How To Shoot a Fashion Editorial: Part 1

Eryka Clayton reached out to me in mid-August and said, “Hey, do you want to shoot for The Collective?” I love working with Eryka. She’s extremely talented and extremely professional. I love her eye, her taste. So I said, “Yes!” This was about a month before the shoot is to take place. So yes, they are planned that far in advanced.

That’s how it started from the very beginning. The fashion editor reached out to me. And the wheels were put into motion. We decided on a rough shoot date and then she said she would be in touch soon with ideas.

Taken from their website: The Collective is a celebration of new ideas; focusing on the image-makers, collaboration, and creative forces. We offer a mirror that reflects fashion, the arts, and photography to the forward thinking progressive reader who enjoys the creative realm and the culture that surrounds it. We are a group of individuals that stand at the corner of chic and Avant-Garde, with the brazen and unconventional lurking around every corner.

And their mission statement: Fashion is generally separated into two categories: Art, and Commerce.

They are about The Art! And I love this about them. Eryka’s first email to me, after I told her I would love to shoot for The Collective, was the question, “Do you have any ideas on what you’d like to shoot? Have you been wanting to shoot something for a while that you’d like to actualize with this shoot?” The truth is, I always have wanted to do a NYC street fashion shoot. I remember looking at the stories that Arthur Elgort and Peter Lindbergh shot of the models walking through the busy streets of Manhattan with all the hustle and bustle amongst them. Leaning on street corners, or walking their dogs, the models looked strong, confident and well, very New York City! I told Eryka that I’d love to do a street story and she said, “Let’s do it!”.

So that’s the very beginning of how our story came about. She asked me what I wanted to shoot, I told her I wanted to shoot a “streets of NYC story”, she said, fine. Now we have to really define what that story is, exactly. Eryka has been traveling so we’ve had to rely on Skype calls and keep in mind the time differences between Europe and the US. Our first Skype call centered on the actual idea of shooting on the street. We talked about shooting in the Meat Packing District or up near Central Park. Then out of the blue Eryka mentioned Harlem and I said, “Yes!” So many of my favorite movies have been shot in Harlem: Klute, American Gangster, The French Connection, to name a few. All of a sudden the excitement over the idea of shooting on the streets of NYC became amplified. We both settled on Harlem and then we ended the call promising each other to put a mood board together and send it to each other in a day or two.

A mood board is a compilation of pictures that depict the location, the lighting, the model type, the clothing, the style, the era, the colors, the props, the overall VIBE of the upcoming shoot. You can have separate mood boards for the locations and the lighting and the clothing but usually it starts off with an overall mood board then you can narrow it down from there.

I pulled my mood board from google image search, Pinterest and my own library of saved inspirational photos. Here’s what I came up with:


And Erkya sent hers:


After we both had a chance to look at each other’s mood boards, we got on Skype again and started to discuss models. After the mood is established, it’s time for the casting process. We both agreed we wanted a strong black girl for the story. Eryka told me to look up Nyamouch from Fenton Moon. Loved her! Since I’ve known the owner of Fenton Moon for over 10 years, I wrote to her directly to ask about Nyamouch’s availability for the shoot date. After finding out she was indeed available, I put a hold on her immediately.


So one model is set. Now we need to flush out the story. Do we want two models, or three models? Or maybe four models? I asked Eryka if she was okay with 4 models and she said it was fine. I then sent out emails to New York Models, Fusion Models, One Management, MC2 Models. I’m looking for both male and female models for this story. A modeling agency will send you the available models in what is called a package. The package includes all the models that are available on the proposed shoot date and that are willing to do the particular story you’re shooting. Sometimes the agencies want to see the mood boards. Sometimes they don’t. That’s why it’s important to have a mood board done before you start your casting process. The first package i got in was from New York Models and I was immediately drawn to Danny Mannix.


I forwarded the package to Eryka with a list of my top 3 choices. We went back and forth on that for a few days. As we got more packages in, I wasn’t taken with any of the models for this particular story than the first two that we chose: Nyamouch and Danny Mannix. I really liked Naleye D too, but Eryka was a little worried he might be too young looking.


We are now at the phase where we are thinking that it’s just going to be the two of them. But while we’re still figuring out how many models we’re going to settle on, I reach out to my own agency ABTP to see who’s available for hair and make up. When asking about the hair stylist, I have to tell the booker up front that we are going to need an afro wig for one of the female models. It’s important to give them as much information about the shoot as possible, even send them a mood board, so they can put the right talent on the job. You can’t expect a hair stylist to just bring the perfect afro wig to the set. He may not have one and will need to buy one, or if he does, he probably isn’t going to carry that around with him from set to set. I sent the booker I work with at ABTP the mood board and it took about a day to procure the right hair stylist. Make up was easy, we had Rachel Wood on hold for us. Rachel and I have worked together a few times in the past.

Today is Saturday. I get on a plane tomorrow. So far we have the two models confirmed for us. Hair and make up is confirmed too. But I really want two more models. I can’t reach out to the agencies today because no one is in the office. So when I get off the plane on Monday morning at 6 AM, I’ll be back at trying to find two more models to convince Eryka that the extra two are really awesome. I just really want a few group shots. Although, we could make it just a really groovy inter-racial love story too. Keep posted for How to Shoot an Editorial Part 2 when we take you behind the scenes on the actual pull day. Eryka and I will be running around Manhattan together to pull the clothes for the shoot on Tuesday. And by that time, I’ll know for sure if we’re using 4 models or only the original 2 we have confirmed!

Melissa Rodwell