting]
  • Large Westcott 7ft parabolic umbrellas [white and reflecting]
  • Triple flash brackets for mounting up to three strobes on each stand
  • Reflectors [gold, white, silver]


About Japanorama

Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

We also welcome submissions of photos and articles for this site, so please get in touch via our contact page. Thanks.

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