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Tips & Tricks

Image Deconstructed | How To Shoot & Retouch A Classic Fashion Look By Steven Meisel

By Kishore Sawh on June 20th 2016

From where do you draw your inspiration? Your own life, films, magazines? No matter your answer, you’d be hard pressed to deny that we as photographers certainly draw inspiration and motivation from other photographers. It’s typically the work of a few that draws us into this world, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to emulate them in some way.

To this effect, emulation is certainly a form of flattery, but it’s also a legitimate learning tool. When we see an image that moves us, it can be hugely motivating, and the tantalizing part about it is the thought that perhaps, just maybe, we could execute something in that look. It can, however, be disparaging because when we see these images and then try to replicate them it often becomes clear that even the simplest image can require a prodigious amount of effort to execute.




As that’s the case, the endeavor is autotelic, because it forces you to think critically and learn how to read an image. I’ve said before that learning how to analyze and read lighting in an image is essential, but what’s also good to see is how much effort and time a working pro may take to do the same, because we often think someone else just flips a switch, clicks a button, and that’s it. The video herein with photographers Marius Troy and Jason Setiawan of Breed, will show what’s entailed in recreating this rather classic Steven Meisel shot of Candice Swanepoel for Vogue Italia.

One great aspect of this, is you can certainly achieve the same look with much less expensive gear, seeing as though this was shot at f/14, and with a single light.


V-Flat – or something to block window light
Nikon D800
Nikon AF-S MICRO NIKKOR 105mm 1:2.8 G ED
One light in an Octa high on a C-Stand – no diffusion

It’s interesting to see how the whole team interacts, and all the things they try in order to execute the shot. Furthermore, you get to see how each adjustment changes the result, and what the final image they go for looks like. The key takeaway here, is that you’ll notice it still needs work in post to get it to look as they’d like, so you won’t feel utterly discouraged if your attempts at emulation don’t pan out precisely as the reference image looks, right out of camera. And luckily, there’s a whole video on the retouching process for you to dive into. Well worth the watch, and find the below.


[REWIND: Breed Master Class: Advanced Fashion Photography Lighting | Review]

Also worth noting, is SLR Lounge Premium members get access to Breed/Melissa Rodwell’s Fashion Photography Exposed, which is a comprehensive and insider guide to navigating the world of fashion photography. It’s gold.  Check out Premium here, and if fashion lighting is what you want, look no further than Breed’s Advanced Fashion Photography Lighting  – of which we’ve reviewed here.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Paul Wynn

    Beautiful elegant image, surprising amount of effect to achieve the final look. Good to see how the image developed in retouching.

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