What You Don't See: An Interview with Jarrod Anderson on his Approach to a Photoshoot

Written by: Laurel Newnham

Photography: Darren Agboh

Interviewer: Darren Agboh

May 5th, 2020

Captured Nouns went behind the scenes with Jarrod Anderson, a New York-based commercial photographer, during a studio shoot for one of his personal projects. We were able to learn his creative process when planning and shooting a studio photography project, what he believes it takes to accomplish a successful photoshoot, and some of the solutions to the barriers that he faces when putting together a photography campaign. 

A good photoshoot shoot can be costly and time consuming, as the all of the logistics of the photoshoot have to be coordinated and financed. This interview will shed light on the many components that are required to create the perfect image, since people often see the final product of a photo shoot without realizing what goes into it. 

Project Title: GENESIS

Photographer: Jarrod Anderson

Models: Eugena Washington + CJ Hart

Makeup Artist: Hope Campbell

Stylist: Rebecca O’Rourke

As a commercial fashion photographer in NYC, you have shot a lot of different campaigns for brands including Nike, Jordan Brand, Kenneth Cole and others. Do you do studio shoots often?

Not really, I mainly shoot outdoors. This year has been the most I’ve done studio work. It’s cool; I’m starting to grow into it, but it’s not my strong day of shooting.

I know that shooting outdoors is a whole different process compared to shooting in the studio. What is the approach you bring to your studio work?

I just try to go in with a mindset of what I want the lighting to look like. Where I want the shadows to hit the face and add more drama to the photo. So, I’m just trying to go in with how I want the photo to feel. A lot of my photos are saturated and gritty; I try to give a Polaroid feel. So, I’ll figure out what kind of lighting I can set up so I can have an authentic look and feel to the photos.

I remember when we were shooting, you showed me the mood board and what you were envisioning for the studio shoot in terms of concepts and lighting. How do you get to that point?

I think about all the pieces that I need. A lot of times, I just start off with reference photos. I’ll throw colors together, pieces [of clothing] … I work with my [clothing] stylist Rebecca, so I’ll send her an idea. It might be a shirt from one [brand] on one model, or a blouse on another model; stuff like that. We just go through and just select everything we want. We work our way down from what kind of props we want and need, what kind of makeup we want to go with, how we want the hair to look. And if we want to do extra stuff, we base it off of the original reference photos that we started with.

Logistically, how much effort gets put into actualizing that vision in the studio; from the mood board to the final photos?

Each studio shoot is coordinated depending on what the team looks like. Sometimes it’ll be just a stylist and the model, so the model does her own hair and makeup. Sometimes we have a full team where [we’ll have] a stylist, a makeup artist or a hair [dresser], an assistant and props. It’s really just getting everybody on the same page. That’s why we go bit by bit, so everybody kind of sees what their role is on the project and we can help each other out if someone sees something missing that could make the project better overall. Then we go from there.

What are some of the barriers you face when actualizing that vision?

Well, for me personally, I feel like doing actual management takes a lot of time, but thankfully, Rebecca (she’s awesome!) helps me organize everything and handles all of the coordination that goes into the shoot. I have a lot on my plate right now and being able to get everybody on the same page takes time and energy. Once I give her an idea and make the mood board, Rebecca handles all the details and brings everything together. So, management and making sure that everybody has an idea of what has to be executed in one window is the main hassle that I have at this time. I’m figuring out workarounds always to make that process easier. Right now, Rebecca is my lifeline.

What do you think common barriers might be for emerging and mid-career photographers trying to create a studio shoot? What might be similar struggles creatives face when putting something like this together? 

I mean, it could be anything from financing to maybe building a team. Luckily, I live in New York City, so it’s a bunch of creatives, but not everyone has that accessibility to models or stylists or people willing to collaborate. Some people live in smaller cities where there isn’t much creative choice. So, that’s one thing: the accessibility.

Finances, again. Rebecca spent almost $4,000 on clothing and models, and that’s not including the studio, food, transportation, props and all those supplies we needed to buy. So, financing and being able to invest in your craft is something that probably hinders a lot of people. Thankfully, I’m able to put the money that I get from my regular clients and campaigns back into funding my own stuff to keep the ball moving.

When it comes to some of these barriers, what do you think some solutions for photographers might be?

I mean, just try to lock it with people early, locking in with your peers. A lot of people are often trying to reach out to people that aren’t necessarily above them, but I feel like it’s easier to build across than it is [to build] above. So, reach out to people on the same wavelength as you and with the same game plan and lock in. Rebecca and I have been shooting for like a year now and I’ve known her for years. But we really locked in within the past year and we’ve probably done eight or nine shoots since. In some ways, you can kind of grow and learn how to communicate together, you know how to work with each other. So, building your team early, building up a base, and sticking with your base I feel like is something that could help build your body of work.

Cool, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to share your process with us.

Jarrod Anderson is a New York-based commercial photographer, specializing in portrait and fashion photography. He has shot many successful photography campaigns for major brands like Nike, Jordan Brand, Kenneth Cole Footlocker, and more. Understanding the struggles that many photographers face, Anderson has created online resources for emerging photographers, such as how to choose a camera, plan a photoshoot, and get paid for photography.

Check out Anderson’s work and resources for photographers here.