Lara Jade: framing fashion with the EOS 5D Mark III
© Lara Jade
English fashion photographer Lara Jade began her career as a precocious 17-year-old and nine years later she is living in New York and gaining a worldwide reputation for her cinematically inspired fashion shoots. In an exclusive interview she spoke to CPN writer Steve Fairclough about her career, her influences and why she enjoys working with the EOS 5D Mark III...
CPN first interviewed Lara Jade on shooting with the original EOS 5D back in 2010 and she reveals: “I still have it. I had the Mark II for about three years and I’ve had the 5D Mark III pretty much since it came out.”
In her kitbag she carries just one EOS 5D Mark III body and a selection of Canon EF L-series lenses: 50mm f/1.2L , 85mm f/1.2L II , 24-70mm f/2.8L II and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. This is supplemented by Broncolor lighting – Senso, Move and Siros kits – plus two 5ft octaboxes, a variety of softboxes, a Westcott Scrim Jim kit and Lastolite reflectors.
On her lens choices Lara explains: “I don't like to shoot too wide because it kind of goes against that cinematic approach that I want to get across, especially when I’m working on location. Depending on the shoot theme I do still love the 85mm f/1.2L II for location [work] because I shoot quite wide [open] – the quality of that lens is really good. I still use the 50mm f/1.2L as well. Depending on the job, I tend to use the two primes outside and the 24-70mm f/2.8L II in the studio just to have that option of moving in and out quickly. When shooting editorial work in the studio, we have around 12 looks to shoot within one day with make up changes, so having one lens really helps quicken the workflow.”
The lure of the 5D-series
But what is it that draws Lara back to the 5D-series cameras? “I’ve always had Canon [cameras and lenses] – it’s something that I’ve just grown with… from the original 5D to the Mark II and upgrading [to the Mark III]. I think the big draw for me to upgrade this time was the bigger display on the back to view the images, the general quality of the camera and the high Megapixel [count].”
She adds: “Also, having the filming option there was a big draw for me because you can shoot stills and then you can film clips of a behind-the-scenes video at the same time. In today’s industry, people want to see how you’re handling things behind the scenes as well as viewing your portfolio so it’s a nice option to have. A lot of the behind-the-scenes videographers I work with use the EOS 5D Mark III too!”
The handling of the EOS 5D Mark III when shooting hand-held is also a bonus, as Lara reveals: “I’ve got really little wrists (laughs) so that’s another thing – it’s not a heavy camera for me to move around with. I do find it a little tricky to use with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II [lens] for beauty and that I find is really bulky for me. Ease of use is a big thing – I guess that’s why I haven’t moved to medium format because I don’t like to be limited holding a big bulky camera. It would change my workflow significantly.”
She adds: “My best shots have sometimes come from where I’ve turned around and found a spot unexpectedly. For example, when I shot an editorial story in LA for The Observer Magazine the last shot of the day was with a car. Well we were searching for that car for the longest time and we were driving all over LA and I looked out the van window, and there it was, sitting shining in the sun outside of someone’s apartment complex. We had no time to waste as the light was almost gone, so I jumped out and got around ten frames and ran back into the van. With lighting and a medium format [camera] we would never have got that shot.”
In fact, that particular LA shoot reveals something about Lara’s cinematic influences: “One of the most memorable [film directors] for me was [Alfred] Hitchcock. At a young age I was introduced to horror and thriller movies and the scare factor didn't captivate me as much as the cinematography did. The sense of colour and the way the girls were cast in their roles - those two things stood out to me. My casting on this specific shoot was based on the whole Hitchcock idea – I even told her [the model] on the day of the shoot ‘look, we’re trying to do Tippi Hedren here, can you do that for me?’ and she got straight into it.”
Focusing and Live View
We asked Lara if she tends to focus manually and she explains: “It really depends on what I’m doing. On my first ever lens – my 50mm f/1.4 – the autofocus broke and I didn't get it fixed; I didn't know why – I think I was just using it so much I didn't have time [to get it fixed]. It sounds ridiculous but I was so used to manual [focusing] that when I got my new lenses I found I was using auto [focus] again.”
“Sometimes I will work with manual focus but it really depends on the situation – if I’m shooting between f/8 and f/11 and I’m in the studio working with studio lighting then you're more likely going to get a sharp image using autofocus. Whereas outside when you’re shooting wide [open] it’s sometimes easier just to do manual [focusing] especially if you’re shooting through foliage or elements in front of your camera as I often do.”
