Photographer Magic Owen was offered the opportunity by HUNGER Magazine to set her own brief for a shoot at the gorgeous venue, Castle Ashby. Having been given the chance to shoot in a location that magical with such creative freedom, Owen decided to create a modernized Wonderland style shoot.
The planning of this photoshoot began just over two months ahead of the actual shoot day. She wanted to make sure there was enough time to plan and prepare for this shoot as well as confirm and book a strong team to help push this shoot forward. The very first step she did was to put together a cohesive set of moodboards. Her first moodboard was to explain the overall concept and mood of the story, the sort of vibe the images were to show. The second moodboard was created for her stylist. She had looked at different catwalk collections and pointed out the key pieces of what she was looking for. The third moodboard was prepared for her hairstylist. These images are meant to inspire and allow the hairstylist to be creative while still understanding what Owen was looking for. Lastly, the makeup artist was also given a moodboard and similarly to the hairstylist, the images were meant for inspiration instead of a direct copy. Once the concept and moodboards were prepared, she started to assemble her team, starting with the stylist who usually requires the most advance notice so she has ample time to contact the designers involve and manage all the garments in time.
Knowing that she wanted a model with a high fashion editorial look, Owen started her hunt for the model as soon as she could. This way, the outfits, hair and makeup can be tailored to her specific features. Gemma was specially chosen as she has a very unique look that can be shot in many different ways. As Owen calls it, she is a “Couture Chameleon”.
Brenda Beaux was the stylist that Owen decided to work with as she believed that Brenda has a fantastic eye and was someone she could trust to interpret her vision. They had researched together on the collections of up and coming designers whom they both follow to look for the right garments and accessories and consider the final looks. Once it was all decided, Brenda continued her role by speaking to the different designers and arranging garment collections to make sure everything was shoot ready.
For the hairstylist, Owen chose Anne Veck as Anne is one of the top in her industry. An artistic and fast worker, she was everything Owen needed for the shoot. Anne was given her moodboard where she also gave her own suggestions and ideas based off it. Similarly, makeup artist Vicky was also presented with her makeup moodboard and she and Owen discussed on the looks to go for. Owen had never worked with Vicky before this shoot but have followed her work and always liked it. This was how Owen knew Vicky would have no problem nailing the looks she was after.
This photoshoot had 10 clothing looks, 7 hairstyles, and 4 makeup looks planned out. Of course on the day off, things can be changed and tweaked but having everything planned out first in advance helps make the shoot smoother and the bumps easier to manage.
Owen only had the opportunity to see the venue in person on the day of the shoot. Once she was there, she immediately took a walk around the venue to look out for potential shooting spots while hair and makeup is getting started. As this shoot relied entirely only on natural light, it meant that Owen had to also put some thought into where the light would fall and at what time of the day. Usually Owen would lug a set of Bowen Gemini flashes for her photoshoots but the location Castle Ashby had such great natural light quality, plus it being late July where they had all the daylight they could need, Owen found herself not even using a reflector.
Final editing was minimal as where possible Owen prefers to get the scene right before photographing it, rather than fix things later. The biggest change made in most was some tonal adjustments to the images as it was shot in the middle of summer for an autumn publication.
Owen mentions that she had rarely traveled to a shoot so light and that it was a very freeing experience.
Lighting varied per location around the site. One of the locations used a lot was the Orangerie, essentially a vary large greenhouse, which provided something close to a natural three point lighting setup. Two sides and the ceiling are almost fully glass, in the middle of summer this was more than enough to shoot at a good shutter speed with low ISO (always 400 or below), even with the narrower aperture that I wanted in order to make the most of the location.
Using a mirrorless camera makes it easy to expose each shot by sight directly in live view through the EVF, perfect when in continuous or natural light.
Owen emphasizes that a shoot like this is all about the team working together as a whole. It was only made possible through strong communication and trusting these other creatives in her team to help bring her vision to life. She hopes that this inspires people to be creative, to let their imagination lead and to top being limited by technicalities.
Art Direction/Photography/Retouching: Magic Owen
Styling: Brenda Beaux
MUA: Vicky Lin
Hair: Anne Veck
Model: Gemma Huh
Giant Paper Flowers: Tissue Blossoms
The full editorial and credits can be seen in Hunger Magazine at https://www.hungertv.com/editorial/young-blood-five-new-editorials-for-hunger-tv-7/
Images used with permission of Magic Owen
My opinion with zero fashion experience:
none of the photographs really even come close to the mood board images. There seems to be rather a disconnect as the mood board images have less elements while the actual photoshoot pictures have too many competing elements which take away from the model.
The best shot in the series is the first one where she is floats in water. That is very strong and brilliantly executed. In the rest it just seems as if the model has an expression of being in pain. Maybe that was the goal, I am not sure, but that is the feeling I get.
Having provided my opinion (not criticism) I cannot even come close to this level of work as of yet, so kudos to Owen and her team. I will check more of her work and hopefully eat my own words.
I agree that Ms Owen's mood board has more historical looks, but I think you might be over reading it from the glimpse we see here. She may have directed the team "I like the hair here, the color scheme here" and not be as literal as you might be thinking. While only an amateur myself, the last mood board I did was only the jumping off point and the model and I are already moving in a direction quite different as we discuss it.
I agree with you that the floating water image is a great one
(p.s. Owen is her last (family/surname) name, not her first name)
Thank you for the correction, and I completely agree with you on the mood board point. Perhaps my view was literal as you mentioned. I hope to be a part of a crew on such a shoot just to understand the nuances and hardworking that goes behind it. Some day...
Hey Mihir! Thank you for your thoughts. As regarding the moodboard, it was just a sample of what she had that I requested if she could share with the readers. Wanted you guys to be able to get a glimpse behind her preparation process.
Personally for me, my finished photoshoot results don't always look like my moodboard but without the moodboard I would not have been able to achieve it.
Anyway, I agree that the floating shot is very strong. It's also my favourite of the set!
If the shoot turns out exactly like the mood board, then the shoot was probably redundant anyway :D
I agree with you completely... did some further research and have new found appreciation for the crew involved in a shoot like this. A lot goes into it and I am glad Ms Owens decided to share.
Very interesting, especially her thoughts about picking the model. Great find/research as always!
Am always grateful to photographers who are willing to share!! (: