"Shoot the beach babes first!"

My first thought when I was told by my editor that I would be writing a story about the day in the life of a fashion photographer was what’s the catch? As I imagined it would be easy.

I knew nothing of what a fashion photographer does except that they must lead a glamorous lifestyle taking photographs of beautiful models. Thinking about it later I surmised if it was that easy then everyone would be doing it.

I had little time to prepare and that afternoon I found myself at what is known in the trade as a “cattle call”. Here I met the photographer and the client whose campaign this was for.

Oh, and did I mention a room full of beautiful young models all sitting patiently to be seen by the photographer and clutching their “book”.

I wasn’t prepared for what came next, seeing these models in their underwear.

I was told the photographer had made it clear to the model agency what was required of their models and the type of photographs that would be taken so they should only send models that were right for the shoot.

The photographer was courteous to each model but did not encourage them or give any indication that he might use them. Apparently, this was to avoid them going away with their hopes up high that they might get the job.

Only afterwards did the photographer and the client discuss the models and decide which ones they wanted to use.

A lot of preparation goes on before any photographs are taken and the casting for models was just the beginning. Other things a photographer has to decide on under the heading of “pre-production” are what clothes the models will wear, the location and the sort of equipment he will need for the job.

A week later I found myself at the airport along with a mountain of suitcases containing camera equipment, swimsuits for the photographs, everyone’s personal stuff and a team of people, which included the clients, fashion stylist, hair and makeup, various assistants and of course a bevy of models all chatting and looking unfazed by all the attention they were getting from fellow travellers.

I could see the set-up already…Sky, sea and plenty of sand with models in swimsuits running around the beach laughing.

I woke from my dreams when the landing gear hit the runway rather hard and the reverse thrust kicked-in.

When the aircraft came to a halt I could see from the window gaily-painted Disney-like electric carts heading towards the aircraft to ferry us to the arrivals terminal.

For a moment I thought I was still dreaming, then before I could fully take in my new environment and what was happening I found myself relegated to the equipment vehicle and helping to load the cases as the models were whisked off in a flashy super-sized 4×4 to the hotel.

Later that evening I asked the reception for an early morning call as the following morning we were going by boat to one of the neighbouring islands to…as the photographer put it during a short briefing over dinner; “Shoot the beach babes first”.

An hour after sunrise we landed on a deserted beach in a small bay and the assembled cast gathered surrounded by all the equipment on the virgin sand.

The photographer reminded everyone not to walk all over the beach, as this would leave footprints; he wanted the sand undisturbed for his photographs.

His assistants set-up base camp under the shade of the palms trees at the top end of the beach and the serious business of taking photographs commenced.

The girls had already been up well before dawn to start their makeup and now the makeup artist was finishing off with the final touches.

I was told by one of the assistants that we would have to work fast as we would be fighting two things, the heat as the morning progresses and the light. At this time of the day the light is coming from low down in the sky, which gives a warm crisp light unlike the harsher light you get around the middle of the day.

Whilst he waited for the models to finish off their makeup and get dressed the photographer scouted around for a spot that had both sunlight and shade. I followed him so I could get an insight into his craft.

He came across a rock formation by the shoreline at the far end of the beach and I joined him. He told me the light at this time of the day is more diffuse because of the UV haze and mist in the air and would be flattering for the models.

We returned to the group and he instructed one of his assistants to set a large diffusion screen by the rocks so he would have the flexibility to manipulate the sunlight.

His first assistant handed him his camera whilst another marshaled the models to a position on the sand. The models knelt down on the sand and with only one handheld reflector being wheedled by an assistant the photographer started to shoot the beach babes as he called them.

I was taken aback by the speed at which this happened then I realised that he had already briefed his models and everyone knew what to do.

It all seemed incredibly relaxed and the models went through a variety of poses with the photographer gently giving them instructions and lots of encouragement.

After what seemed a long time the photographer shouted “great” and it was suddenly all over for this set-up.

The photographer set off towards the rocks with one of the models to line-up the next shot as the rest of the group took a short break.

And, so it proceeded until late into the morning when it became too hot and the light too hard to continue.

I was shattered by the time the photographer called a “wrap” for this location and thankfully we all returned to the hotel to cool off and rest until later on in the afternoon when we would be back out again to catch the warm light before sunset.

I was surprised how well everyone worked together as a team, until one of the assistants told me the photographer always used the same crew on all his shoots.

A glamorous lifestyle this is not! The effort and hard work that goes into planning and executing every single shot is time consuming and demanding.

As for the exotic locations on tropical islands, all I can say is you see more of the hotels and airports that you pass through than the country you are in.