Does she ever use Live View for focusing? Lara reveals: “I do when I shoot advertising work. Littlewoods did a campaign with Myleene Klass and we were shooting a look on a carousel. In order to get the product in the right light and the carousel lit we had to use five lights. In order to get the ambience of the carousel lights we had to shoot quite wide but we risked losing focus on her eyes. So we had to use Live View and zoom in, lock the focus and pull out again. So there are certain times where it really works well. I do like working through the viewfinder though, because there’s something quite nostalgic about that; about being able to just see it in the camera. But Live View has been handy in a few technical situations.”
Inspirations and client base
A few of Lara's photographer friends advised her to come to New York City, USA, to work and get new inspiration. She notes: “As an artist, what I’ve found is the more travel I get, the more my work benefits. So, having that flavour of LA and New York in my portfolio makes me more desirable to London clients. The same works for having luxury scenes in your portfolio – it shows that you travel and you know how to work in different scenarios. Because I’ve worked in those places a lot of my gigs in London are actually taking place in New York or Costa Rica or LA because I’m already here. All those little things add up.”
As for her inspirations, she reveals: “I don’t tend to look at photographers who have a similar style to what I do; I try and look ‘outside the box’. My early inspirations were Sally Mann, Annie Leibovitz and most recently my inspiration has been Patrick Demarchelier and Steven Meisel. He is a huge inspiration of mine just because you can always tell it’s a Steven Meisel image; there’s always a cinematic approach; the way he approaches subjects is always very unique. His passion for imagery is shining in the work he does.”
Studio and location lighting
As for any fashion or portrait photographer the mood of any image is determined by lighting and Lara explains: “If I'm working with artificial light on location it's about balancing for the ambient and then maybe popping a strobe in there on low power because I still want to keep the atmosphere. The majority of my location shoots are with natural light and I use accessories such as scrims and reflectors to shape the light. The majority of my location work has to be done quickly and we are working against the sun and time so I prefer that lighting accessories are not a hindrance. If I'm working in the studio or a location house I am always trying to replicate natural light so my I use techniques like feathering the light, bouncing or double-diffusing scrims or my octabox.”
As for multi-light set-ups Lara is not a fan: “I tend not to [use them] unless it’s a commercial shoot where it’s a white background or the client requires it for product placement. I don't see the point in overpowering an image with light because for me it’s all about the idea first. I like to think through the eyes of a creative director – making sure what’s in front of the camera is right and if it's clear to the vision I had planned. Lighting is important but it’s a second thought. What matters is how good your subject looks in front of the camera and when shooting for a commercial client – how well is she/he selling the product. If hair and make-up needs changing or the styling is off I take a couple of shots, stop and converse with my team and re-adjust. Fashion photography isn’t just about the photographer; it’s about collaboration with a team.”
She adds: “The photographers whose lighting I really like are like Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino and sometimes Annie Leibovitz – the way that they really diffuse their light is like setting up their own sunlight in the studio. I admire the way they can replicate natural light.”
For location shoots it tends to be: “Just reflectors and scrims.” Lara adds: “I move around a lot with the model – I don't like to be tied to one position so I don't use a tripod and I’m often seen running away with the model because when I’m in one location if something isn't working I’ll move and try something else. When we’re shooting editorial we’ve got 10 to 12 outfits a day to go through so it’s pretty challenging when you’ve got make-up and hair changes in between.”
“I never put my model in midday sun – I’m always trying to keep that diffused look, maybe by putting a model in an area where light is coming through a tree or if a chimney is blocking an area on a rooftop and there’s a small area of diffusion. I want that continuity in an editorial story, so if I’ve started from image one with diffused light I want to keep that because if the outfits are changing something needs to remain the same.”
Workflow and editing
As for her workflow, Lara reveals: “I always shoot RAW. If my client is present on set then I like to tether my camera to an iMac and most often – an external large screen for easy viewing. I’ll have a digital tech that’s there with Capture One [software] who handles the digital side so I can focus on shooting. It’s easier to do that in a studio – I don't necessarily do that outside because again, it can be a bit of a hindrance when you’re running around to different areas. What I like to do is have a base where I have the computer and digital tech and I carry at least 10 CF cards. For every look we do I’ll pass a card to the assistant and they’ll upload from the card to Capture [One]. It keeps things moving on the day.
She adds: “For my retouch workflow, I like to load into Lightroom first for selects using colour and star tags. First I do the flags for ones that look OK, then I go through again and do a colour – my favourite or the client’s. Then I open those [images] into Photoshop.”
