In-Depth: Androgyny by Alexander Ward

After asking you what you’d like me to do more of, one thing that stood out from you all was writing something in-depth about a shoot.

So I’ve decided to give you a detailed view of my recent androgyny set and talk through how it was pulled together, from the first idea to the final edit. I’d welcome any questions or comments below, or through instagram.

manchester-fashion-photography

The Concept

This was Sarah Catherine’s idea, born earlier in 2019 and she got me on-board at the early stages. I’ve worked with Sarah before and have particular love for our Bladerunner shoot which we collaborated on when I was starting out.

Wanting to bring together androgyny with a fashion concept, and highlighting the non-conformity of gender-specific clothing., Sarah and I set out not to make a point here or fill the production with narrative, just to create something that stripped back gender and explored something new.

Approach

As momentum built to pull something together, we started mapping out our approach. We knew we wanted an editorial feel and to use a studio set so we could pull forward the subjects and strip everything back - backgrounds and environments included. Wanting to let the models and the styling do the talking, we decided to do more of a creative make-up style on a final portion of the shoot to add an additional content set.

With all this in mind, we started looking at the team, kit and studio needed; at this point, we each dived into Pinterest as I always do and put together an initial moodboard - these are great for inspiring a crew and setting a vision, making sure everyone’s on-board and working mutually towards something.

Sarah got Natalie and Laura on board whilst I organised the studio and MUA.

You can see the inal Pin board here.

The Team

All great productions start with great people, so between Sarah and I we built a team:-

On hindsight, an assistant would’ve been helpful on this shoot but I was conscious how busy it would be in the space and thought I could do without one.

I wanted a good space with a bigger clear background with decent kit and spaces for the MUA and stylist to work, so I chose StreetStar studios just outside of Stockport.

Shoot Day

As I headed off to the studio to shoot, there’s a few things I was keeping at the front of my mind:-

  • This was the first time both models worked together, so I could expect an elongated time for them to warm up - practically this meant I left my favourite outset set until later on when we’d get the best shots

  • I was an MUA down, so I needed to rearrange the schedule to get the most of our time

  • I was shooting two subjects at various distances, so I needed to be super conscious of DOF and close down those apertures

Lighting

This is a big subject and is one of the top things I get asked about my work, particularly anything I do in a studio. It was important that this set let the people do the talking, we wanted the subjects to stand out and be the focus, not complicate it with creative lighting.

I went for a simple two light setup - both strobes with diffusers. My key light was a tall diffuser about two metres from the guys, slightly to the right. I then used a honeycombed wider diffused light on the left but pulled the power right down just so it helped kill off some shadows, but let the key do the work. In some later shots, I killed the left light altogether.

It’s worth noting too that I was shooting in a white cove which curved round to my right, so the bounce from the right curved wall was helping with any shadows on that side.

For the technical, I shot at a 1/160 shutter, f5.6 aperture and 100 ISO.

Styling

Laura Hardman, a fashion stylist in Manchester was in charge of the outfits and she presented some spot-on options ahead of the shoot. Sourcing items from charity shops, Next and Primark, she put together options for five sets, three of which we chose to shoot on the day. Huge kudos to Sarah for choosing such a great Stylist to work with on this set, absolutely the right choice.

Schedule

Working with the constraint of one make-up artist, once the first model (Natalie) was ready, we began shooting the first solos in the first outfit, then adding Sarah to the mix when she had finished in makeup. Once the first duo was complete, Sarah was on for her solo as Natalie returned to make-up and went into the next outfit - we ran this way throughout to ensure everything was covered and we minimalised downtime.

Shooting

I’ll expand about my way of working with models in another post at another time, and in my tuition work - but I’ll touch on this subject now to say connection and being comfortable is the absolute crucial part of this shoot.

Going from models who had spoken, but not worked together before, I worked hard to build that connection not just between myself and the models (which is crucial to my work), but to one another too. Conscious of a timely schedule, I started out quite directional, setting the mood and style I wanted to get across and placing in some initial poses.

The Edit

Alot of photographers consider this 75% of the photography process, but I’ve always kept it the other way round, holding a philosophy that the shot gets created in the moment, not in post. I do minimal editing, avoiding retouching almost entirely.

I wanted to keep to the original approach of the shoot, keeping things simple and stripping it all back. I found a good colour to work the background to (pulling my highlights down and letting the white go to a warm grey), then bringing through the colours and culling carefully to get a good range of shots.

Another shoot in the bag

Super pleased with how this set turned out, produced by a great team that worked hard to stick to the vision and bring something to life. Absolutely love the style of this and the connection of the two models, and furthermore their connection to the camera.

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions in the comments, would love to talk about this shoot more. Hope you love the work as much as we all do.

Big thanks to Sarah for letting me be part of such a good concept and for everyone who came together to turn it into a reality.