In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we explored how Victoria Secret and Russell James pretty much defined modern day bikini/swimwear photography. After six beach shoots spanning from Malibu, California all the way up to Vancouver, Canada, we got a nice tan, almost dropped a flash into the Pacific ocean, and left with a greater appreciation for Russell’s art and craft.
To reiterate, the core of Russell’s genius is his artistic vision and playful vibe when working with the models. His style is sexy, healthy, and wholesome. His style is an inspiration to us at iLHP and though no one can replicate Russell besides Russell himself, we do hope to share our own interpretation.
A Shallow Depth of Field
Russell’s style is defined by a shallow depth-of-field so shoot wide-open with you 50mm or 85mm portrait lens. A 135mm will work great also but we found that we were a bit too far from the model and a lot more shouting was involved.
Bring along a set of ND filters so you can keep your shutter speeds at reasonable speeds. I used very dark ND8 filters in front of my lenses so if I needed to use flash, my shutter would not exceed my non-TTL flash’s maximum sync speed of 1/160. If you use high-speed sync, you can make due with lighter ND filters.
Behind VS’s stratospheric success is a less well known but arguably the most productive portrait photographer today. Kind mannered and well spoken, Russell James has worked with the super-est of the supermodels from the last 15 years and yet somehow stayed away from the limelight. It’s hard to separate where Victoria’s Secret end and Russell James begin, but his images has single handedly defined the brand in recent memory.
In this three part series, we dive into the look of his images, his setup and equipment, then we wrap up with our own photo shoots and interpretation.
There is power in youthfulness. The cosmetics industry is built on it. The world spends billions of dollars to stay, feel, and look young. The same goes for the modeling world. Kate Moss was discovered at 14 at JFK airport, Candice Swanepoel was spotted in a flea market when she was 15, and Lily Aldridge, my personal favorite, began modeling at 16. Unlike other careers where the older you are the more salary, prestige, and respect you can command, being young and beautiful is incredibly marketable in the beauty industries. It is a bizarro world.
It is difficult to capitalize on this advantage when you are also inexperienced. Teens are young adults still learning their way through social situations, family situations, and professional situations. At the same time, I sometimes dread booking young models because I’ve been burned many times when they don’t show up to a shoot. How do teen models deal with the pressures of school, early adulthood, family, and a modeling career?
At just 15 years old, Isabella is currently our youngest model at iLHP. She is extremely professional, mature beyond her years, and yet malleable and open to new ideas like most young people are. She is just starting out in the north east and we had a chance to speak with her after our Terry Shoots last month. With her Candice Swanepoel cheekbones and teenage-attitude stare, this Korean Italian bombshell will undoubtedly have a long and successful modeling career.