Lara adds: “I do now work with retouchers because it’s a matter of time for me as I’m travelling so much. I can now focus on shoot planning and shooting. When I retouch my work myself it is a very similar workflow to the retouchers that I work with. In Photoshop I usually start with a liquify layer, doing a scrub or a clean layer where I go in and edit the skin – that’s always the most time-consuming part! Then I do a non-destructive dodge and burn technique on a grey layer to enhance where the light falls on the subject or to simply sculpt the image. I always like to do my colour toning on top of that – whether through using curves or selective colour. I sometimes use what’s called Alien Skin Exposure 7 [plug-in] and that gives me a good idea of how colour works immediately. I most always make colour toning unique to my image. It’s important that filters don’t overtake your work. All of my retouching techniques are done subtly. In my belief all the important parts of an image should be done in camera – you are just fine-tuning when it comes to retouching. I always finish my images, and ask retouchers to finish with a layer of grain, like film grain. This helps add texture back into an image after skin editing.”
The next 5-series step?
We also quizzed Lara on if she was planning to add either of the new EOS 5DS or the EOS 5DS R cameras to her kitbag and she reveals: “The first thing I thought when I saw it [was]– I want to buy this; the [50.6] megapixels… the draw in was – this is better quality, especially for detail in beauty images but then I realised that the majority of my work is only going to be seen in magazines. You also have to think of the file sizes and how much space that’s going to take to back-up. On average when I’m working on an editorial or look book I shoot around 1,200-1,5000 shots per day. Now that’s a lot of space to fill on a hard drive! I can see the benefits to photographers who are working in advertising for product in beauty or still life – especially if later on the purpose is to be blown up to billboard size.”
Lara adds: “Eventually I want to have two bodies, so I’ll have the 5D Mark III for mainly editorial or look book and I’ll have perhaps the 5DS R for advertising. For now, I am just looking at renting certain equipment when the right job comes along. I’m pretty happy with my current kit.”
So that’s the next camera purchase taken care of… but where would Lara like to be in five years time? She replies: “I would still like to be traveling as much as I am now. No matter where I live I would still like to have the opportunity to travel, to meet new connections… just shooting for higher-level clients – meeting new people along the way, creatives and like-minded people. I’m at my best as a photographer when I’m busy working. I would like to be busier with my editorial work and probably taking the educational thing I do to another level. I really enjoy helping other photographers, especially as there’s not so much fashion photography advice out there.”
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EOS 5D Mark III – key features
- 22.3 Megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor.
- 61-point AF with up to 41 cross-type AF points.
- Zone, Spot and AF Point Expansion focusing modes.
- DIGIC 5+ processor.
- Up to 6fps shooting speed.
- ISO 100 to 25,600 as standard, ISO 50 to 102,400 with expansion.
- +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation.
- HDR shooting in-camera.
- Full HD Movie shooting with ALL-I or IPB compression.
- 29mins 59sec clip length in Full HD Movie.
- Timecode setting for HD Movie shooting.
- Headphone port for audio monitoring.
- 59ms shutter lag.
- Transparent LCD viewfinder with 100% coverage.
- 8.11cm (3.2”) 1.04 million-pixel Clear View II LCD Screen.
- EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS).
- CF and SD Card slots.
- Silent control touch-pad area.
- Dual-Axis Electronic Level.
Lara Jade’s kitbag
EOS 5D Mark III
EF50mm f/1.2L USM
EF85mm f/1.2L II USM
EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Broncolor Senso 800S kit
Broncolor Move 1200L kit
Broncolor Siros kit
Broncolor Kobold (600W & 800W)
Arri (500W, 800W & 1200W)
5ft Octa Softbox
Westcott Scrim Jim
California Sunbounce reflectors
Biography: Lara Jade
© Oscar May
Lara Jade is an English fashion photographer who discovered her interest in photography at an early age. She moved to London to pursue fashion photography full-time before making New York her home in 2011. Lara has travelled extensively to share her vision and experiences with an international audience by tutoring fashion photography workshops worldwide. She was the winner of the Public Choice Award at the 2009 AOP Open Awards and has appeared as guest photographer on ‘Poland’s Next Top Model’ and DigitalRev TV. Her clients include Littlewoods (UK), Sony Music, Random House and Schwarzkopf and she has been published around the world by magazines such as Elle Singapore, Tatler Hong Kong, The Observer, Velvet Dubai, Hello! Fashion, Nylon Mexico and many more.