FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY INSIGHTS: GRAMCO.STUDIO
Newly-founded photography production studio Gramco.studio is carving its own path in the niche market of high-end social media imagery creation for luxury brands. From concept inception and casting to production and editing, the studio handles the entire production. Everything happens under the creative direction and technical supervision of Graeme Montgomery, who has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading photographers and moving image makers for luxury brands; his work regularly appears in Vogue Japan, Vogue China, Amica (Italy), French Magazine, Love Magazine and The Sunday Times Style, and his advertising clients include Christian Dior, Prada, Joop, Juicy Couture, Burberry, Dunhill, Dolce & Gabbana, Olay, Dove, New Balance, Ray-Ban and Coca-Cola to name a few. We caught up with Montgomery to discuss his new venture, image production for social media and the future of this upcoming industry.
Since you have a rich industry experience, I can’t help but ask you: what do you think of influencers? Are they indeed a new powerful marketing tool or are they fad?
They are no fad. My impression is that big established magazines are already losing their power. Budgets are dropping, and staff are being laid off, which then creates a problem as they no longer have the resources to create exceptional stories. Why pay for a magazine when you can get pretty much everything in it for free three months earlier? My wife and I buy Vogue to leaf through together, if we have a long flight (it’s a tradition we haven’t lost), but my studio coffee table is no longer piled up with magazines. Everyone is too busy scrolling through their Instagram feeds to bother with hard copies.
What are the challenges and limitations to creating visuals for social media?
It has to be bold, striking, funny and instantly engaging. Instantly engaging is the key – and it’s challenging. When I used to buy music on albums, it was always the track that I didn’t like on first hearing that became my favorite over time. In the same way, I often rediscover old pictures of mine from a year ago, or more ago that I didn’t like at the time, but now I realize they were the strongest ones. Social media have no room for that; if it doesn’t grab you in one second, it is gone and on to the next.
What are the key elements to shooting an engaging picture?
Passion and patience. I need to create something that I love, that feels authentic, that has soul.
What is your philosophy at Gramco? Should emphasis be given on the story or let the product speak for itself?
Depends on the concept – there’s a place for both, and so much content is needed that there is room for both.
Can you make any product look good or have you ever said “no” to a client?
You can always make something look better than it is. If something is beautiful, my job is easier. If it’s something I don’t love, I can always still find something interesting about it and I focus on that.
Who chooses the products for a shoot – your studio or the client?
Initially the client. if it isn’t in the studio, I can’t shoot it, and they always have something they are keen to promote. But we try to show them what will make the strongest visual statement. We edit from their edit.
How do your clients measure success: based on likes and comments or on sales generated by the imagery you produce?
That bit has got complicated. Yes, there is an instant judgement from how many loves an image gets. Interestingly good product pictures (not just the ones we do) often seem to get many more loves than a picture of a beautiful girl. The work that I was doing for Jimmy Choo, where my pictures where getting twice as many likes as the amazing model pics, was part of my inspiration for launching Gramco.studio. A friend told me that “women love shoes not skinny girls.” It’s harder to measure how social media images impact sales, but they are a vital part of the whole marketing operation. I guess “success” for many of the creative directors that I work with is when the overall visual world of a brand is exciting and cohesive, and feels right for the moment.
Instagram is a priority for anyone working in fashion. Do you modify the images you make for the other social networks?
For the last few years, everything I shoot has had to work for multiple formats and platforms. Instagram is definitely king, but we don’t forget the rest.
As a professional photographer, how do you feel about everyone being able to promote fashion and luxury goods on social media? What do you think the future holds of this trend?
It’s amazing how visually aware “Jo Public” has become. Most people “find” or “take” a picture in social media, and if you take enough, there will always be something good there. Great photographers “make” pictures rather than take them. A blogger can’t put together the most beautiful girl in the world with the craziest stylist, the most inventive hairstylist, the coolest make up and an idea conjured up by the most creative art director, and thankfully they also don’t have a clue how to make a diamond sparkle, make a patent shoe jump off the screen or freeze a high-speed splash. There’s a place for the candid and “real life” and informal in the social media mix, but we also need perfection, polish and fantasy too.
Images © Gramco.studio