If you’re here reading this, you’re probably in search of education; of a better version of self or some part of it. That’s a good thing because it means you’re already ahead of so many in our industry whose egos allow them to feel they have nothing left to learn. It’s actually good regardless of your skill and experience level too because the digital age of photography has brought the factors of production down to a shelf everyone can reach, so the competition today is unlike any time before and it’s hard to be heard among the noise.
Ironically, being heard often first requires listening; listen to those who will help you clutch at your potential by giving you the steepest learning curves possible, and through insight born from experience of what it’s actually like to work in the industry you’re trying to get into.
The horrible part is there is a lot of crap out there, a lot of charlatans who aren’t really value-based. So how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Gut feeling, research, reviews, I guess. As an editor for SLR Lounge, I’ve been privy to the good, bad, and the absolutely horrid, and the names and products you’ve all likely heard of span the gamut of quality. Popularity, it seems, is no guarantee of character.
Go Pro: Studio Beauty is comprised of hours of video and a PDF that’s a whopping 104 pages. I watch and read through all the materials, tens of hours of it, before I review anything like this so we can guide you to spend your time and money well. And this one? I won’t bait you and keep you waiting for a reveal at the end; it’s good. It’s very, very good.
Julia Kuzmenko’s Go Pro: Studio Beauty
This package is for those who are looking to soon find themselves within the world of beauty and fashion photography as a working photographer, or a similar group looking to expand their base. The term ‘working’ is key here, as this is all-encompassing and the obvious focus and end-game of the tutorial package is to get you to a place where you are good enough to work, and then to help you get it.
To understand this, it pays to understand the background of the content creators as it is a collaborative effort. You’ve likely seen Julia’s work if you’ve been prodding around the looking for retouching advice because, well, she produces and gives away some of the best in-depth tutorials out there on the subject. She is also a working beauty photographer and is joined in some sections by Alexey Dovgulya, a prolific fashion photographer from Russia. Between the pair, they have shot/worked for the likes of Rolls-Royce, Salon International, Vogue, Advanced Photoshop, Christian Louboutin, Agent Provocateur, Professional Photographer UK, and the beat goes on…
Both also have a background in education, and that comes across clearly with their delivery. If you are going to read and watch hours and hours of material, it’s immensely important that the material is brought across in the right tone, and in an easily digestible way. I’ve read tutorials from educators that make my teeth itch from annoyance, and the visual and vocal delivery of others, well, I’d rather listen to my own firing squad.
This is not the case for Studio Beauty. The information is presented in such a fashion it’s clear there has been significant preparation; there’s no stammering; no shuffle as a sign of lack of preparation, and there’s also no unnecessary fanfare or stroking of ego, and no assumption that comes across patronizing or insulting.
Sure, when Alexey speaks in the videos, he is dubbed with a voice-over from Julia, and frankly it’s a bit strange, and it takes a moment to adjust. But it doesn’t hurt continuity at all, and listening to Julia is easy, like having a length of ermine pulled through your ears.
You’re investing in yourself and like any sage investor you want to know what the ROI is so here’s what you’re getting – information and instruction on how to plan and execute various beauty looks, and why. You’ll also be advised on the hows and whys of building a creative team, and then to ice the cake they’ve actually included a host of bonus materials which some of you may actually want more than the primary material, like:
Agency Test Sample Letters to help you approach agencies to acquire models to shoot; Call Sheet Template; Estimate Template; A model release sample, and a project questionnaire. These are the kinds of resources that are hard to come by, that many people don’t share, and they’re here, neatly bundled up and thrown in.
The obvious aim of the videos is to get you, the photographer, to be able to consistently and confidently execute key beauty portraits and commercial beauty shots with a predominant focus on lighting. This is a masterclass on lighting, and while I think there’s no substitute for getting your hands on lights and literally using them and learning, I appreciate the academic/theoretical rigor required to deliver the material in this way – you get both.
What this doesn’t cover, is post processing, which is something I know many will be wanting throughout watching the series. Julia has other videos on YouTube on her site to break that all down for you, but this is to help you with everything else also ensuring that your images are absolutely primed for post production.
There are hours of video that you’ll want to sit through and absorb through your pores, and the 8 lighting set-ups you would’ve seen in print magazines all over, and range from:
- Classic Portrait
- Celebrity Portrait
- Movie Style
- Hazy Colors
- Jewelry Ad
- Clean Beauty
- Full Body
- Double Colored Shadows
*Note that this is not a workshop on shooting with one light, and to execute some of these shots you should expect to be working with numerous lights with various modifiers.
There is a huge component to this program that isn’t video, and that is the PDF. At 104 pages, it’s not exactly War & Peace, but neither is it news-in-brief. Actually, what it is, is a rather in-depth crash course that caught me entirely by surprise. Within its pages, you’ll be introduced to theory as a building block to everything else; it then leads into developing your vision; all about choosing the right lenses, bodies, sensors, and studio equipment for your shoots, covering all bases. While addressing certain gear works best, Julia is aware and continuously highlights what gear you’ll need, and if there’s an alternate and less expensive way to do something, they let you know.
It doesn’t stop there, however, as the sections then transition into concept creation, team building, tethered shooting, briefing and back-up, standard camera settings, and common mistakes to avoid.
All of that is then rounded out by detailed descriptions and diagrams of the eight various beauty lighting set-ups covered in the video. In fact, the whole PDF reflects, and expands in some cases, on the videos themselves. This is helpful because with video it’s hard to remember exactly where parts are you want to revisit, having to scrub through to find it. With the PDF, you can search the text via keywords, and it will also guide you to the video you seek.
I think it prudent to mention here that there is a significant portion at the start of the program that focuses on learning how to read lighting so you can determine the lighting in images you like, and then build it yourself. It’s immensely beneficial and helps to get your mind thinking properly instead of simply blindly following. I appreciated this section the most. The temptation will be to skip it and go to the setups, but you must resist.
[REWIND: Julia Kuzmenko McKim on Mastering Brushes For Dodge & Burn Work]
Thoughts In Closing
I’m a stickler for preparation and execution, and Go Pro Studio Beauty is anything but an afterthought. It was really well planned, and that comes across. I like the sincerity that seems to come from the presenters/creators also because it’s not always there. There’s no babying, but you never feel left behind. I learned quite a few things from this I’d not seen before, and much of it was how to think, and not just how to ‘do’.
At $199, it’s not pocket change for most, and I understand that. I also understand that if this is a route you want to go, if you want to get into beauty photography and get a sense of studio work $199 isn’t much to pay – it really isn’t. If you’ve got the basics in gear, then you likely don’t need to spend the next few hundred on more, and end-game-wise, I can see this being a solid investment. I mean, if you’ve got 100% of the gear but 50% the ability and knowledge, you’re always going to be bested by the guy with 50% the gear and 90% of the ability and knowledge. You’ve got to know where you sit and act accordingly.
This looks at the creative process as a whole, and that helps you see the track and ways to move on it faster, getting to where you want to go, quicker. So as I opened with, this course is good, very, very good.
You can get it here.