Several months ago I signed on as the staff photographer for the rapidly expanding website MensUnderwearStore.com, and its unisex sibling 123Underwear.com. That’s right, I photograph dudes wearing underwear. The jokes from my (mostly male) photographer peers were both immediate and relentless, but they’ve come to realize that it’s actually a pretty sweet gig.
Me? I’m really enjoying the work. My clients clearly recognize the power of quality photography and have made a significant investment to realize their goals. Their studio is outfitted with quality lighting gear and a digital capture rig, and the photography team that I work with is phenomenal. Working alongside digital tech Alyssa, stylist Sarah, art director Taylor and makeup artist Danielle has allowed me to concentrate on my job. The results speak for themselves, as both our catalog work and fashion shoots are yielding great images.
The job is not without its challenges, the absolute least of which is being comfortable working with buff dudes in their skivvies. For example, one of the most important things I am responsible for is precisely replicating the lighting from one catalog shoot to the next. Sounds easy, right? Just leave everything set exactly the same from shoot to shoot. Problem solved! Uhhh, no.
The issue is that we end each shooting day with a couple hours of fashion photos that require us to move lights or completely strike the catalog set. It took me a couple of shoots to figure out the best way to do this, but once we settled on a great lighting setup (5 lights in all!) I simply spiked the floor with tape marks at each light and made a wide-angle photo of the set to help reset everything for the next shoot. Recording the settings for each light was a no-brainer, of course.
Another challenge is working with the team to come up with creative fashion shots that relate to the lines we are promoting but don’t take much time to setup and shoot. We typically have only a single day with the model and spend most of it shooting catalog images for the website, so when we finally get to the fun part of running around the building and neighborhood to shoot fashion images we have to move quickly. Thankfully, I’m a big fan of shooting with a single strobe (thanks, Zack Arias!) so we are usually able to squeeze in 5-6 different setups in under two hours.
It’s less of a challenge now, but early on my biggest source of frustration was with the equipment itself. I’ve been a proud Nikon user since I began shooting three years ago, but the studio uses a Canon 5D mkII. Everything, and I mean everything is utterly backwards on the Canon (compared to my Nikon, anyway). The controls move in opposite directions, the lens barrel twists the other way, menus and functions are bass-ackward, etc. And the well-documented autofocus issues with the 5dII make me glad to be a Nikon guy when shooting my own stuff. Add to that a foreign lighting system (the excellent Bowens Gemini R) and my rusty Capture One skills and you can imagine the challenges on my early shoots. But I made it through. Now I know how to sweet-talk a Canon into doing what I need it to do, and I know the ins and outs of the powerful Bowen rig.
However, in dealing with all these challenges, I have learned so much. This type of work is certainly not easy. There are budgets, schedules, teams, models, equipment to manage all while remaining creative. But I think I’m doing pretty well. And while I have always been proud of my ability to improvise under pressure, now I am even more confident in my ability to create images on a tight schedule, especially on obviously inferior Canon equipment. Couldn’t resist.
Plus, I get a sweet discount on new undies.