My last article left off with a cliffhanger. Was I going to get in? Spoiler alert; I got in. But what happened when I showed up at 3 pm? Well, there was no one there. That’s right. No one at the registration desk, no trace of anyone having been there, no laptops, no passes just an empty desk. After re-reading my last conversation exchange ten times and checking my schedule of shows, locations, and times I saw that everything lined up and I was where I should be. Again going back to the topic of culture, where I was a starting or meeting time was merely a suggestion or approximation of what time the meeting would occur. At 3:40 pm someone finally showed up and I was first to put my name on the standby list. I was then told to hang out and if anything were to become available my name would be called.
Lesson #3: Dress for the occasion.
I need to back up a little bit and talk about dressing yourself in this situation. Obviously, you need to dress functionally. You need to be able to move, bend, and stand a long time in the same space with little to no room to move about. However, you need to remember where you are. You’re the guy or girl with the camera. You’re somewhat utilitarian. You’re probably going to get hot and sweat a bit. But you’re also at fashion week. Dress the part considering point one. Fortunately, my preferred style is refined-raw urban. I can be found any given day rockin’ a t-shirt, tactical-inspired jacket, sleek denim, and a pair of Adidas. For me, upping my style game meant intelligent pairings with a statement piece. Black or dark shirt or jacket is always smart when you’re a photographer. Go wild with your kicks. I went for a pair of fuchsia Adidas.
While this seems trivial at first glance it’s something that should not be overlooked. Looking like you belong is half the battle. For me, it gave me confidence in my mission. The pink kicks, well, functionally made me extremely visible to the event coordinator who was about to call my name to issue me a pass.
I hung out for an hour and then it happened. She called me over and handed me a pass for the first show of the day. I said my “thank yous” and was on my way into the event space.
Lesson #4: Possession is 9/10th of the Law.
Claim your space. Then don’t leave it. Set up your mono-pod and your case or box if you brought one. Be conscious of others around you doing the same thing. I didn’t have a mono-pod or a case to stand on. I quickly found out why these were commonplace.
Obviously front, center and low on the walking path is most desirable and probably the best perspective to get the shot. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be taken by one of the designer’s or the house’s photographers. In my case, there were several other photographers and videographers claiming most of the other valuable real estate. You can still get a good spot. But like I said before it will help to have a step if you need to elevate a bit.
Once you are set up start doing your lighting and setting tests. Going in depth on this is a whole other article. For now, I’ll say I found Auto-ISO to be helpful for situations where the color of the garment drastically went from dark to light in one look. I felt I needed to be focused on framing captures rather than changing settings on the camera. Shutter and aperture were priorities so for this situation, the variable nature of Auto-ISO was a good choice.
It’s very tight once it fills in. This is where that mono-pod would be handy. Fatigue sets in quickly from holding your body and a long lens in portrait position. This is exacerbated when your elbows and arms are tucked close to your body.
Lesson #5: Shoot the Show
Bangkok International Fashion Week featured 11 shows with all but one of them featuring work by Thai designers. The kickoff show saw esteemed Chinese designer Guo Pei showing her collection. If you’re unfamiliar with her work a quick Google of her name will help identify the significance of this.
I photographed two shows, Asava and Vatanika. It was day three of four and it was a Saturday night so in terms of the crowd in attendance, it was prime time. Designers, sponsors, celebrities and a good gathering of the Bangkok Hi-So scene began taking their seats in the front row. This was when I realized it was real. I was about to photograph my first runway show. I felt the rush of adrenaline pulsing through me as I quadruple checked my settings. This would be a good time to make sure you have everything you need accessible easily and quickly. Extra batteries and SD cards were tucked safely in the pockets of my stylish tactical jacket. Remember, functional fashion.
The Asava show began after what seemed like forever. The reality of runway is that you need to shoot quickly and efficiently. Your aim is to capture at least 3 sharp images per look; a full-length, half-length, and headshot. Then if there’s anything interesting about the garment go for that and the accessories. Don’t be afraid to get shots of the back as they retreat but be ready to switch gears fast as soon as you see the next model prancing toward you at full speed.
Asava featured over 30 looks ranging from casual to business to contemporary bridal. One of the highlights of this show for me was photographing one of Thailand’s long-time sweethearts, Bee Namthip (Namthip Jongrachatawiboon). She’s known most recently for her roles on “The Face Thailand – Seasons 2 and 3”
Vatanika featured a Spanish-theme with models walking to a remade version of “Besame Mucho” Much like the Asava show it featured celebrity models. Bee Namthip walked again but this time the show opened with actress/model Urassaya Sperbund (Yaya) sauntering down the runway to the sultry sound of the Spanish guitar. The tempo for this show was slower than the Asava show which allowed me to frame shots better and to shoot more efficiently.
Lesson #6: Wrapping Up Loose Ends
I probably could have done one more show but I was exhausted from being crammed and excited all at the same time. Since I was shooting this show for the experience only any post work and correspondence with the designers was on me. I sat in the staging area and did some quick but good edits and on the spot fired these off to the event coordinators, designers, and model PR agents. The next day I obtained a list of the models from the show and their agencies and made sure to send the finished images off to their agencies with a short email introducing myself and passing on my contact info.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. The experience was positive and I learned a lot about a part of fashion photography I never thought about dabbling in. I gained confidence in my ability and it’s a good thing because my next stop was Korea to photograph an agency model at an iconic venue in Seoul. Did I mention we’d be working in the epicenter of Seoul Fashion Week 2017?
Come back and read about it.