Taylor Swift is arguably one of the biggest pop stars in modern time. To take her portrait is not something you do in an instant. Or? Music photographer Jordan Curtis Hughes took a three day trip to LA to meet her and her huge crew. We met him and asked him to tell us all about it.
The life of a portraiture and music photographer can be one of fast turns and quick changes. Jordan Curtis Hughes’s shooting with Taylor Swift, for example, was really last minute. The job was confirmed Monday and Jordan was told he would be flying to LA the following Thursday to shoot the pop star.
“That’s what makes it exciting though, and stops you overthinking things!” Jordan ensures.
Other than the swift (no pun intended) departure, the shoot in itself didn’t differ much from Jordan’s other studio works. The only things that were different were the security guards, at least one on every exit to the studio, and a much bigger team than he was used to.
“It’s pretty intense having ten people analyzing my shots as I went along. But it led to the strongest portraits I’ve ever shot, so it was worth it.”
“In the past I’ve had trouble with lights keeping up with how quickly I shoot but the recycle times on the Profoto D1 lights allow me to photograph at speed with consistent output of light to keep up with Taylor’s dancing. Taylor sure does know how to bust a move to Fetty Wap.”
As for many photographers, Jordan’s way into shooting with flash started with speedlights, or flashguns as they are called in the UK.
“I shot exclusively live music for a long, long time because I love music and wasn’t interested in shooting anything else for the first few years of my career. It was a combination of my hobbies and it just worked.
“But about two years ago I started to shoot portraits and figured very quickly that the flashguns just weren’t cutting it anymore. I couldn’t achieve the photos that I was imagining in my head so I started using more powerful studio lights.”
A lot has changed in the two years that’s past since Jordan left his speedlights behind. From doing almost only live stage photography Jordan now mainly shoots portraits. That also acquires the photographer to change his way of working and thinking.
“It was probably about 90% live and 10% portraits only about a year ago but more recently it’s probably the other way around. Obviously with live music you’re in the hands of the lighting designers and you have to adjust to what’s in front of you.You have to think on the spot and react extremely quickly if you’re going to capture crucial moments. I feel with portraits you can really put your own stamp on them.
“When I’m shooting in the studio I have my own playlists on to create a good vibe, chat to the team at length and have control over the environment. The interaction in portrait photography makes a huge difference compared to live and I feel that’s where I excel.”
Overall Jordan’s three day journey to the states and the whole shoot with Taylor Swift were a success. The only snag was that she came with her own playlist. But as Jordan buts it: “It’s almost as vibey as mine.”
To see more of Jordan’s images, visit his website.
Read more about the Profoto D1 Monolights.