(Final part of a three-part series)
Dozens of products in each Drysdales catalog are photographed by themselves in the tightly controlled environment of a studio. But nearly all of our clothing in the catalog still requires a human touch – or body.
That means clothing being modeled by real-life people at a closed photo session, mostly outdoors.
The photo shoot on this day takes place at 5 Oaks Lodge in the Tulsa suburb of Jenks. The complex often is used for weddings, receptions and corporate meetings. Its rural atmosphere also makes it ideal as a western-wear backdrop. It comes with a log-built lodge, pine trees, a lake, and a pasture containing horses, burros, and Longhorn cattle.
Shortly before 9 a.m., professional models begin to arrive from as far away as Kansas and Arkansas.
Drysdales uses no makeup artist, so the female models must apply their own. Clothing buyers with Drysdales give them their assigned clothes and escort them to dressing rooms in the lodge.
The session likely will run much of the day, so chips and snacks are spread on a table, with a soda machine nearby, so models and photographers can grab some something to eat between shoots.
Two photographers from Hawks Photography in Tulsa have set up their gear. Scott Johnson’s camera tripod and flash equipment stand on a grassy knoll near the pasture. Dannie LeGrange uses another setup inside the lodge to shoot the models with a white background. Those interior photos will be used because they’re easier to edit digitally.
One female model is having trouble pulling on a pair of western boots. So one of Drysdales’ buyers takes off her socks and gives them to the model so she can slip on the boots more easily.
In another instance, a model has trouble donning a pair of earrings, so a buyer makes a quick repair on the jewelry.
“We’ll have all sort of problems like this,” Drysdales women’s buyer Stace Allen says. “Jewelry malfunctions … jewelry that breaks and beads flying all over the place …”
She shrugs. She and the other buyers have dealt with crises like these before; they know how to handle it.
Models are shot in no particular order. Whoever shows up first in front of the lens goes first. A photo session for one set of clothes usually takes less than five minutes – even with several poses and last-second clothing adjustments. On this day, it was a warm and sticky outside, so no one’s eager to loiter.
Between shoots, buyers trade “war stories” about previous sessions. Such as the time when all of the buyers suffered from heat rash when photos were shot in 110-degree heat. The time when a model tried to conceal weight gain with Spanx undergarments. The time when a model was deemed too skinny (and unhealthy-looking) for a shoot. The time when a model showed up with a severe breakout of acne. These things happen.
Shooting photographs of children’s clothing and toys presents a different challenge. Taybry, a 4-year-old girl, takes modeling direction like a pro and goes through her sessions quickly. But her 2-year-old brother, Telan, proves easily distracted during his session and wants to play with his toy lasso instead of paying attention to the photographer.
Telan’s mother, the buyers, and even a model or two use encouragement and subtle bribery (“Do this, and we’ll go see the cows”) to persuade the boy into a pose they want.
But when Telan’s not distracted, he knows what he’s there for – he smiles frequently at the camera and says “Cheese!”
Here’s a video from the photography session:
Because time is money for the photographers and models, clothing and products for a catalog are shot in a single day, if possible. After that, all that’s left is editing the photos and using a digital publishing program to create the catalog.