“Connecting with…. “ a series of industry specific interviews.
Name: Siobhan Hennessy
Picture Library: Camera Press
Position: Deputy Lifestyle Editor
Explain your job?
As deputy lifestyle editor my job involves editing ( mainly fashion and interiors), picture research for UK media ( interiors / beauty / lifestyle / food) and art-directing our own very successful lifestyle shoots.
How did you get the job?
I moved to London in 2006 and was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. When I first arrived, I did voluntary work at BAPLA for a few weeks so made some contacts through that. I actually applied for a job as a captioner at Camera Press but the Lifestyle Editor spotted my CV and contacted me directly for an interview as her previous deputy was leaving after 15 years.
What were you doing before that?
After graduating from Dublin Institute of Technology (Photography) I worked as a full-time assistant and stylist to an interiors photographer and helped manage her interiors collection. I left Ireland in 2001 and spent time teaching English in China and Malaysia, then worked as an interiors photographer in Montreal, Canada for two years.
How many people work in the lifestyle department with you?
There are four of us so it’s always very busy.
Who’s your boss?
Lesley Winston, who is the Lifestyle editor at Camera Press.
Which elements of a commissioned shoot do you look after?
I am responsible for the production of the shoot, the art-direction and the final editing of images.
How do you prepare the brief for a commission shoot?
Lesley gives me the initial brief and we discuss all aspects of it together. As she mainly deals with women’s lifestyle material and with over 30 years experience, she is most aware of what images are needed both in the UK and overseas markets.
How do you choose a photographer to fit the brief?
We work with our two staff photographers, but also with freelance photographers – generally those with a specialist area such as high-end beauty.
How do you continuously fuel your inspiration for fresh and new photography?
I have always been creative so I can find inspiration in almost anything. Camera Press receives new images on a daily basis from some of the world’s best photographers – it’s impossible not to be inspired by that.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just started A Hero of our Time by Mikhail Lermontov which a friend recommended. I’ve been going through a Russian literature phase recently!
What magazines do you subscribe to?
We have access to lots of magazines at work so I don’t subscribe to any. It depends on my mood but I might occasionally buy Vogue for photographic inspiration or Grazia for an instant hit! For some reason, I always buy the Economist at airports.
Which websites do you regularly visit?
I like www.style.com for fashion reference. I also like having access to lots of different news sites though mainly I visit BBC news, Irish Independent and New York Times.
Do you commission through a regular stable of photographers or do you consider new photographers every shoot?
We have regular contributors including our two staff photographers and use freelancers too.
How often are you shooting new material?
We try to do one lifestyle shoot per month.
How long do you allow for preparation and completion of a studio shoot?
It probably takes about a week in total.
Explain how you prepare for a shoot.
Lesley gives me the brief and we discuss the overall look we want, the type of model required and the location etc. I will put together some cuttings and work out a running order. We try to get as many different shots as possible so it’s a tightly-run ship. We then cast models, buy props for the shoot, research locations and find assistants and hair & make-up artists.
Which studio(s) do you use?
It depends on the brief and the type of lighting we’re using. We recently used a great studio in Clapham called Plough Studios. As most of our shoots are very lifestyle-based, we often use house locations. We tend to go for light and bright interiors, to keep the overall look modern and fresh.
What percentage of shoots are on location?
All of our shoots take place at various locations in London.
Do you work directly with magazines or is everything shot on spec?
We shoot on spec and upload the images to our new Picturemaxx database where our clients can view them. The images are also sent via ftp to our global network of overseas agents, who market and sell the images in their territories.
What is your best shoot to date and why?
It’s very hard to choose because we’ve had so many great ones – but I will choose this one which was shot by our staff photographer Tristan Gregory. One of the images (pictured) featured in the Sunday Times Style magazine as a double page spread which we were very proud of, as it was quite spontaneous and took all of five minutes at the very end of the shoot!
What have you just finished shooting?
Our last shoot was fitness-themed so we shot exercise sequences in a studio, along with some fitness lifestyle images, then went to the park for some outdoor shots. We had a great team so the whole day ran very smoothly and we got some fantastic images (below).
Who is the most important person at a shoot?
I think everyone’s role is important, but it makes my job a lot easier when the photographer knows how to get the best from the model, communicates well and sticks to the brief as much as possible.
What is the most stressful element to a location shoot?
Because of the long list of images we shoot, while I am working on one shot I’m also planning the next one in my head, so I am constantly multi-tasking. It is sometimes just a matter of getting into a rhythm, but there are always unforeseen problems to deal with.
How long is a ‘typical’ shoot day in a studio? When do you start and wrap-up?
Our shoots run from 9am to 5pm. After a quick discussion of the brief, we get to work on the model’s hair and make-up which can take an hour or two. While that’s happening, the lights are being set up and the clothes are being ironed and edited. The shoot gets going around 11am and we get as much as possible done before lunch. Usually, we will try a different lighting set-up after lunch and a different look for the model and continue to vary it slightly for the rest of the day. No two shoots are ever the same but that’s the general procedure.
Any nightmare moments?
The ring-flash exploded once. I think the photographer was a little trigger-happy!
What one thing do you take to every shoot?
A sense of humour.
Do you edit some of the shoot while on location or wait to do the whole lot back at the office?
No, our shoots are quite full-on so there’s no time for editing on the day. It’s generally done in the days that follow.
How would a photographer get a portfolio in front of you?
We don’t have much time for portfolio viewing but they could send us a link to their web site and if the images are right for us, we will contact them.
What are you doing when you are not thinking about lifestyle photography?
Outside of work, I enjoy lots of different things. I love the great outdoors and discovering new places. Going for long walks or cycling in the countryside, playing tennis, meeting new people etc. I enjoy travelling to interesting countries with my camera in tow.
When did you last pick up a camera?
I regularly contribute images to Camera Press myself – mostly travel and interiors – and love taking pictures on social occasions.
Pub or Cinema?
I don’t like to play to stereotypes….
Rolls Royce or original Mini?
I don’t get excited about cars but if I had to choose one, it would be the Mini.
Ideal Sunday afternoon?
Breakfast and papers in bed, tennis with friends then a long, leisurely lunch! Or a spontaneous train trip to somewhere I haven’t been before.
Finally, what one piece of advise would you give to someone wanting to get into the business?
I think a lot of people starting out have too much pride about things – I have always been very happy to sweep the floors or make the coffee just to get a foot in the door. When I started out in photography, I was getting paid very little so I worked weekends to supplement my income. In that first job, I also learnt not to say no – if the photographer wanted an overhead wire removed it was my job to find a way, no matter how difficult the task seemed!
Siobhan can be reached at Camera Press via her email: email@example.com
Siobhan is a Photo Archive News subscriber
Thanks to our interview sponsor: