A fashion shoot by David Yeo in Mexico. On this occasion, the model was larger than expected and he used Photoshop to slim her down, but in other shoots he's gone the opposite way.
Retouching and lighting are regularly used to change models' body shapes in fashion photography - but they're not just used to make the women look thinner, explained David Yeo at last night's edition of The Social. He's used both methods to make his models more curvaceous, and is often disappointed when the models he's booked turn out to be thinner than he thought. "There's a huge trend of using models who are more curvaceous," he said at the Barrio Central bar to a busy audience of photographers, stylists and keen amateurs. "I did a shoot recently where we wanted to have a glamorous, 1950s feel, and the model was much skinnier than we wanted so I used retouching to add curves."
Yeo uses Photoshop applications such as liquify to work on his fashion images, which have been published in titles such as British Vogue, GQ Style, iD, Dazed & Confused, Lula, Vice and The Sunday Time Style, and then hands the work over to professional retouchers. He stays in contact with the retoucher throughout the process, though, and says retouching has been a positive development as it allows him to have much more control over the end result than in the days of darkroom printing. But he's not always 100% in control of how the model appears, as the editors he's working with sometimes ask him to do more work on them. "I shot one model from the ground up, which is a complete no-no in fashion photography as you're making her legs and behind look bigger," he says. "But she had great legs and I thought she looked fine. When I submitted the work the magazine insisted the image had to be more retouched [to make the model look thinner]."
For Yeo, the future is in fashion film, and he believes this could lead to a less exacting vision of beauty. Fashion films are made up of thousands of frames and although it's still possible to light them carefully, no photographer, magazine or advertiser has the time or resources to retouch every one. To illustrate his point, Yeo showed a recent fashion film he's shot in which, again, the model was thinner than he wanted. "We called the film Sweat and the idea was that the model would do a work out and get more sweaty as the shoot went on," he says.
"Again, we wanted a curvaceous model and from the model's cards, we thought that was what we were booking. We based our whole concept on that look. Then the model arrived and we realised she was actually very, very thin. The styling team were even urging her to take better care of herself. It was a bit of a situation, but we still managed to shoot the video, using careful editing to take out the more extreme views. Even so, we had to abandon the last two looks altogether. For the last two outfits we had wanted to shoot a more fleshy, lingerie look, but because of the model's shape and the fact we were using film, we had to keep more clothes on."
Yeo was speaking at The Social, an informal get together for photographers which is run by the BJP and The Photographers' Gallery and which is held in the basement bar of Barrio Central, Poland Street, Soho, London. The Social takes place on the last Monday of every month, so the next edition will take place on the 28 March. The night wiil focus on photography's place in history, and whether photographers should think of themselves in terms of photography's long tradition or the wider history of art. David Campany will give a short talk on the topic, but we look forward to seeing you there and hearing your input.
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