Finding My Way through DIY Outdoor Fashion Photography for my handmade clothing brand...
Because Charlie Darwin clothing is sold primarily online, photography is arguably one of the most important aspects of how I can present my newest creations to you! 📸 As a solopreneur, I have been the designer, seamstress, model, AND the photographer and photo editor. It's tons of work, and honestly pretty nerve-wracking to be in front of the camera so often. Over the past year I've started to recruit a little bit of "free" help with my photo shoots, and as you'll see, it's made a total difference for me, psychologically.
Here's the process of how I take a pair of beautiful linen pants IRL and transform them into an emotive online image, with insights about how I've maneuvered it all emotionally. I've wrapped this up into both a video and blog post, so choose your own adventure below :)
Choosing the Right Photographer
Let's kick things off by talking about the first crucial step: selecting a photographer. It all began about two and a half years ago when my boyfriend and I started taking photos with our cell phones. It was a humble beginning, but it quickly became evident that we needed to step up our game.
I got my own DSLR camera, and I've even tried my hand at solo photo shoots with a remote (mostly because I didnt want to inconvenience anyone to take the photos for me, nor could I afford to pay a professional). However, battling with finicky remote batteries and signals was NOT fun!! It's pretty much just an hour straight of me yelling F-U to the faulty remote and scowling in 50% of the shots....
My next step-up was to have my boyfriend take photos of me with the DSLR (we have a Canon Rebel 5). Now, don't get me wrong; my boyfriend and I have had some fantastic photo shoots together. But as we moved long distance (and his patience for long photoshoots wore thin), I felt the need to level up even more. So, I decided to reach out to a professional – my sister, Erin Widdicombe!
Enter Erin: The Professional Photographer
My sister, Erin, is an Indianapolis-based photographer specializing mostly in family portraits and headshots. Fashion photography isn't her main focus, but her skillz and unmatched sisterly love made her the perfect choice. I mean, who better to tell you when you might have double chins in the pic??
I've been really happy with how the photos are turning out, and in the video above, I'll show you the stark difference between cell phone photos, remote-controlled shots, my boyfriend's attempts, and Erin's work with her high-quality camera and photography expertise.
Breaking Free from the Model Mold
One of the toughest decisions I have to make is whether I'll model my creations by myself or invite someone else to join me. Modeling my own clothing comes with unique challenges, especially regarding body image and self-confidence. I never anticipated how much my sense of self would become intertwined with my business and artistry.
Initially, I stuck to using models who shared my size because my samples were designed to fit me perfectly (and I didn't want to add costs by making more in other sizes). My first addition was when I decided to invite an old college friend, Sydney, to join me in a photo shoot in the Spring. Sydney's flexibility and fun personality were a perfect match, and her size aligned with my samples. This move took a massive load off my shoulders and opened up new possibilities.
Dad, aka "Pookie"
Fast forward to my recent collection, and I decided to include someone very different in size and style... my dad! With his big ol mustache, my dad brought a really fun refreshing twist to the shoot.
The choice was a bit unconventional, but I think the gender-neutral nature of my clothing made it work really beautifully. Of course, he did really goobery dad poses but also nailed the more serious diva shots. Shout-out to my dad, affectionately known as Pookie, for really bringing it!!
Location, Location, Location
Now, let's talk about choosing the perfect location for a photo shoot. Growing up in Indiana, I often found the local landscape... uninspiring. But a few years ago, I stumbled upon a location called Acres Land Trust near Fort Wayne. It is very Indiana-esque, but I figured "when in Rome", ya know?
Here's where the OUTDOORS comes in... We wanted to get more depth to the photos so we voyaged into the weeds. All was fine, we went home, moved on. A couple days later, we were both covered in the most inconveniently located welt-like bug bites (seriously like in our armpits and crotch and butt cheeks) – we looked it up and it was chigger bites!
There's that RAW beauty of outdoor photography, which is VERY classic for Charlie Darwin shoots-- I've gotten poison ivy, mosquito bites, spider bites, mud on the clothes... but damnit it's worth it for the shot :)
Prepping for the Perfect Shot
Before the shoot, there's a whirlwind of getting ready, styling, and mentally preparing for the day ahead. While my styling involves minimal makeup and a focus on showcasing my hair's natural texture, (thank god I had a fresh haircut and highlights this time around).
As for my dad, well, there isn't much primping required for him, I honestly just wanted his hair to be as untamed and spiky as it is any other day.
Mastering the Mental Game
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of these photo shoots is the psychological toll they can take on me. I've had my fair share of emotionally draining sessions where the lighting was shit, my hair falls flat, my photographer boyfriend is holding on by a thread, and in these moments self-doubt CREEPS in, and sometimes seeing such bad photos in the camera preview makes me even question my abilities as a designer.
Here's a big part of the issue, too... The lack of mirrors during outdoor shoots means I often have no idea how I look in the moment.
I've been actively working on setting up the right conditions to keep it cool during the shoots, like get my hair cut ahead of time, go out at the right time of day, and work with a photographer with LOTS of patience for the craft.
The Road Ahead
While I've made a lot of progress in improving my mindset and the overall process of my photo shoots, there's still some stuff I'm working on. For one, I'm hoping to invite more "models" (aka regular people) into my shoots, and secondly, I want to capture even better video footage of my clothing on location at the shoot.
In the end, it's all about presenting my creations in the best possible light and sharing the journey with all of you. So thank you for joining me on this behind-the-scenes adventure!