Michele Laurita is a Los Angeles-based fashion photographer known for her stunning work with top-tier brands like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Neiman Marcus, and more. Michele regularly captures stunning photographs for magazines like L’Officiel, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar and teaches Fashion photography and lighting theory at ArtCenter College of Design, California.
We’ve talked to Michele about her impressive portfolio shooting creative editorial campaigns and high-volume commercial shoots, what inspires her, and why she loves working with Profoto. Read on to get inspired by her work and learn more about her innovative collaborations.
From being in front of the camera to moving behind it
Michele’s passion for photography started at the early age of eight when the then-child actor began taking pictures with her father’s Nikon. Introduced to the world of film and encouraged by her mother, a theatrical agent, Michele started playing around with photographing on set and soon worked her way up to capturing headshots of upcoming actors. “I wanted to be in front of and behind the camera simultaneously.”
Her talent quickly caught the attention of music industry heavyweights, and she found herself shooting the album covers of artists like INXS, Alanis Morissette and concert tour moving imagery for the Rolling Stones, No Doubt and The Cranberries & the broadway show of Duran Duran, in addition to covers of Rolling Stone magazine. “I always loved to be in a place where creativity was happening. There's just something magical about a film set. It’s like alchemy that occurs there. That’s always the place I wanted to be.” Becoming more invested in photography than acting while always being inspired by the alchemy of a movie set, Michele shifted her focus to entirely moving behind the camera, pursuing her talent in photography and filmmaking.
Inspiration and beautiful light are everywhere
Always curious and aware of her surroundings, Michele constantly looks for fine subtleties and nuances that spark her inspiration. When asked what inspires her, Michele replies, “Everything”. I’m always looking. My eyes are always searching for what I love.” Actively looking for beautiful, interesting light in everything she sees is something she loves, for example, in nature, having a glistening of sunlight on the water or seeing the light shine through a forest of trees. Michele enjoys taking artificial light sources and either making them seem as natural as possible or doing the complete opposite. “What I’m trying to do is to take artificial light sources and make them seem as natural as possible or the absolute antithesis. Something your eyes could never see naturally. Those kinds of anomalies are what fascinate me.”
From a surreal forest campaign for Louis Vuitton to capturing Adrien Brody with a stallion
Being asked about projects she’s proud of, Michele cites two that hold a special place in her heart. Firstly, an advertorial for Louis Vuitton. “This project challenged my creativity and definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but the result was a stunning and unique visual experience,” says Michele. The artist flipped the original brief, producing a stunning campaign shoot in a magical forest. Giving the concept her unique creative touch, she reversed all the colors, provoking a surreal feel and leaving the viewer in awe.
The second project involved capturing Adrien Brody alongside a beautiful stallion. After learning about Adrien's passion for animals, Michele was determined to create a memorable shoot that would allow him to work with one for the first time. Upon meeting, Michele could witness Adrien and the stallion were so entranced with each other, which created a beautiful interaction and had her capture moments of genuine emotion and connection. “Shooting with a stallion can definitely be challenging, but it was so beautiful and fulfilling.”
The creative process for editorials and advertisements
Michele's creative process between shoots like these differs depending on whether she is capturing editorials or advertisements. For editorial shoots, she typically doesn't work with a mood board but instead researches the person she is photographing. Michele always tries to capture her subject uniquely and unexpectedly, creating a connection between them and the viewer, which often requires experimentation and exploration during the shoot itself. “I try to focus on things that would allow them to be seen differently. I can do that cosmetically or with lighting, but mostly I do it with emotion. I try to really bring their soul to the forefront,” Michele says.
In contrast, Michele collaborates closely with the brand's art director or fashion director when working on advertisements. She begins by creating a mood board or brief, which helps guide the creative direction of the shoot. Michele also creates an image book to discuss aspect ratios, styles, and concepts to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the overall aesthetic and visual goals.
Michele believes in being fully prepared and not wasting anyone's time on set. She spends as much time as needed in pre-production, carefully considering her scenes and ensuring her lighting is precisely how she wants it to be before she even touches her Leica. The day before the shoot, she and her lighting designer Eric Larson focus solely on lighting and making sure everything is set up to create her desired effects. “I never pick up my camera before I’m ready. I’m adamant about that. That’s also what I tell my students: Don’t pick up your camera until you feel 100% ready.”
Profoto is the gear that brings the artist’s vision to life
“When I’m shooting alone, I don’t want to worry about technical things,” says Michele. Her light of choice is our versatile B10X Plus. She loves using it in many different ways, switching between flash or using its modeling light as a constant light source to give her subject a touch of illumination. “It can be mounted on a stand or just held. I just love the ability to plug and play with Profoto gear.”
Michele is a big fan of the Connect Pro for Leica, as it enables her to create and keep the focus and connection with her subject when she wants to adjust her lights. “It just simplifies everything!” she says excitedly. “With Profoto, I can spend little time setting up my lights and lots of time connecting with my subject.”