Sr. Art Director Limor Garfinkle of SMA NYC Chats with Fashion Photographer Lindsay Adler

February 3, 2015

By Limor Garfinkle

© Lindsay Adler

Creative hair photography showcasing the talents of stylists.

Lindsay Adler, a fashion photographer based in NYC, is well known for her avant-garde fashion editorials and portrait work. Lindsay has the unique ability to formulate a very specific vision, which she meticulously plans out, then follows through to completion. That determination is backed by a vast knowledge of her craft. “I enjoy the challenge of bringing inspiration to life with my own creative flair, and wrangling a team to help bring many talents together to create work that’s both editorial and commercial,” Lindsay said.

While she began as a portrait photographer in upstate New York, for the last five years Lindsay has been based in New York City building her name, her brand and her experience in the field of fashion photography.

I was introduced to Lindsay’s work while watching a class she was teaching on Creative Live and have been a fan ever since. So when I got to meet her in person at the last Photo Expo in NYC where she was giving a talk about her work, I was delighted to find she was that same humble, lovable, bubbly young woman I had come to know through her online classes. When she told me about her plan to shoot hair, I knew I had to see her in action. And so very generously, Lindsay invited me to watch her work. I got to shoot some stills of Lindsay on set, and after the shoot was done, she answered these questions.

Limor: What made you want to shoot hair?

Lindsay: In the spring of last year one of my hair stylists approached me with the desire to create an image that really showcased his talents. While we often produce more editorial, he wanted to create a powerful hair image that had commercial appeal and could wow potential hair brands. We exchanged a few emails filled with inspiration images, and the result of this shoot was a photograph that has received a lot of attention in my portfolio. The model appears like Rapunzel, with endlessly long, perfect strands of blonde hair that surreally envelop her body. I had never really thought to pursue hair and beauty photography before, but I was enchanted by this image. I could explore my creativity, even venture into the surreal, while still creating images with a greater mass-appeal.

Months went by and I hadn’t shot more hair images, but that image – again and again –
was featured in magazines for interviews, articles and more. Throughout the year I kept receiving feedback about how remarkable this image was, and then finally it hit me. Why not shoot hair? I can certainly tap into this market. Why wait to slowly build up a portfolio and let opportunities pass me by? Instead I would plan several full day shoots to get me started on the right path, building a new portfolio specifically dedicated to this work.

In November I planned three hair themed-shoots. I wanted to create a wide range of images – some upbeat and commercial, others dark and surreal. I wanted to feature blondes, brunettes, and redheads. Typically a unique portfolio requires approximately 10-12 images to appear as a full body of work. I would use these three shoots (with several models) to build the foundation of this successful new portfolio.

© Lindsay Adler

Limor: Any advice for photographers who would like to shoot hair?

: Shooting successful hair images, is all about pulling together the right team. If one member is weak, the image will fall flat. The model choice and hairstylist need to be superb and will carry the success of the shoot. A makeup artist must be able to compliment the model’s features and the stylistic feel of both the hair and lighting.

Over the years I have built my own studio in New York, gathered my contacts, and developed relationships with some incredible artists that have helped me produce my creative vision.

I have a small core team that I work with regularly including hairstylists, makeup artists, and wardrobe stylists. We speak a similar visual language and are able to use each of our strengths to work together and create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is the blessing of working with many other talented and visionary individuals.

Limor: Can you describe what your process is like?

Lindsay: To build this portfolio, I started by selecting a series of inspiration images with hairstyles that fit my vision, and sent mood boards to my hairstylist to see which looks he felt he could successfully achieve, and what looks were current to the market. Next, I began casting with several agencies to find models that had beautiful hair, as well as facial features that fit the mood of the shoot.

After building mood boards to help summarize the vision of the shoot, my hairstylist Johnny Gonzalez would begin to gather the necessary tools and extensions required for the look. Gonzalez, also a makeup artist, was great to work with on this project as he has the ability to create makeup looks that complimented the vision of the shoot without overpowering it. The makeup should help enhance the mood without becoming the focus of the image.

On the day of the shoot, I would craft a lighting setup based upon my general idea of the final image, but would wait until the model was sitting on my set before I really started to refine the lighting. Photographing hair is all about precision – from the hairstylist, to precision in the lighting, and finally precision from the retouching artist.

© Limor Garfinkle/ Behind the Scenes with Lindsay Adler.

Limor: Is there a difference in lighting hair vs. other fashion shoots?

Lindsay: In many of the hair images I found myself using far more equipment than I had ever utilized – a light for the face, a light for the shine on the hair, a fill light, two rim-lights, etc. I started to learn so much more about my craft as I controlled each light to carefully place a highlight or draw the attention of the eye. During the entire shoot my hairstylist stood just inches out of frame, ready to correct any stray hairs.

I began to be drawn to grids that allowed me to carefully place highlights to shape the face, while using low-powered soft-boxes to kick a shine onto the hair without overpowering the mood of the image. It was the lighting that helped transform the beauty that stepped in front of my lens into that final work of art and perfection. To be honest, I could feel myself bouncing with joy as I would take an image and then see the luscious perfection on the back of my camera. How exhilarating it is to bring your fantasy to life and capture it to share with others!

© Lindsay Adler

Limor: You are also known for your retouching knowledge. What can you share with us about retouching hair

: Of course, some of the magic in my more surreal images is the retouching. Retouching is key in my hair campaigns, even if just to enhance the sheen of the hair or to create full body, or clean up cross hairs in the image.

I have some skill in retouching hair – burning and dodging to make the hair have an impossible shine and wave to it. Yet there are other retouching artists that really specialize in this as an art, and I sought out talented specialists to take my work to the next level.

I actually learned a great deal about retouching while collaborating with one artist in particular. Often I would take separate shots of the hair (often extensions) at different angles, and focus on perfecting the hair. These would act as pieces that we could infuse into the final image in Photoshop to increase volume and perfect the style. This retouching artist, Rafael Alexander, helped me create many of the impossibly perfect looks that appear in this final hair portfolio.

© Lindsay Adler

Limor: What’s next on your horizon?

Lindsay: While I certainly am not done creating my hair portfolio, I’ve created a solid series of images that I am proud of and am ready to begin pitching my work to advertising agencies, hair companies and photographic creative agencies. When I find something I’m passionate about, I don’t hope for the opportunities to come to me. I don’t hope someone asks me to shoot hair. I shoot it, and I go after them!

See more of Lindsay Adler’s hair gallery here.

Limor Garfinkle is a Senior Art Director and in-housephotographer for the ad agency SMANYC. She also runs a bustling freelance photography business.