JRP: Fashion Photographer Kevin Michael Reed is the focus of our attention in this JRP Blog interview. Thank you Kevin for being so kind to join us.
Kevin Michael Reed: Thank you for having me here today. I’m honored to be asked to join you.
JRP: Kevin where do you call home? How did you get your start in photography and is there any formal training in your background?
Kevin Michael Reed: The world! 🙂 I find myself traveling non-stop, so I tend to see the inside of hotel rooms more than I, actually, see home. I grew up in Connecticut, and still have family there, but home is New York City.
I think I have always had a camera in my hand. Growing up, I was a ballet dancer and I used to document my travels with my camera. After an injury, dance was no longer an option for me, so I had to find a new love. After spending some time on the accounts side at an advertising agency, I decided in 2001 that photography was really what I wanted to do.
Though, I don’t suggest it, I jumped right into photography and partnered with a small studio in Orlando for about a year. I shot everything from houses for real estate agents to head-shots for actors to glamour presents for significant others.
Realizing that I needed some direction in my photography, I moved back up to New York City and studied photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
JRP: Most photographers have a moment where it becomes apparent that this is what they should be doing. When was that moment for you and why did you choose the genre of fashion photography?
Kevin Michael Reed: When I first started attending F.I.T., I knew I wanted to shoot people, but being around some amazing student fashion designers and really living the “fashion photographer’s” life gave me a really strong passion for photographing fashion. I think my moment was more of a couple semesters at F.I.T. I love fashion, I love how fashion can really change the look of an individual. I love that fashion photography tells stories. For me, Fashion Photography is a chance to tell stories and show people how I see the world.
Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
As a fashion photographer, we have this unique ability to define how we see the world and affect how others see the world.
JRP: Name for us some photographers you feel have impacted your work and why?
Kevin Michael Reed: I think there are too many to name them all.:) I’m inspired by so many photographers both current and the old timers. Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Liebovitz, Steven Meisel … there’s too many to name. They each have these very defined visions and that’s totally inspiring for me. I’ve also gained a great amount of inspiration from going to galleries and viewing old works of art. Paintings, Sculptures, Mixed Media projects.
Most of my inspiration though really comes from just seeing the world. Seeing people and everything around me, and then in a moment, something will strike me.
JRP: Do you work with a support staff or are you an independent artist?
Kevin Michael Reed: When I first started it was just me. At this point, I have a full time support staff: a production manager, a post production manager (retoucher), and a first assistant. We have a very well received internship program at the studio, so we generally have between two and four interns each semester. I also work with anywhere from two to ten freelance assistants depending on the project that I’m working on.
Beyond that, shooting fashion is really about collaborating. Combining the visions of many different individuals into one story. So on all my shoots, I’m generally collaborating with a fashion stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, and whoever else may be necessary to make a creative idea happen.
JRP: What type of equipment would I find in your camera bag or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor and why?
Kevin Michael Reed: Most of my jobs are huge productions, so I don’t travel light. 🙂 My bag is actually many bags and cases.
My camera of choice is the PhaseOne 645 DF with a PhaseOne P40+ digital back. I have a full compliment of Schneider and Mamiya lenses for the 645DF.
As far as lighting, I prefer to use Broncolor strobe equipment, but I will use anything that is appropriate for the project. My favorite light modifier is the Broncolor Flooter, it creates this amazing light that replicates the look of the old fresnel lights. I also own a bunch of F.J. Wescott modifiers with speedrings for Broncolor, Profoto and Speedotron. My preferred reflectors are California Sunbounce.
JRP: Would you describe your digital work-flow and the software you use?
Kevin Michael Reed: We could probably do an entire interview on our workflow, but I’ll give you the “short story”.
I shoot tethered to a Mac Pro (or Mac Book Pro) about 99% of the time. We use CaptureOne Pro. This allows my client, my team and myself to see the images immediately as we’re shooting. In the studio, we have the capture system connected to a 23” display and a 42” screen so clients can view the images large. On location we usually have two 23” displays. It saves a lot of time.
