Portfolio Session with Model Rachael Campbell

Rachael Rocks!

Modeling portfolio shot of Rachael Campbell by Gerard Harrison

A Modeling Portfolio Shoot -- Image Theory Style

A Crummy Fashion Show Leads to a Fortunate Meeting

In November of last year, Image Theory did a full-day portfolio shoot for Houston model Rachael Campbell. As you’ll see in the following images, Rachael is the real deal. She is graceful and striking, and it all translates perfectly on camera.

I met Rachael and her mom, Danette, way back in August at a train wreck of a fashion show. It was understaffed, badly attended and started way late. I had arrived early and offered to shoot for the organizer since I had just left a shoot and had gear in my truck. He accepted the offer, so I set up and waited. And waited. And waited.

As the delay dragged on, I struck up conversations with some of the parents. Danette was one of them. We talked about how I approach portfolio shoots. I told Danette that I wasn’t a fan of the one-size-fits-all approach to modeling portfolios. Your portfolio is supposed to get you noticed, not make you blend in.

We Meet Again (at another crummy fashion show)

A few weeks later (the night Hurricane Harvey made landfall), I saw Rachael and Danette again at another badly disorganized show by the same promoter (the last one I would attend). After the show, Rachael posed for a few shots, and though she was modeling an ill-fitted off-the-rack, prom dress, her flair for the camera was apparent. We didn’t hang around to visit much. We went home to batten down the hatches.

Sometime after the flooding and all the other Harvey-related angst subsided a little, I managed to edit one of Rachael’s photos.  Here it is.  Click to enlarge.

Rachael Campbell prom dress image theory photoworks

This isn’t my favorite photo.  The dress is, well . . . a mass-produced prom dress. And though I re-fitted it in Photoshop, it still doesn’t look great on her. The backdrop is ugly (even turned blue via Photoshop magic), and you can’t tell how striking Rachael’s face is.  Nevertheless, the pose was great, and the skirt flip perfect.  But as you will see, much better from Rachael was still to come.

Sometime in October, I think, Rachael and Danette contacted me. They wanted to do a full-day portfolio shoot.

Before the shoot, we talked extensively with Rachael and Danette about options and the looks she favored. Danette had a treasure trove of great ideas and outfits, including a dress from the late 90’s that was smokin’! It’s coming up.  You can’t miss it.

Get Up and Get Your Makeup Did!

On shoot day, Rachael and Danette arrived around 7:30 a.m.  Yes, kids, this a full day! Rachael and Danette brought enough clothing, shoes, and jewelry to open a pop-up store. And that’s exactly the way to do it.  You can’t bring too much. We have wardrobe racks and a nice changing room.  The more options you give us the better.

Makeup and hair came first. We had one of Houston’s best MUAH in the studio, Aleya Duncan, owner of Freckleface Makeup.  And as an assistant, we had an aspiring MUA and good friend of Rachael’s, Ava Schulte.

Pose Like It ‘s 1999

With makeup done and first looks chosen, we started, as we usually do, in studio. Because Rachael’s height and build are right for fashion work, we set up the studio for more styled and dramatic fashion shots. The shots that incorporated dark, framing shadow, required very hard, direct light. That sort of light exaggerates any skin imperfections. Rachael, though, has a nearly flawless complexion and her shots could not have been better if we’d used a large softbox.  See for yourself.  Take special note of the purple mini-dress suit.  Danette wore that in 1999, and now her beautiful daughter lights it up!  How cool is that!

First Stop: East Downtown (EADO) Houston Graffiti

Studio work done, and having eaten a very late breakfast of taquitos from a genuine EADO taqueria just down the street (thank you, Danette!), we packed up and headed outdoors.

First stop was an interesting graffiti wall with some vivid abstract splashes of color.  The sun had already dropped below the nearby buildings, so we set up a studio light. That, however, created dark shadows, so Danette was pressed into service.  You can almost see her wrangling a six-foot reflector against a breeze in the pic below, while Rachael serenely contemplates the meaning of life.

Train Stop

Our final stop, as the sun dropped low, was an abandoned rail yard, complete with an abandoned engine.  If there’s a more interesting place to shoot in H-town, I don’t know it.  Rachael changed into a graceful and beautiful maxi-dress with ankle to thigh slits.  As you can see, Rachael has legs to make most dancers jealous, and she rocked that dress, easily upstaging a dramatic background that would challenge most models.

End of a Long, Satisfying Day

And that wrapped it up.  We ran from 7:30 to around 5:00, non-stop. The number and variety of looks were enough to fill this story and Rachael’s gallery.  That’s the goal of modeling portfolio shoots like this: a range of interesting looks that aren’t like everyone else’s, and enough quantity to give you some choices.  We can do that in a long, dedicated shoot. We get into the creative flow together, relax, and perform.

But this shoot turned out well, mainly because Rachael is a gifted, beautiful model.  If you need more proof, take a look at  Rachael’s gallery.

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— Gerard

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About Gerard Harrison

With over 30 years' photography experience, Gerard is the owner and founder of Image Theory Photoworks, a fashion and fine art portrait studio.