The Editorial Creative Process – A Barbie Styled Shoot

Ideas generally don’t come from one place and its not often you can trace them back to their origins, for this ponytails and barbie styled shoot I have the creative trail. So I thought I would talk to you about how I arrived at the finished concept.

We’ve collaborated with inspired living magazine on the Au Courant feature for a long time. The premise is simple, feature one trend and make it approachable to the reader.

Show off trending ponytail styles.

A few inspiration photos were shared and we started talking. I love the challenge of concept illustration. I’m not a huge fan of typical fashion photography, you know – pretty people, pretty places, what I call the “swimsuit sex face”…. Don’t get me wrong there are all kinds of fashion photographers out there that nail this stuff and I think many of them are quite talented! But I like the slightly off-beat creating something a little strange, with its own personality. I want people to flip through magazine pages and stop on my photographs because, well they’re not quite sure why, they just had to take another look.

So presented with ” I want photos of ponytails” as well as – “oh, and we are avoiding budget for models”, I thought… GREAT!

Creating Ponytail Styled Magic With Borrowed Ideas

Good artists copy; great artists steal. – Pablo Picasso

As creatives we see things, absorb them and store them away creating a library of influences.

Ponytails from Instagram

Often with a collaborative photo shoot there will be lots of ideas and images shared back and forth. This helps the photographer and creative director build a shared vision (or at least it makes us all feel good). For the ponytail shoot my  Influence Number 1 was an image shared with me as part of that process. This image is so uniform looking and I think they look like barbies.

wedding photography editing process | ponytails from instagram


My mind took off from there. Barbies…hmmmm. We don’t necessarily want to use budget on models..s hmmmm. Why can’t we use Barbies hair for these? Easy to move, manipulate, no swimsuit sex face and it’s a little ironic. Ironic!

Enter Influence Number 2

I had recently been enjoying the Instagram account of socialitybarbie. You may know the one, cleverly posed barbie partnered with snarky commentary about what have become our social media norms. I love it. If you haven’t already, take a quick peek.

Images from socalitybarbie

Getting coffee photograph | sociality barbie & coffee bed instagram Ice cream photograph | salt and straw socilaity barbie from instagram wedding Photographers work  | tin box weddings |shot of feet and coffee with magazine sociality barbie on instagram fun photographer | vivian kvam | white wall minimalist sociality barbie on instagram


Influence #3.

This particular feature in Inspired Living Omaha Magazine is tasked with centering around things that are current. Interestingly this all married together perfectly in my mind as Mattel who makes Barbie had just released Barbie with different body types.  Introducing the Curvy, Tall, Petite and “real” looking Barbie. Perfect. The concept was born.

Next came the challenges.

1- Could we style Barbie hair?

2- Who could style Barbies hair?

3- What kind of setting would Barbie be in?

4- Could we really pull the concept off photographically in terms of lighting and equipment?

This is the fun part of all creative processes. Figuring out how to pull off some “hair brained”, pardon the pun, idea.

We talked to a few hair stylists but no one was interested. Then low and behold I found out my assistant at the time adores dolls, was a hair designer and get this…has styled doll hair!  She stepped in and we quickly found the right Barbies, selecting them based on the ponytail styles we were creating. She set to work creating prototypes so we could decide what we liked and what would photograph well.

To keep in the spirit of the Socality Barbie style I wanted to create flat 1 point perspective spaces. This image, in particular, was a heavy influence. I liked that it looks contrived. It would be different, not your typical airbrushed to perfection fashion shoot.

tinbox weddings |  editorial photography process


More Clever Ideas 

I like cleverly hidden cameos. Why not sure Inspired Living Omaha’s past shoots to create the backdrops for this Barbie styled shoot and her stylish ponytails? I had Heidi to print out a few images from past publications that would work as the backgrounds for Barbie. It took a little back and forth to figure out the right ones, and then be sure we could also match the lighting. It’s important the lighting match when using a backdrop like these, it can make or kill the image.

The day of the shoot arrived. One thing we could have used was bigger backgrounds. the 11 x 14 images were just a little too small to photograph with ease. If I did this again I would make them at least 16 x 20.

A few behind the scenes shots from my set up. 

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Check out the finished images from my Barbie styled shoot. 

I loved the challenge and how the photos turned out in the end. It’s rewarding to bring together an idea, concept it, pull in talent to make a creative vision happen and execute on it.

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