Claire Harrison is a London-based beauty and advertising photographer. Her love for color and creative lighting, as well as her distinctive style, set her apart from other photographers in the industry. EyeLure, Nivea, Garnier and L’Oreal are just some of the many beauty brands on Claire’s client list. Check out her story in this Artist Spotlight feature:
HOW I STARTED
After completing an Arts & Media Degree in 2004, I started working as an assistant photographer and this marked the start of my career in photography. I have been interested in the visual arts from an early age, thanks to my parents, and inherited my attention to color, and ability to use bold colors in my images from my dad, who worked as a color technician.
Studying Art & Photography didn’t really give me the skills I needed to run a photography business – it was assisting that taught me all the missing elements I needed to survive as a freelance photographer. It also allowed me to acquire a good range of lighting skills.
I made the transition from assisting to freelance in 2008-2009 and have been shooting for 6-7 years now.
One of my favorite images would have to be from a swimwear editorial I photographed. This shot was a real marker in my photography career and style. I quickly realized that I loved shaping with light and creating sculptural poses. This image summed it all up, and also landed me my first editorial with Vanity Fair.
HOW I CREATE MY IMAGES
When I light a hair shot, the lighting can be very complex and intricate and needs a very different approach from the typical beauty & fashion lighting.
Some lighting setups can be as simple as using just one light, but on a hair or jewelry shot, I can use up to 10 lights. I really enjoy lighting and would say this is my area of expertise, and what sets my work apart from other beauty photographers.
ME AND MY RETOUCHERS
I work with two main retouchers. One of them is amazing at hair retouching, which is a very rare talent. Hair can be very difficult and time-consuming to retouch. I think the style of hair shoots has recently changed and now it doesn’t have to be so perfect and glossy, but when you do need this attention to detail, not many retouchers can execute it well.
Both retouchers I work with have been with me from the start of my career. I think it’s really important to have established your style together. Retouching is a big part of the image creation process and the end result of your work. It’s important to trust the retoucher to deliver the image in your style.
I try to keep the skin retouching to a minimum by lighting the shot well, and using great models, with good skin, and great makeup artists who know how to work with my lighting.
I believe it is important to approach the image with an old school attitude – that it should be captured in camera and the retoucher should enhance the natural beauty of the shot, not change/create the image.
I always send an EIP file in Capture One to the retoucher so they can see the basic tones I am hoping to achieve. If it’s an editorial or collaboration I will ask the retoucher to send me 3-4 versions of tones they think will work, and we choose the look of the shoot from there.
I love being creative and working on personal projects. Often these are the images that get noticed and show people who you are, and what you are about.
WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY?
Photography as a medium is forever evolving and the trends are also always changing. Styles of photography & retouching go in and out of fashion so you need to be determined and patient and just keep working on your own style, and try to ignore what everyone else is doing, having confidence and faith in your own work.
I draw inspiration from images I see everywhere. I don’t always like every element of the images I look at but I collect thousands of them for reference and inspiration.
Some of my favorite photographers include Horst, Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, Norman Parkinson. Some current photographers I like include Camilla Akrans, Emma Summerton & Ellen Von Unwerth, amongst many more.
ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS
My advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in photography is to assist professional photographers, or in a professional studio.
You will soon work out whether this is the career for you. You can also try out all the different genres: still life, portraiture, fashion, beauty, sports etc., and work out which area appeals to you.
Once you have assisted and feel ready, it’s then time to test and practice your own work as much as possible, find your style and what makes you feel good about your work.
Finding a team you can rely on and a retoucher who understands your vision is essential. It should be a collaboration, where you can give and receive helpful guidance, and change and adapt to suit the shoot/image.