Crafting Editorial Portraits with Jai Mayhew

Crafting Editorial Portraits with Jai Mayhew

Crafting Editorial Portraits with Jai Mayhew 

An editorial portrait is one that tells a story. The story of who your client is yes, but also the narrative that you’re creating about her. Are you going to portray your client as sensual? As a queen? Is she soft and romantic or strong and edgy? Your lighting, color palette, styling and camera angle – all of it works together to tell your story. Today I want to focus on how I use lighting and styling to craft editorial portraits.

These images we’ll be reviewing were shot in March for my Ad Campaign video shoot.

While storyboarding the shoot, I knew two things – that I wanted to show variety in my concepts, and that I was going to feature several of the backdrops from my new Luxe Collection for Intuition Backdrops (coming Summer 2020). I’m very excited to be previewing the line for you now!

I have spent most of my career shooting on expensive, hand painted canvas backdrops. I love and value them highly, but I also know that investing that heavily in backdrops can limit the number, colors and variety you’re able to offer your clients. And when you’re shooting in studio, your backdrop is your location, it sets the tone of your work. It matters greatly that you are able to change them out for different flavors and I want you to have an incredible and versatile line available to you.

The Jai Mayhew Luxe Collection will feature 8 backdrops that I have designed for you to replicate the high end, hand painted look that you and your clients will love! 


KLIMT BACKDROP

So let’s dive into the video shoot! First up, the KLIMT backdrop. This burnished gold piece is subtlety shaded and lightly distressed for a look that is both timeless and modern. When I’m shooting against such a bold color, I frequently like to dress my subject to match the tone. For this set, I purchased a gold satin gown that coordinated perfectly, and as my subject was blonde, this gave me a beautiful monotone color pallet to build upon. This created a lovely image, but I wanted to further elevate the set by adding an editorial and storytelling element. I found this stunning gold headpiece from an artisan in Russia (that read as beautifully Old World). It was beautiful but unusual which added visual interest while portraying this beautiful mother as a Madonna like figure. And that became the story.

For the lighting I used a strobe in a medium Softlighter feathered several feet in front of my subject. Feathered means the light wasn’t aimed directly at the subject, but instead the light passed in front of her with only the edges of it illuminating the scene. This created soft but directional light that enhanced the painterly feel of the golden tones and headdress. Here’s a visual breakdown of the lighting I used for this set.


SALZBURG BACKDROP

The second backdrop I used from my collection was the SALZBURG drop. I created this piece to feature a heavy, painterly texture, which adds visual impact when shot in color and a beautiful contrast in black and white. I wanted this set to feel more grunge and sensual, so I asked my subject to bring a black teddy and then I draped this faux fur coat around her (I love layers! They help to build the story).

I didn’t want soft lighting on this set, I wanted a strong light that would play up both her angles and the texture in the backdrop. To do this I again used one strobe, but this time with a deep dish octa and placed it over my camera and angled down, once again using the edge lighting to illuminate her.

The storytelling aspect of this set became how she interacted with the coat and later on the netting we placed around her eyes. Even though I wanted to create a sensual set, I didn’t want it to be simply a lingerie shoot. I wanted more of a fashion spin to it. Adding those layers, though they’re subtle, elevates the work and creates a more complex final image.

Here’s a breakdown of the lighting for this set:

 

I hope this gave you some ideas as to how you could add editorial elements to your own work and I would truly love to see what you come up with! Please tag me on Instagram (jaimayhew) if you’d like to share your creations. And enter your email address below to be notified when my LUXE LINE of backdrops is released this summer!

Happy storytelling. xx

Jai

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Jai is a portrait & fashion photographer based in St. Louis. Growing up in Germany, her love of beauty was molded first by Old World art and classic Hollywood films, then later by the pages of Vogue. Her fashion work has been published internationally and her portrait work has been featured in galleries and commissioned by public figures. When she isn’t in the studio, you can find Jai with her beautiful family, in the gym, or mixing an especially dirty martini.


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