Workshop Review Bruce Smith Location Fashion Master Class

Portrait photographer Drew Tommons recently attended one of Bruce Smith’s Location Fashion Master Classes in London. We asked him to report back on his thoughts!

Name of the course and who runs it:

Bruce Smith Location Fashion Master Class at Hampton Court House, London


What’s the official blurb on what the course offers?

Fashion photography. One of the most exciting fields within the professional photography business; it is also one of the most competitive. Assembled here are some of the most effective courses, workshops and master classes that you will find. All created and led by the world-class fashion photographer Bruce Smith, to help you to break into and compete in the business of fashion photography. These unique hands-on courses are crafted to give you the tools that you will need to create a winning portfolio to succeed in the glamorous fashion world. Bruce’s work is continually published all over the globe and has been for the past 30 years.

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

How did you initially hear about it and why did you want to attend?

I had attended one of Bruce Smith’s taster days, run by The Flash Centre in London last year and decided that I wanted to learn more.

How much did the course cost?

£999+ VAT (subject to early booking discount)

Where was it held?

The course was held in Hampton Court House in London, close to Hampton Court Palace.
Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

When was it held and what were the timings or schedule for the day(s)?

The course ran over 5 days from 5th to 9th of April, inclusive. 9am until 6pm.

What level of experience is the course aimed at?

The delegates on this course ranged from a graphic designer, a wedding photographer, an enthusiast and a relative novice who had been taking pictures for just four months. It’s fair to say that there was plenty to learn for every level of ability and experience. To benefit from this course, you just really need to enjoy shooting pictures of people and have a desire to learn. It really is a case of the more of yourself you put in, the more you will get out.

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

How would you describe it?

After meeting and being introduced to the other course delegates, finding out from each other why we were all there, Bruce gave us a general overview of the fashion photography market and talked about specifics like interpreting a client brief and what can be involved in putting together a shoot for a magazine or garment manufacturer. He also went into his own background, telling the story of how he broke through to get started in the industry. This took us on to Bruce’s extensive portfolio, which he used to illustrate some of the key aspects of successful fashion images.

He covered composition, detail, strength of image, dynamics, control of the view, making shapes and understanding key parts of the garment. The detail was supported by the specific examples from within his portfolio and illustrated other aspects such as page layouts, for example ‘left page’ and ‘right page’ bias. Throughout, it was emphasised that the clothes were primary and the model secondary, which, as a portrait photographer took some adjusting to!!

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

One of the most insightful aspects of the day was Bruce’s view on how you must put energy into your pictures. Bruce demonstrated later in the course that energy and passion equals results. He talked about this extensively on the first day, whetting our appetite for the coming days’ shooting. Following the session, we had a roundup which helped us revisit the information we had covered and reminded us what we had learned during the day.

The following 3 days were all about shooting! Bruce’s stylist, Alevtina from Russia, herself a former model and Make Up Artist Ana from Romania, took care of Sundal, our model for the day. On the first day of shooting, we shot each ‘look’ in a different part of the house using only available light, with our course colleagues helping out with reflectors. The day challenged a number of assumptions I could have made about whether there was ‘not enough light’! When you are at a 60th at f2.8 and the meter is still telling you that you’re going to be underexposed, Bruce’s answer is to ‘make’ some light! Catching some window light on the floor with a large reflector and then picking that light up with another reflector and bouncing it back onto the scene was as simple as it was ingenious. Little techniques like this, allied to Bruce’s unique style of shooting enlightened and entertained all the delegates on the course.

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

The next day was overcast and saw us bouncing light from a variety of studio flash heads all around the amazing main hall of Hampton Court House, in most cases, everywhere except directly on the model. Again, the emphasis was more about supplementing available light to create the required ambience. Our model Kate went through four different looks, each fitting in with the grandeur and elegance of the surroundings.

On the final day of shooting, our model was Lois and our stylist was Katie, while Ana remained on hand for hair and make up. We shot three very different and distinctive looks in two different parts of the house. As before, Bruce started each session with a demo shoot, enabling the delegates to see how Lois responded to Bruce’s direction. Each delegate then had their session, assisted by a colleague from the course whether with reflectors or just passing a lens or new CF card.

After three days of shooting, three different models and four looks per day, the group had plenty of images to sub edit. On the final day, everyone got stuck into their editing to create their layouts for each look. This meant creating a left hand page, a right hand page and a double page spread before doing any specific editing to the actual images themselves. Bruce then showed a number of editing techniques which leant heavily on the type of things that would enhance a photographers portfolio images should he or she want to show their book in the publishing world.

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

What were the major highlights?

The course was a great opportunity to shoot fashion in an amazing location with someone who after 30 years in his field, still maintains a passion and enthusiasm for what he does and sharing it with others. The course delegates were great company and diverse in their backgrounds and interests which meant that we were able to learn from each other. Even though each set was the same, nobody produced the same picture!

What were the main things you learned from the course?

Light is what you make it!

Would you say the course will have a good return on your investment?

Having done this course, I would have no anxieties about putting a team together, choosing a location and getting the shots I want for my client…I just need to find the clients who want that level of input! I’m sure they’re out there!!

Drew Tommons reviews the Bruce Smith Fashion workshops

Was there anything extra you would have liked the course to cover?

There was so much to absorb as well as making sure you made your best of the time in the location and with the models, I think that anything more is for another course.

How will it change your business for the future?

I’m aiming to set up a studio this summer and portraits with a ‘fashion’ edge to them is definitely something that will be on the menu!