Behind the Image: Mastering High Concept Fashion Photography Shoots with Lindsay Adler
New York City-based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler has worked with the world’s top advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, Grey, and Edelman. Her images have been published in magazines like Marie Claire, Elle, and InStyle. Lindsay recently contributed to the Adobe Stock Premium collection. We chatted with Lindsay to learn more about getting started in fashion photography, the pre-planning that goes into high concept fashion shoots, and tips for working with models.
Adobe: Can you tell us about your career evolution and how you realized you could make photography a full-time career?
Adler: When I was a child I was a nerd in school; valedictorian in my high school. It was always assumed, “You’re going to be a doctor. You’re going to be a lawyer.” Artist was certainly not part of the equation. In my teens, however, I picked up a camera and it was just a natural extension of myself.
That doesn’t mean I was good at it right away, but it just felt like it was part of who I was. At 15, I started my portrait studio in upstate New York. Right away, I got involved with professional organizations like the Professional Photographers Association (PPA), went to workshops, and asked every photographer who would answer my question: “What do I do to make a living out of this? How do I become a professional?”
Adobe: Can you talk a little about the role of formal studies and mentors?
Adler: The photographers I talked to said, “When you go to college, don’t study photography. Go to college for business! There are plenty of incredible photographers who fail or cannot make a living because they don’t have a business sense. But there are lots of mediocre photographers who thrive with financial success because they are very business savvy.” My solution? I studied both business and photography in college.
As for my career in fashion photography, I didn’t exactly have a mentor who led me through the process, though this would be absolutely what I would recommend to aspiring photographers.
I recommend a photographer to seek two mentors: one mentor who they’re inspired by their imagery, where they can learn about that person’s creative process, how they bring images to life and their photographic techniques. Ideally they should also find another photographer they admire for their business acumen. These unique qualities (creative abilities and business success) do not necessarily exist in the same person but the lessons they provide are equally valuable for success.
Adobe: Are there specific themes or creative directions that you bring to life through your work?
Adler: In fashion photography, your goal is to stop people in their tracks and make them look twice, whether it’s an advertisement, a billboard, or a fashion editorial. Every day, we are bombarded with thousands of images. If you don’t capture people’s attention, it’s like you didn’t shoot anything at all. For my style, I try to create clean, bold and graphic imagery. By clean, I want every pixel, every single element of that frame to have a purpose and to be contributing to whatever the end goal of that image is. For graphic, I’m just driven and attracted to graphic composition. I feel graphic composition helps to command attention of the viewer. By bold, I mean that in several senses. If I’m using color, I love to use really bold colors that make you feel something and direct your eye. I also mean bold in another sense: maybe it’s bold poses, or bold emotion, or bold avant-garde styling.
Adobe: What was happening when you shot this image?
Adler: One of the things I think has brought up the level of my photography has been collaborating with other artists. That could be collaboration with makeup artists, designer, hair stylists – or in this case, a model. The model is a professional dancer and her body is her art.
I invited this dancer to come to the studio. I warned her exactly what was going to happen. I’d be covering her head to toe in bags and bags of flour and powder. I wanted to have a tulle skirt that would create dramatic motion. For this shoot my friend and I actually made the tulle skirt by tying a piece of fabric around her waist and then weaving in pieces of extra tulle fabric. I needed the skirt to be able to move in independent pieces, so it would flail out to make almost painterly strokes in the form of fabric.
I’d have this dancer curl up in a ball, and we’d take bags of powder and just cover her, cover her skirt, cover her head, put powder in her hands. Then I would step back and have her jump up in different poses that would create dynamic and elegant lines.
Adobe: What advice would you have for aspiring photographers who want to take on more complex projects?
Adler: When I’m shooting more complex imagery, my mantra is, “I do as much planning and pre-visualization as possible, so I put beautiful subjects or interesting things in front of my camera. Then I let myself be creative and explore unique ideas in the moment.”
I don’t need to plan out the exact pose and the exact lighting. If there are compelling things in front of my camera, they’ll allow me to be inspired in that moment. If you just have someone show up they may be a blank canvas but you don’t have the resources to make that canvas more interesting.
To learn more about Lindsay’s work, visit her Adobe Stock contributor portfolio.
To learn more about this photo, watch the Behind the Scenes video.