What it's REALLY like to do fashion photography outdoors & in the woods...




For the past year or so, the images for Charlie Darwin Textiles have been photographed outdoors in the natural daylight in our local Rhode Island environment.

As a tiny business, I still choose to be the model (for now), and my partner (a biomedical engineer by training) is the photographer. As I'm sewing and dying each of my newest collections, we brainstorm places where the garments might feel perfectly at home. Read on to see the antics that these shoots entail!



Choosing the location:

Charlie Darwin is all made from 100% linen fabric that just feels like a soft little hug from the earth whenever you wear it. In addition, all of the dyes are pigments from plants. Being a plant-based brand makes it easy for the clothing to blend into other plant-based scenes, like the woods, gardens, the rocky intertidal zone, greenhouses, etc! We just strive to find a relatively new outdoor locale for each photo shoot... partially because we get bored easily and like to explore new spots around Rhode Island!


Timing:

Once we've decided on a spot, we plan our trip according to the weather. And this is something we've had to hone over time... Earlier this year, we were still making the mistake of arriving at the location at the brightest time in the middle of a sunny day-- the photos were completely over-lit and washed out! So we ate some granola bars in the car, recouped for a couple of hours, and went back to it closer to dusk to get much better photos. It ultimately turned out okay, but mistakes like that feel incredibly frustrating at the moment and remind us that we are still novices in many ways. Other times, we stumble straight into a cloudy evening photo session that produces photos that barely need any editing at all-- in those moments we feel pretty badass!


Packing:

The craziest part (or perhaps just the most non-traditional part) of our photoshoots is that I (the model) am lugging anywhere from 4-10 outfits and a change of shoes on my back to get to the spots where we shoot the photos!


You can spot me in a white linen dress, with 20lbs of clothing on my back, scaling rocks, and sweating like crazy-- We meander around to find just the right backdrop with the right lighting, and once we spot it, I drop my backpack, Cam prepares the camera, I wipe my forehead, try to compose my face, and hope that the clothing is laying correctly on my body-- because remember, I don't have a mirror! Many, many, MANY times, I make it to the site and in the process of taking photos, I sit on a rock just to stand up and find that my white dress is now wet and muddy all over the butt! Or to get the shot, I squeeze through tight spaces or brush by sticks that just whack me with a nice dirty brown swipe across my clean white linen. But I never sweat it because (a) I have Photoshop where I can easily remove the marks, and (b) linen is SUPERB at washing!! Mud, grass, moss, squished mosquitos-- I've seen it all, and it all washes out completely in the washing machine every time.


Outfit changes:

I have tried several methods... If I'm lucky, we are close enough to the car that I can hop in and change clothes in the back seat. Other times, though, I've had to hide behind trees in the woods! We found the easiest setting for changing outfits (by far) was the greenhouse, as it had a nice, clean bathroom.

Using the car window as a mirror to make sure my hair looks okay before the shoot

The Camera:

Cam and I are still learning a lot about our DSLR camera-- we use an old Canon Rebel t5, which, technically gets the job done! But for every 1 usable photo we get, there are likely 20-30 others that didn't make the cut because I'm posing like a bafoon, the clothing is laying super weird, or Cam's got the camera settings way off. It is still a lot of trial and error, even 1.5years in!


For video, we (try to) use our DLSR on the Zhiyun-Tech WEEBILL-S Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer. Very much still trying to figure out how to use it well... but considering we are rather inexperienced in this realm, we love how easy it was to use straight out of the box!


The aftermath:

Even though we are somewhat experienced outdoorsmen, we come home from these shoots, time after time, with mosquito bites, spider bites, and poison ivy (twice now on my face!). Outdoor shoots are not for the faint of heart.😂

Cam shooting on our DSLR, amidst poison ivy!

The attitude:

Every time we complete one of these shoots, it crosses my mind that I am making it harder than it needs to be. As I'm scaling some steep rocks in a white dress and sandals, I think of the other clothing brands that simply have one white wall indoors with fixed lighting where they take all of their product photography -- and their clothing looks pretty good -- and they still make consistent sales (to my knowledge)! And with this kind of comparison to other brands in mind, we have had some mid-shoot moments of very low-morale, thinking, "why are we doing all this??" BUT what also happens every time is that I come home, and I work on editing the photos so that the garment and its handcrafted details truly shine on the screen. The photos turn out more lovely than I could have imagined, and they become yet another artistic element to my brand and to my personal creative practice. I feel deeply proud of them in a way that I wouldn't feel about white walls and stale lighting.


I hope you've enjoyed peeping behind the scenes at my photo shoots! This is my cycle of creative photography in Rhode Island. In the future, I do hope to become the one behind the camera instead of in front of it. As my home studio moves to Pittsburgh, PA in September 2022, I hope to work with women in the Pittsburgh area who are interested in modeling my earthy, slow fashion clothing. If that's you or someone you know, please get in touch at CharlieDarwinCo@gmail.com.


Stay tuned for many new landscapes and new faces to come!


You can get updates on the studio move and my newest designs by email!

Sign up below!