Melissa Coulier

Kids Fashion Photographer

Interview Series with Kids Fashion Photographers #1 Melissa Coulier

Kids Fashion Photographer Melissa Coulier from the USA shares her tips and insights in 11 questions with whom interested in becoming a kids fashion photographer. She recommends five easy steps to plan kids' fashion photoshoot that would contribute to brands and companies’ collections, as well as mentions the cost-benefit balance of photoshoots in the industry and the importance of photoshoots in the marketing of the company, brand, or collection.

1. When and how did photography enter your life? How did kids fashion photographer life especially begin?

As a child, I remember moments always being captured on film. I have vivid memories of my Grandmother taking photos and my uncle videotaping our daily activities when he came to visit. I had an interest in photography and was curious about the process. When I was 11 years old, my Grandmother gifted me a Nikon F11 35mm film camera. It was the only camera I used until college. I still own it today, and it might just be my most cherished possession.

After years of freelancing in Los Angeles as a photographer, I met an amazing woman, Janet Orsi at a mutual friend’s graduation party. Janet owned Orsi PR, who had Sanrio as a client. I had been focusing on climbing the celebrity photography ladder at the time, not having had much experience with children’s photography, other than my personal imagery of my niece and nephews. Orsi PR was in need of a photographer for an upcoming project with Hello Kitty. Our mutual friend, over dinner, mentioned I was a photographer and showed Janet a few images I had taken of her kids. Janet requested I come in the following week to show her and the team my portfolio. I was thrilled! We all got along and understood the end goal. Before I knew it, I was hired for the shoot.

I had so much fun working with kids, and it put things into perspective for me. I enjoyed this realm more than my previous work, so I decided to give it my all. Orsi PR then introduced me to Cherokee Global Brands where I started photographing the kids’ campaigns for Cherokee, Point Cove, and Tony Hawk. Essentially, one conversation over dinner leads me to pivot my career to Children’s fashion photography.

2. How important do you think is academic education in this profession? How did you find your first job?  

To be honest, Academia was never my strong suit. I was a poor student with learning difficulties all throughout school. I graduated high school at the bottom of my class. I knew I wanted to be a photographer. However, I also knew by staying in my small town, there would never be an opportunity to be the type of photographer I wanted to be. I wanted my work on the pages of magazines and on billboards.

At that time, I could not afford art school, but I knew of a photographer for National Geographic who attended Spokane Falls Community College. I admired his work, so I decided to take his example and set my sights on that school, too. I even had a family I could stay with within Spokane. Studying photography allowed me to have something to apply my schooling to. I finally had a reason to utilize math, communications, and history. Plus, I finally felt like I excelled at something!

While I learned a great number of technical skills in school, I didn’t gain much knowledge about the “industry.” A piece of advice: If you want to learn how to be a photographer, lighting assistant, digital tech, you can do so all by having the drive, passion, and determination. However, in order to gain practical experience, try to work for (or intern with) photographers you admire. Try reaching out to a few, to start. You never know who will respond and give you an opportunity.

I learned the industry by observing

When I moved to Los Angeles after my couple of years at the community college, I began working with a digital capture company, Industrial Color. This company was the leading digital capture company in the country at the time. I was groomed there. I worked my way up through each position at the company, gaining knowledge of each role. More importantly, I learned the industry by observing everything that was going on around me.

I paid attention to how clients hired photographers, how photographers hired their team, how talent should be treated, and how producers bring it all together. When I left Industrial Color to shoot and become a freelance photographer, I had an understanding of the industry and had many connections. However, this didn’t necessarily make the transition easy. I had to work my way up from the bottom all over again to prove I had what it took to be a photographer clients could trust with their vision.

After hundreds of emails and meetings with advertising agencies, I received a call back from one of the agencies and took the opportunity to capture their needs. My first advertising shoot did not go as planned. I was disappointed, but I took it as a learning opportunity to shoot and test shoot until I knew there wouldn’t be a chance to ever not be okay with my work, no matter the daunting circumstances of a shoot.

3. Do you consider adult fashion photography and children’s fashion photography as different from each other?  

Children’s fashion and adult fashion photography visually can appear very differently. However, if you break each other down, they both have the same goal. They both sell the product to the consumer by providing the right messaging to the consumer through imagery. A consumer shopping for children’s fashion will be attracted to an image that speaks to the buyer. For example, think about how a parent sees their child. Playful, rugged, reserved, etc.? Consumers buy based on how the image evokes emotions. When it comes to adult fashion, you can really dive into the moodiness and sex appeal creative elements. I love adult fashion photography. I am a consumer of it. However, I personally have an affinity towards children’s fashion photography because I feel it has more room for a fun, playful creative perspective.

