I had the absolute honour of assisting Michael Chan yesterday for a 14 hour long shoot! Michael is a fashion, beauty and editorial photographer in Vancouver and he needed an extra set of hands to set up, take down and transport equipment both in the studio and for the on site location. The size of the shoot was moderate, as we had a hair, make-up and clothing stylist team from Blanche Macdonald (Vancouver fashion/beauty school) and two models being shot separately and together. Bohemian and glam rock were the focus and thanks to the talented students, our models Lien and Kim plus Michael’s direction, we got everything we needed.
My personal experience being a PA was a first in every respect, although I’d watched shows, read books and practiced the sheer basics of point and shoot photography, I really had no idea what was incorporated behind setting up a photo shoot both in the studio and at an on site location. Fresh, ready and eager to learn from Michael, I met him at his studio on Granville Street at 7AM and within the first two hours I’d learnt all about stands, lights, power boxes, soft boxes, beauty dishes, filters, back drops, reflectors, basic SLR skills, studio etiquette and more. The first part of the day was on site at Third Beach in Vancouver’s internationally recognized Stanley Park. Michael drove me to the location and left me with all the equipment while he returned to pick up the other 4 and once he came back, things got rolling.
On site at Third Beach in Stanley Park
(The theme and look for on site was bohemian, clothing was pulled from H&M)
Nothing made me more energized and motivated then learning how to master how to use a reflector and angle the sun onto Kim’s face for Michael’s perfect shot. I’ll admit, it took about five minutes to understand the dynamics, but after blinding Kim I realized I had found the light! I had immense amounts of FUN learning how to reflect light, I had to be constantly focused on making sure the shadows were non-existent and that Kim’s skin was flawless. After shooting on the beach, we moved up onto the grassy hill with several trees where we captured Kim’s second look. The last location was in the forest further up and afterwards it was time to head back to the studio for round two.
Style team from Blanche Macdonald works their magic on Kim
Michael drove the girls back while I ate my lunch and packed everything up in time for him to return and drive me back also. Back at the studio, our second model, Lien, joined and was already in hair and make up. Glam rock was our next theme. After setting up everything like earlier in the morning with the addition of bi-folds, lowering the back drop, light metering and Michael taking a few exposure test shots with me as the subject, things were all ready to go! One of the most rewarding parts of the photo shoot was learning how COMPLEX it is to properly light the room, direct models and observing the roles of hair, make-up and wardrobe stylists. Understanding how there may be ‘guidelines or principles’ for what’s ‘proper or correct’ isn’t always actually the case when it comes to fashion; it’s about reinventing the ordinary into the unthought of and thinking unconventionally.
Having the luxury of sitting behind the computer and reviewing shot after shot Michael snapped was like having a non stop adrenaline rush. I also had to privilege to contribute my feedback and direction to Lien, Kim and Michael about what was and wasn’t working, which allowed me to practice how to articulate my own visions. After several looks with Lien and Kim both separated and together, we wrapped up and took everything down and finished by 8:30 PM! Was it really 14 hours we spent on that shoot… it felt like at least half that in my mind!
Michael was VERY, very genuine, sincere and thoughtful with me and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher and instructor. His humour, positive attitude, attention to detail and innate passion for the art of fashion and photography is hard not to feel moved by. Having the chance to connect with Christine (clothing stylist), Maggie (hair stylist) and Dana (make-up artist) was a treat, as I learnt what goes into their careers and being students in training. Lien and Kim… there wouldn’t be a subject to photograph with them, Lien especially wanted me to make sure she was performing in her shoots and delivering what Michael desired, so thank you for the insight and guidance! Kim has a bright future ahead of herself and I look forward to seeing her in the fashion realm wherever life takes her!
This was only the gist of what happened yesterday with my FIRST experience as a PA, however I truly felt like a natural in every sense of the word and just want to do it all over again instantly. Everything around my life was paused while I was in his studio and working hard at getting the shot as perfect as possible. Michael informed before I left that he’d contact me in the future when more moderate or MAJOR shoots come up! I look forward to them and can’t wait to learn, build confidence, skills, personal aesthetic, direct models and master lighting techniques.
PLEASE visit Michael’s website to see his work, he will be redeveloping it in the near future:http://www.michaelphotography.ca/
Yours Queerly, Hiiro Prince