Note from the KeraGirls: International Creative Team Member Abraham Sprinkle takes us behind the scenes during an e-catalog shoot for Saks Fifth Avenue in September 2014.
As the holiday season approaches, we begin to see an abundance of catalogs and lookbooks in our mailbox. Catalog work is another avenue available to a session stylist. Again, if I had to compare it to my salon life, it’s like having that regular weekly client. Not a bad thing at all—but consistency is the key. I recently was honored to work with top makeup artist Justin St. Clare on a catalog for Saks Fifth Avenue. Though this job wasn’t for print but instead e-commerce, much of the same standards apply.
Catalog and e-commerce teach you discipline and precision, as it’s all about beauty. The goal is to make everything perfect so consumers want to purchase the items being shot. The clothing stylist, photographer, and hair/makeup artists concentrate on the model to make sure every wrinkle, blemish or flyaway is dealt with. The model is shot from every angle, plus in a short runway video to show how the fabric moves. This production reminds me of wedding-day appointments, when you are creating the bride’s look and you have six bridesmaids, a mother, and anyone else who decided to come hold court on the look you are creating.
A session artist must have many talents for this particular job, such as being strong at both hair and makeup. Male grooming—knowing how to clean up necklines, beards, and apply male makeup—is also something that is in demand. What is important is to stay focused, never overlooking the smallest detail.
I can remember my first time doing this—I soon realized that with every move the model makes, you must be right there to position what isn’t perfect. It’s like a dance, because you are avoiding the clothing stylist who is pinning the model at the same time. I also quickly learned that cute shoes were probably better for a day off—not for set.
All in all, I can honestly say that in my job, catalog work is one of my favorites: You spend all day with the same model, and by lunchtime you have mastered how her hair reacts.
Diary of a catalog session at Saks Fifth Avenue
I leave my apartment to catch the 6 train to Sixth Avenue. My kit is packed in a suitcase large enough to stay two weeks in Europe. I am carrying everything from clip-in extensions to baby wipes along with my hair and makeup tools. As I lug it two flights down, no one seems amused as I take up a lot of space on one of the busiest trains during the busiest hours. I continue to smile …
After leaving the train, I must go up two flights of stairs with a kit that weighs the amount of a small child throwing a tantrum. DEAD WEIGHT. I arrive at my location to be greeted by a really happy doorman; this outweighs all the frowns and scowls from my fellow subway riders. My elevator opens: I have arrived! With over 15 bays (mini photo studios) set up, a full cafeteria, and racks upon racks of clothing, the energy of the day has begun.
Breakfast. The one thing about e-commerce jobs is that breakfast and lunch are usually provided, which is a big positive. The negative is that Saks has really good food, and you usually want a nap afterward.
The lead gives you the inspiration look for your model. You then meet whom you are working with. This day, my muse is a beautiful girl from South Africa. The clothing we will be shooting is Burberry. The look or direction is “hair like she has now, but better.” Big breath …
Model has finished her protein shake and excuses herself to brush her teeth. This is perfect, as it gives me time to pull out of my suitcase products I will need for baby-fine hair (the kind that sounds like snapped violin strings when brushing).
The Keratin Complex® Extension Comb is my best friend today. I apply a bit of my homemade spray-on conditioner (a small drop of Timeless Color™ Fade-Defy Deep Conditioning Masque and warm water in a spray bottle) just to the ends. Once I get all the snarls out, I part the hair and apply Vita Volume Boosting Foam with a comb to the crown area. A quick rough dry and a few loose waves around the face, and the hair is what she had but only better. On to makeup!
Arriving at the bay, I have brought along my kit essentials:
- A cushion brush for smoothing ends.
- Flex Flow Flexible Shaping Hairspray for slight hold around the face.
- Keratin Complex black clips for back shots to keep from getting hair return (a term used when side profile is done and hair is visible from behind the chin.)
- Thermo-Shine Thermal Protectant Mist (multi use, including on hair for reflection and on legs that need a glass-like appearance).
- Powder, lip gloss, hairpins, etc.
The first shot is taken to see what isn’t working. Phew, I am in the clear!
As the day goes on, my task is to make sure that everything looks EXACTLY the same as in the first shot. This is where precision and consistency take place. The exact amount of volume, the exact amount of shine, and—well, makeup is another chapter. The slightest hue change in cheeks can be detected.
Lunch. This is the time I spend putting away what isn’t needed and cleaning brushes that are not going to be used anymore.
Round 2 has begun. Trying to make our model as fresh as she was in the morning is the biggest challenge here. Something I learned very fast in this industry is that less is best. Not overweighing the hair with an abundance of product gives you longevity throughout the day.
Kit is packed. Hugs and goodbyes are exchanged along with Instagram requests (networking is the lifeline of a session artist), and I head back to the train of upside-down smiles.
Catalogs and e-commerce session work can seem repetitive and monotonous to someone who hasn’t done it. It’s truly about discipline—kind of like a gym workout. For all stylists, whether salon or session, the most important thing to master is consistency—because repeat business is what builds our success.