As we’re shooting, we’re also saving our files to two other drives via a Mirrored RAID, so our images are instantly backed up. At the end of the day, one of the drives is put in safe keeping and the other is used to do our initial edit. If we’re away from the studio, the drives are held by separate people and then when we return to the studio, one goes off site and the other is used for the initial edit and to copy the files to our image server.
We copy all the raw files to our image server at the studio (which itself is a RAID 6 system, and also backs up every night via a high speed connection to a server on the other side of the country). Those capture drives are then put to sleep and only spun up a couple times a year, or god forbid if we lose our image server.
Our edit is done with CaptureOne Pro. We do initial color correction in CaptureOne Pro and then process out our raw files to 16-Bit, Pro Photo RGB Tiff files for retouching. The images stay on our Image Server at the studio. At this point, we upload the files to our special proofing & markup system where I can markup the images and make notes for my retoucher from anywhere. Clients can also view the markups online and make suggestions/corrections via this system throughout the entire retouching phase.
On color critical jobs, we also have the ability to print G7 and SWOP certified proofs in house.
After retouching is completed, Flattened Full Resolution TIFF finals are are stored on our Archive Server (they still reside on our image server in both the raw format, a Pre-Retouch TIFF, a retouched, layered PSD and the final file). All in all, we have about 5 copies of all of our images stored in different places.
JRP: Do you personally print your images?
Kevin Michael Reed: Most of my jobs are going to off-set press for catalogs or magazine publication.
With many of our larger clients, we are very involved in the coordination with the print house and even go to the print house during the print run to ensure color accuracy and quality. We will generally also be responsible for sending “Contract Proofs” to the print house to which they are required to match color.
We also have a Canon and Epson large format printer in-house that we do a lot of large format printing for our clients with. I am always involved in that process.
JRP: How do you keep productive and retain your creative edge under the current economic conditions?
Kevin Michael Reed: A photographer is usually the captain of his ship, whether it’s a small one man shop or a large studio. I compare our job to that of a CEO. We are the CEO of our little company, but we also have to be the creative force behind the company. I have been very fortunate that my company has not only survived through the last couple years, in fact we’ve grown.
My secret is Compartmentalization. A long word for a really simple philosophy … Only think about what you need to when you need to. If you sit there and think about the economy all the time, you will get depressed.
David Allen has a work productivity system called “Getting Things Done”. The basis of his system comes from a martial arts technique called “Mind Like Water”. Simply, only react to what you have to with the right amount of force when you have to, just like water. I suggest your readers look into the David Allen “Getting Things Done” productivity system, it has kept me on track when I have one hundred projects in motion.
By keeping on task and separating those two important parts of my business, the business from the creative, I feel like I’ve been able to successfully move through the last couple years.
One other secret. See the world. Get out there. Explore. I said it earlier, I get my inspiration from the world around me. Whether it’s a long walk on a beach, or a trip across the country. Just go out and explore! It helps clear your mind and keep your mind thinking creatively.
JRP: Are there any memorable images or shoots you could share with us? What made that image or shoot special?
Kevin Michael Reed: Every shoot is memorable for different reasons. Usually it’s the people, or the place, or just the feeling you get while shooting.
JRP: Kevin what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Kevin Michael Reed: I have been so fortunate to have had some amazing mentors in my life, I’m not sure what the best advice was. I think the most important advice was to just keep shooting.
JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?
Kevin Michael Reed: My advice is two part: One. When you’re first starting out, spend your money on learning your craft and marketing. Don’t worry about the gear; don’t worry about the nice studio. Keep it simple.
Two. Time for a bunch of cliché’s. You can’t win, if you don’t fail. As Nike says, “Just Do It”.
JRP: Thank you Kevin for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a real pleasure.
Kevin Michael Reed: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today!
JRP: To view more of Kevin Michael Reed’s photography please follow these links:
www.KevinMichaelReed.com – my site
www.ExposingFashion.com – my blog