Lifestyle, Product, and Fashion Photographer | Shooting in a hurricane | Carolina, Florida, Georgia

Am I a storm chaser or fashion photographer? Sometimes, a little of both.

I was expecting a pretty standard photoshoot last month as I headed to South Florida from Charleston. I got to my dad’s place where I was crashing for the night and he broke the news that there was a storm brewing off the West coast of the state and said I should keep an eye on it. Nine years of living in Miami plus three in South Carolina has given me more than a small number of brushes with nasty storms, and this one looked to be staying away from where I was shooting so I shrugged it off. I went to bed and early the next morning headed off to the first day of shooting as the fashion photographer for InnerShine, my client.

The shoot had some inherent surprises waiting for me once I arrived. InnerShine needed a fall looking location. We were in South Florida. So that meant we needed to work around anything tropical and to get some of the super saturated green color out of the shots since South Florida is basically a jungle (if you haven’t been there). With careful angles and location choices (including sketching out one civilian who couldn’t figure out why there were models in the bushes in front of his home) we created fields of fall grasses and oak trees with leaves changing for the new season.

Another challenge (which is a common one in South Florida) was keeping the models from getting too hot. It can be easy to overlook that this responsibility fall on the fashion photographer but it does. The fashion photographer is the person on set seeing the models closer than anyone else. The girls were wearing sweaters and jeans so as often as possible we gave them flip flops, AC (in cars between shots), and water. Lots of water. Red ant bites, mosquitos and iguanas didn’t stop these girls from bringing their best and both Anna Julia Hagen and Valerie Vigoreaux (both with Wilhelmina Miami) showed me again why I love photographing them so much.

As we wrapped up the first day of shooting, everyone was thrilled with how we all came together.

What is the opposite of a rain dance?

Everyone was thrilled with the images from our first day of shooting. And to be honest, I was wrapped up in the images and production of getting ready for a big second day. Tired and wanting to be on my A game, I crashed early. The only time I looked at my phone was to make a good night call to my family.

Waking up early, my assistant Chelsea and I got straight to work. The day started with some in studio e-commerce fashion photography which we flew through (if you’ve worked with me shooting on model e-commerce in studio, you know I don’t mess around and we move fast). Then we had a quick lunch and I put my fashion photographer hat back on and we started loading our cars to head off to a field I scouted the day before. As models, clients and team loaded everything into the cars, the sky opened up and it started to pour. My fathers words of caution came straight to mind. These were the outer bands of the hurricane.

Ever have that feeling that everyone is staring at you? Waiting for you to do something and you know that there isn’t anything you can do? It was a lot like that. With everyone sitting in their cars, I could still feel all eyes on me despite the way the rain distorted everything. Was it a mistake to not check the weather? Nope. It was not. In fact, outer bands are something we can work around. There are brief downpours with big gusts of wind and then, nothing. So in the calmest manner possible, I waved and started to drive to the location. Letting everyone follow despite their worry.

The drive to the location ate up most of the time the outer band was over us. The field was wet but we brought blankets and we stacked the scrims under them so the models wouldn’t get wet as they sat in the field. And then that insanely beautiful “it just rained” light started. I began firing away. Quickly switching models and sending the other back to change, over and over, throughout different parts of the field I captured moody, beautiful photo after photo.

It was the perfect storm, for photography.

Not once did I mention these were hurricane rains and winds we were dodging. Not yet. Being a fashion photographer is very intuitive and it’s not unusual to get into a zone where you can feel the models energy and they can feel yours. They are able to give you what you need often without words as they watch and ready your subtle changes in body language and expressions, and vice versa. It’s a beautiful dance when you connect with each other to create art in this way. And these girls were rock stars, reading what I needed from them and giving it. I did the same, connecting to them, seeing the shots and angles and of course noticing the small clues that told me I had just a few more shots and then I was going to need to switch models or our weather was about to shift for the worse.

The lighting was constantly changing. The clouds were moving so fast and so varied in thickness the light would drop and then bounce back up and I was playing a great game of catch with it. Making sure it didn’t throw me a curve ball that I couldn’t lock in on and still get the shot. I have to give it credit though, such dramatic shifts in light created a lot of different image opportunities.

The dark stormy setting took some of that saturation out of the greens, it allowed for the field to become a place that could be anywhere. Wrapping blankets around the models and scarves added to the fall setting that the weather so graciously helped create for us. When I finally wrapped the shoot, after we had traveled to some stone walls away from the field, I finally told the girls they may want to walk a bit faster back to the cars since it looked like the next bit of the hurricane was going to rain on us again. It was quite a surprise to the whole team that those windy rain squalls that were popping up were just the tip of the iceberg. They were in disbelief that this was a hurricane until checking for themselves. Two days later Hurricane Michael would make catastrophic landfall on the panhandle.

