Joseph N. Tran


“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” -John Lennon

Morgan sitting pretty.


When going from start to finish, for story building, I like to build up on the presentation. Every shot you layout, should build up to the next. Each shot should have its own mood and flavor, but it should flow as a whole.

Let’s focus on these three shots of Elicia above. From a technical standpoint, the first two shots were as is, cropped a bit tighter in post, but otherwise straight from camera. The last image I played around with and did some post processing to the colors, shadows, and highlights, to give it a bit more mood. I left skin textures and beauty marks intact. Lighting is natural window light, with a single reflector hung from a stand, about five feet away on Elicia’s right, at about her eight o’clock. 

I chose the first shot since it was more of an unorthodox pose. I believe that there’s a certain mystery and sensuality to the shot conveyed by the pose, the wardrobe (or lack thereof), and Elicia’s expression. A side note that needs to be be mentioned; I’m strictly shooting for for myself and Elicia here, presenting her through my vision. If you’re shooting for an editorial, or if it’s a commercial shoot, you’ll definitely want to focus on your client’s expectations. We’ll save that chatter for another post. Back to our image, eye contact hasn’t been established with the audience. I wanted this shot to convey the feeling of Elicia being alone, she’s having a moment to herself. This is where I want to build a bridge to the next shot.

When moving on with the selection, I could go in several different directions. I could immediately draw the audience’s attention to Elicia’s face by choosing a tight head shot. Going in close would be extremely bold, think surprising, but that would be quite a bit jarring for the example story here. I wanted this short layout to have a softness about it. I’ll save the tight shot, and instead go wider. I’m not bringing in the audience, but distancing them now, not completely though. I have given them eye contact, there’s an identity with the model, connection has been established. Elicia realizes that there are others in her presence. This shot gives Elicia room to breath. She might appear more reserved here, soft, but stoic, compared to the first shot.

In the final shot presented, I’ve brought Elicia in tighter. I’ve chosen to go with a more relaxed, but bold pose, and an overall confident expression. Recall the first shot where we first caught a glimpse of Elicia, having a moment to herself. She was at ease, the feeling that there is no one watching. The second shot established her with the audience. I drew her back, she appeared pensive, should she trust the audience? The third and final shot here displays the acceptance and trust. She has drawn closer and is at ease, but at the same time displays her strength. I adjusted colors, shadows, and highlights as an example of what you can do with the whole set to give it more of a mood. I didn’t do it here, but I usually try to keep those tones consistent throughout a full story set. 

I thought this would be an interesting insight into how I set things up, and lay things out for myself. These are the little stories I tell myself when I’m going through this process, from shooting to editing, and what kind of overall story I want to present for whoever I’m shooting. In the example here, I didn’t want to simply present Elicia’s sensuality and beauty, but I also wanted to present a true human aspect, an intimate moment, and a connection that others could find to be relatable. Often times in fashion, shots are so cold and aloof. The emotional draw becomes absent for the average audience, slight digress, but I think that this would be a good topic for another post down the road. Anyways, thanks for checking out this post if you’ve made it this far. If you found this post useful, let me know. I always love hearing from folks.


A weakness in itself, can become a strength. Sharing your weakness with others will open you up to vulnerabilities, but there is strength in doing this.

Sai relaxing.


Going beyond the illusion of what we see, and how it’s perceived, is often one of the major points of developing our own vision. 

In the context of shooting, take notice of your model’s strengths and weaknesses. Figure out how versatile they can be, and don’t be afraid to share those ideas with them. It takes time and practice, but you can develop a better eye for what will work for any occasion. 

The versatility of Tay.

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