4. How do you consider the importance of photoshoots in the marketing of the company, brand, or collection?

It takes the average individual half a second to form an opinion about a visual. The imagery that represents a company is extremely important. If you are hired by a brand, company, or personality to photograph them, it is vital to do your homework to clearly represent their message through visual branding. You are not doing your job as a photographer if you cannot uniquely capture images for your hiring client. This is what will set you aside from others. Ask questions, brainstorm, and offer your creative insight when you’re initially speaking to your client. The more you know about the brand’s message, the more successful you will be in producing imagery the consumers will gravitate towards. If consumers enjoy the imagery, they will purchase the product, thus leading to a happy client!

5. What do you think a well-planned photo shoot can contribute to brands and companies’ collections? 

It is extremely difficult to obtain a client as a photographer, as the market is beyond competitive. You want to do everything in your power to nurture that client. Being prepared is one of the greatest tools you can have to keep your client’s loyalty. It shows respect and professionalism. By doing your homework and pre-production work, you strengthen the client’s trust. Basically, your client will feel they are in good hands if you show them, they are. In order to this, I recommend five easy steps:

  • Always be available. Your client should always be able to reach you when you’re working together. This goes for pre and postproduction, too.
  • Provide a pitch deck. It’s important for the client to understand what you are visually bringing to the table.
  • Go on a location scout and take test shots. Understanding your location will allow you to anticipate potential issues. It also is important to your pre-production process.
  • Plan for EVERY unexpected situation. You never know what can happen during the shoot day, but make sure you have a back-up plan for weather complications, talent complications, crew mix-ups, etc.
  • Create a shot list. Pair the location, talent, and wardrobe prior to the shoot. Once it’s approved by the client, provide a copy of this to the entire crew on the day of the shoot. It’s important everyone is on the same page.

6. How shall be the point of view of fashion companies to collection photoshoot and a kids fashion photographer?

The fashion companies work on a seasonal calendar. Their production of sample sizes is provided months in advance before release. Most photo shoots take place with sample clothing only. The fashion companies will do two to four photoshoots based on their seasonal release. During the winter, I photograph spring and summer collections. In the spring I photograph fall and winter collections. If the apparel company wishes to have the photoshoot take place on location vs studio, we need to consider our weather elements and get creative, or travel to the appropriate climate location. Most of my photoshoots take place on location to provide a storytelling element for my clients who desire lifestyle imagery to use for advertising. We’ve had to make snow in the middle of summer, and shoot swimsuits in the middle of winter on a cold beach.

7. What do you think the cost-benefit balance of photoshoots in the industry? 

I cannot speak on the cost-benefit balance from the client's perspective. From my perspective as a photographer, advertising rates range based on the client and their needs. If you are able to gain the trust of a client to work with them each season, year after year you are in a great place. Especially if you have multiple clients like this. The returned work provides stability. I suggest making sure you are keeping their look and brand consistent with adding value to each shoot, so they value you as much as you value them.

8. Where do you think children's fashion photography heads up to? How would you evaluate the relationship of the pandemic cycle with the industry? How do you think will digitalization affect your job? 

I believe, just as any job during the pandemic, will see big shifts and changes. It is up to us as creatives to provide solutions that will benefit our clients, as well as us artists. Currently, there are not a lot of photoshoots happening, as it is still not 100 percent safe to be on a full set with children (or on a full set at all). I see many brands reaching out to parent bloggers and parents of child models requesting photoshoots by the adults at home. As someone who does not have young children, I see the possibility to work with the parents and/or reach out to the client directly and gain the trust to do a shoot safely. I could offer solutions to their concerns while also capturing the imagery they desire.

9. There are only a few photographers in Turkey who would like to become a kids fashion photographer. What would you recommend to young people who are keen to become a kids fashion photographer in Turkey? Do you have any tips to follow your belief in this area? 

Go for it! If you know kids or have kids, start practicing by working with children and documenting them as they live life. Observe their movements while at play or do activities. This will help you create authentic moments for brands. Reach out to local brands to “lend” your clothing and do a test shoot or two. Submit your images to local and national editorials. Once you have a good base of work built in your portfolio, start reaching out to worldwide brands, asking for them to lend clothing, and submit those images to worldwide editorials for exposure. When you have a solid portfolio, reach out to kid’s brands, ad agencies, and personalities for job opportunities. A few children’s magazines you can submit to Poster Child, Hooligans, Milk, and Babiekins.

10. Living or from the past, who would you like to photograph the most?

There are so many individuals that I would love to photograph. However, for this interview, I’ll narrow it down to the young Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist. It’s inspiring to witness young people making big moves driven by passion and purpose.

11. Do you have anything to say or add in particular to the sector and who are interested to become a kids fashion photographer? 

Find individuals who have been there before you. Listen to their stories, podcasts, and learn from them. One of the greatest gifts in the digital age is free knowledge and insight. Others are sharing their stories and experiences that took years. If you can learn from them and apply it to where you want to go in your most authentic way, you will be that much closer to reaching your goals.

Published Date: 3 December 2020

 

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