As I drove home the next day, with a bit more traffic than usual since evacuation orders had been issued, I hit some nasty spots. Tornado warnings kept coming through my assistant Chelsea and I’s phones.  She tried to be calm and let me focus on what little bit of road I could see ahead of me. These were just the outer bands as well. Despite making lemonade out of lemons, I have to admit we got a little lucky. One day later and we might not have been able to shoot. What a difference a day can make. It’s shots like these that are why I am also a lifestyle and fashion photographer and not just solely shooting product. These magic moments create surprises that I would never want to stop getting.

 

Charleston South Carolina Fashion Photographer | Kate Benson | Studio and Lifestyle Model Test Shoot

If you’ve been following my product and model photographer feed on Instagram, you probably have seen a new face lately. This stunning model is Eliza, and I had the opportunity to help her with a model test shoot at the end of February.

Eliza is looking to attend school in New York, and wants her model book to showcase her versatile looks to the NYC market. In order to add more variety to her portfolio, her modeling agency gave her some art direction to move forward with. During our conversations leading up to the model test shoot, I was able to take that art direction and play with different ideas for the desired two studio and two lifestyle shoots.

We had a lot of fun shooting around my neighborhood just outside of Charleston, SC. It was supposed to rain, so instead of doing the lifestyle looks outside around sunset, we changed it up and did them first thing in the afternoon. We were just too excited to get photos from the marsh and around the budding foliage that we rushed around from location to location to beat the rain. Luckily, we wrapped up the second look just as it started to drizzle! Eliza was a trooper and worked around mud and no-see-ums to get us these images.

 

Once we got in from the rain, we moved into the studio. Eliza has beautifully long red hair, and I wanted to find a way to accent it. After looking for some inspiration, I decided to go with an untraditional two-colored backdrop, using red and blue. I also had a red chair to use as a prop. Eliza brought some great clothing options for the studio looks, and once I saw her amazing yellow jumper, I knew I wanted to play with the primary colors. As Eliza was getting her makeup done by the talented Rosa, I found my stellar large Christian Roth sunglasses and a yellow industrial fan and finished setting up the studio space. Here are some of my favorite, fun, over-the-top images from the first look.

After the playful first look, we moved to the second, more serious shoot. Some of the art direction from Eliza’s modeling agency was to have her modeling in menswear, with slicked-back hair. So we put her in a men’s blazer, sat her down in my red chair, and took a variety of shots. After a few images, Eliza wanted to finish her shoot without any makeup, and the results are stunning!

We all worked a little later than anticipated, but the results were definitely worth it. Eliza was able to add images to her book from 4 very different looks, and I hope she finds success in NYC! A special thanks to Eliza’s mom for being a great assistant and bringing plenty of fun outfits and props to use, Rosa for working hair and makeup magic and Chelsea for overall photographer assisting!

Lifestyle Photographer South Carolina | Kate Benson for Beija Flor Jeans

A little under a year ago I joined A Wonderful Machine and have really enjoyed working with them. This summer I hired them to do some consulting work as well as a bit of a rebranding and have to say hiring that out has been a great decision. As photographers we get so emotionally close to our work that it’s hard to see just the image without the story of shooting it. This morning Wonderful Machine sent me a sweet note to let me know that they are using this shot from the current season of my shoot for Beija Flor Jeans as their homepage image for a bit. I’m pretty excited and flattered of course.

Beija Flor Jeans is one of my favorite clients, based in the Carolinas and I have had the blessing of getting to shoot a few seasons for them now. The shoots are always very diverse and fun. If you love amazing jeans, here is the link to their website: https://www.beijaflorjeans.com and if you haven’t checked it out, Wonderful Machine is pretty cool as well: https://wonderfulmachine.com

 

Charleston Fashion and Portrait Photographer | Kate Benson | Meet Lily

If you follow my Instagram, you’ve likely already seen this new face on my feed over the last week. If you don’t follow me, what’s taking you so long? https://www.instagram.com/katebensonphotography/

Lily contact me a few weeks ago and had a pretty cool back story. About a year ago she was approached by two ladies (I bet I could guess who) from a local modeling agency DirectionsUSA and they asked her 3 questions, “how old are you? How tall are you? When are your braces coming off?” The answers were 15 (at the time), 5’8″, and in a year. Turns out, Lily had just had her braces removed when she called me. She needed a model test shoot and needed it ASAP. In addition to sending her images off to the agency, she needed to send them to Charleston Fashion Week for consideration for the upcoming event.

Shooting a 16 year old is a fun change for me, as is a first time model. There is something really amazing about fearless way a model will try different poses and expressions when they haven’t already learned what their looks are. Lily brought so much more character and fun to the shoot than I was every expecting. In this little series for example:

 

We shot these in the marsh in Mount Pleasant behind my friends house so for part of this shoot, we had an audience watching. Let me just add, in addition to being a new model, to have to model in front of strangers adds to the challenge. But she killed it. I intentionally started shooting her later in the day in studio so we could move out to the locations once the light was where it needed to be. With the help of my new intern Chelsea who was assisting this day, we didn’t spend more than an hour total on the marsh. I wanted to get a variety of locations in before the sunset (which is about 6:30pm now).

