Photo shoot: behind the scenes

PhotoShoot KPC 63Last week I was in idyllic rural Dorset for the book photo shoot. Yes, it is exactly like the movie clichés of red brick and thatch, sheep and fields. It was beautiful.

I’m going to share a few pictures to give you an idea of how it went on the shoot, but it’s a bit tricky because I am not ready to share all the designs just yet!

It’s a far cry from my usual low-key approach to photography for my patterns. Usually my talented-amateur friend Denise helps me out with my photography, and she does a great job. Organising a professional shoot was a whole other experience. Before I go any farther I want to thank everyone involved for working so hard and doing a fantastic job.

I once did work experience on a photo shoot, about a hundred years ago. Test shots were made with polaroids. Saying that makes me feel very old. Jesse Wild, the fantastic photographer, was shooting direct to laptop so I could exactly what he was getting. That was a revelation. It felt a bit weird to keep looking at the screen rather than everything else that was going on, but it made such a difference to see what he was getting, rather than having to hope.

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Rose and Greta, two beautiful friends who’d agreed to model for me, had the traditional waiting-around for models to contend with, either while the other was working or while we were changing setup or photographing swatches. I know it’s harder than it sounds to try to relax when you don’t know when someone is going to ask you abruptly to be “on”. Worse, when Greta was quietly relaxing, Jesse realised she was in a great spot for photographing the blanket sample. Before she could move, Greta was tucked up in the blanket while Jesse’s reflectors were rearranged!

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Rebecca (make-up artist) did a great job of interpreting what I wanted in the way of relatively natural-looking hair and make-up. I always think it looks a bit odd when models are photographed looking like they’ve just stepped out of a city salon…but they’re in an informal, rural setting. I like things to look real. I want the images to be something we can relate to, so knitters can imagine themselves actually wearing that scarf on that walk, or that cowl for that coffee.

I realise in hindsight it was an extension of my design process. I’m always asking myself “would I actually get up in the morning and put on that shawl?”…or is it one of those things that sounds like a nice idea but I’d just get it out of the drawer, put it on, look in the mirror, take it off again and wear something more “me?” If I’m not designing with me in mind, it’ll be a specific friend whose style and taste I (hopefully) understand.

Talking of friends, my generous friend Vicki let us use her stunning house as the main location and base for the shoot. I don’t think any of us had really thought through how much upheaval that could be; I think Vicki was calmer than I was in the face of the furniture re-arranging. At one point it looked like half her living room was in one corner…I hope we put things back properly.

Vicki also kindly arranged for her roses to be looking especially beautiful last week. I love the colour of this one in particular.

PhotoShoot KPC 31It was hard not to be distracted by so much visual inspiration in the sunshine! We were lucky with the weather in that it wasn’t too hot, though the sun did keep coming and going. At the end of the second day it did start to drizzle, as if to say “it’s time to stop”. I’d wanted to get some more images out-and-about, but realistically I was trying to fit about a week’s shoot into a day-and-a-half – or at least that’s how it felt to my stress levels. The book shows how different each design can look when made in different yarns or if you “play” with the pattern. But this meant an explosion of second samples and swatches that I needed photographing, and that was at the expense of the more candid lifestyle part of the shoot, in the village.

Would you believe that while shooting in this tiny narrow lane, about 60 school kids rounded the corner and trooped right past on what was clearly some kind of international school trip, complete with brightly-coloured backpacks? I’m not sure who was more surprised, them or us!

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Nic, the talented graphic designer for the book, was there to help make sure we got all the shots we needed. And she made wonderful scones and cakes, which I admit did help keep everything feeling very traditionally English! My American friend Denise, who dubbed herself my Girl Friday, did a sterling job helping wherever needed, including taking all the photos in this post (mostly whilst holding a reflector with the other hand). In the images she sent me there are a disproportionately large number featuring these scones. I wonder why….? Yes, they were as delicious as they looked. Denise continues to laugh at our debate about the correct kind of jam (strawberry, but raspberry is allowable when the scones are as good as these) and whether fruit is permissible in the scone (absolutely not) rather funny.PhotoShoot KPC 25

That was something else about organising a whole shoot; the other stuff around the shoot, not just the actual samples. Of the myriad details, I’ll share just two. Firstly, clothes to go with everything, plus bulldog clips and pins to help make them fit, and options in case ideas didn’t work on the day. Clothes means everything from camisoles to make white shirts look better to woolly socks for “relaxing on the sofa”. Secondly, food for eight for two days – I opted for over-catering because no-one works well when hungry, and I wanted plenty of things for people to pick at on their way past.

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Now all I have to do is reduce 2,000 images (I’m not joking) down to the right ones for the book. I’m spoilt for choice with Jesse’s images, which is a nice problem to have. I’m not sure I can include this next one by Denise, though…can’t see much of the knits, ha ha. Yes, we did have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs as well as working hard. Thank you again to everyone involved for making it such an enjoyable shoot.

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