So we wrapped up the marsh and ran off to the beach racing the sun, because, did I mention, I have a thing about using natural light so we were going to be done no matter what once the sun was gone. We did two looks there, a swimwear look and another younger look.

 

Our last look was inspired by some beautiful erosion at Breaches Inlet on Sullivans Island. That and the fun beanie Lily had brought. As the last of the sunlight slipped away behind the island, we quickly shot one last round of images.

These had the most amazing Maxfield Parrish feel to them (one of my favorite painters of all time). I loved them so much I am pretty excited to get back out there and shoot again. Lily as of this shoot, was unsigned and starting to look for agencies. I have no doubt that she’ll find one and have many, many more amazing shoots. As for me, I hope to get another chance to photograph her soon! Extra thanks to Chris, Lily’s mom for being such an awesome assistant on set as well as to Chelsea for all the computer/lens/reflector wrangling, Phil and Sandi for letting us invade their backyard and always offering me their home as a location (again), and Sam for watching Moose extra late that night and making sure there were some takeout tacos for me when I got home. He knows the way to my heart!

Charleston Fashion Photographer | Kate Benson | Zacasha 2016 Boho

How do I talk about Zacasha? Do I write about the designs that you can’t help but want to collect all of? Do I talk about how fascinating a business Jennifer created and how it just exploded into something bigger and better than anyone ever imagined? I guess you have to know Jennifer the owner and designer to know what Zacasha really is. Working with her free spirit and creative mind is like chasing genius. You can try and follow along as best you can but will never catch up. She works and reworks everything she contacts and you can’t help but be swept up in the spirit of this creative process and applaud the art it produces.

I shot their 2015 campaign and this spring (yes, it’s taken that long to write about it) I photographed the 2016 campaign. Jennifer had 2 days of shooting, a Boho day and a 1920’s day. These are a few of my favorite images from the Boho day.

The colorful free feeling of the boho shoot mirrored Jennifer’s spirit. It was such a privilege to work together again. Jennifer on top of being a very talented designer and business woman also is a fantastic stylist and art director.

I have to start with those shots of Tamara from Elite Miami. Tamara really got excited at the casting, her boho energy matched the brands, and on set, she moved and danced in the true spirit of the shoot. She chameleons into the character you give her and won the hearts of everyone on set.

Our second model was the gorgeous Jade from Wilhelmina. Her exotic beauty was a perfect canvas for both our shoot days.

There were way too many beautiful shots to choose from, I shot close to 2,000 photographs that day. So as you can imagine, the idea of going through them all and choosing favorites has been overwhelming!

So here are just a few more, and maybe, with any luck, I’ll get to go through these later and find my true favorites. In the meantime, let me know which of these is yours. I’ll take any help I can get editing this batch!

 

This last shot really captures how I feel trying to pick a favorite.

Charleston Fashion Photographer | Beija Flor Jeans shoot | Kate Benson Photography

If you saw my post with my new business card designs (or my Instagram), you may spot a familiar shot or two here. These were shot for Beija Flor Jeans and the product is truly great. I’m anxiously waiting for it to cool down so I can wear my 3 new pairs (yes, 3!!). These flatter your behind like nothing I’ve seen before, and who doesn’t want that (sure beats that time I bought Burberry Jeans a size too small so my booty would look awesome and broke the zipper)?

I was on set in Miami when they called to discuss a new add campaign. They wanted to do something in the Charleston area but were still playing with ideas. Ironically, when they first suggested jeans on a boat, I was not on board (pun intended). However, the mother/daughter team behind Beija Flor patiently discussed the in’s and out’s of the brand with me so I could help conceptualize the project. There was no formal art director on this shoot so I wanted to make sure that I could deliver the company’s vision and energy. What came across to me clearly was that these jeans were something women had been waiting for. The cuts lifted and accentuated all the right curves and the waistline was high enough to move around in without being restrictive. The product is great and I identified with it quickly!

Part of what the ladies emphasized were their colors. Blues and whites dominated the brand’s palate and soon it became clear that a boat was exactly where to shoot.

Early morning I joined our model Brittany Harvey (with Directions USA), makeup artist Pamela Lesch (with Prime Time Pretty), and the Beija Flor Jeans team, Kathy, Emilie, and Anna at the hotel and then headed over to our fishing yacht.

Throughout the day, the rain held off and gave us some beautiful light. Brittany looked amazing in the jeans and did a fantastic job modeling. She really embraced the energy that fit the brand.

As always, I’m so excited to have new work to share and am really happy to have met and worked with Beija Flor Jeans. I love being a based in Charleston fashion photographer!