Anatomy of a Magazine Shoot

Every photo shoot I do begins with a conversation. This is true with all of my shoots from business portraits to the editorial portraits I do for magazines like Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine for whom I created the August cover & cover story photography for.

 Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine:  Margot Kong at Calistoga Ranch 
Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine:  Margot Kong at Calistoga Ranch. This photo of Margot Kong was taken at the Calistoga Ranch for Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine. Photography by Jennifer Graham Photography.
Margot Kong on the Cover of Luxury Travel Advisor

Lighting up the cover is my client Margot Kong Founder & Luxury Travel Curator of Journeys Unparalleled , and this is where the conversation begins. I love getting to know my subjects and clients. Creating a portrait is always a collaboration between myself and the person being photographed. So, for me it’s important to know things like: Margot is an advisor, a mother, a wife, a dancer, a foodie, a planner, and an art lover. She started Journeys Unparalleled in 2014 after having spent 15 years in sales and marketing in the travel industry.  A.K.A. SHE KNOWS HER CRAFT! Her company designs unique travel experiences for the luxury traveler. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a multi-week vacation for a couple, family or solo traveler, she is THE person who can help you craft your next amazing journey. 

AHHHH sign me up!

It’s All About the Why

Her WHY resonated deeply with me. In her own words here it is,

“My hope is that the more people travel, the more they will appreciate the world and people from other countries and cultures, and in turn, they will be good to the earth and more accepting of those who are different from themselves.”

I LOVE her “why”! Knowing someones WHY drives the photoshoot for me. It tells me exactly who I have standing in front of me, what is important to them & what I can call upon during the shoot to better connect with them. I love knowing she is dancer, this informs me she is going to be comfortable in her body during the shoot. Being able to connect in a deeper way allows her, and my other clients, to physically feel the joy they have for their business and clients which then shows up in every expression, smile and nuance they offer me.

Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine:  Margot Kong at Calistoga Ranch. This photo of Margot Kong was taken at the Calistoga Ranch for Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine. Photography by Jennifer Graham Photography.
Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine: Margot Kong at Calistoga Ranch

Location, location, location!

Initially Margot thought she would like to have the shoot in the city she loves and calls home, San Francisco! She mentioned the Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of Fine Arts. Two gorgeous locations. However, when I got on the phone with Ruthann Terrero, Editor-in-Chief of, Luxury Travel Advisor I began pondering the concept of luxury and what really spoke to that theme.

While these two locations are beautiful and iconic they do not necessarily relay the theme of luxury. I knew from Margot she was currently back and forth from Napa & staying at the stunning Calistoga Ranch. This two-hour round trip was well worth my time to take the shoot to the next level and create the photographs I knew would tell the story of this luxury travel curator.

Once the location was set, Margot and I talked wardrobe, timing & hair & makeup. Every element needed to be perfect. Margot gathered as much of her wardrobe as possible to provide ample options. We narrowed down her pieces with iPhone photos & email. I booked the incomparable & nationally acclaimed Christina Choi Cosmetics as her makeup artist & she found a wonderful woman in Napa for her hair.

On the Day of the Shoot

I arrived at Calistoga Ranch an hour early to scout the grounds while Margot was pampered having her makeup done. This time allows me to see the best areas & settings to create a magazine cover quality photograph. I am looking at lighting, location options & thinking about the story I want to tell. I actually new before the shoot began which locations on the property & corresponding photographs would end up in the magazine, and my instincts didn’t fail me.

Over a two hour time period Margot and I explored each area I scouted. I knew which wardrobe look would work best with each location and what time we needed to be at each for the perfect lighting scenario.

I work with everyday people just like you and me, and we all need a little “getting comfortable” time in front of the camera so the first 30 minutes were dedicated to simply getting her comfortable and seeing how she moved. We have gorgeous photos from that part of the shoot will which serve many of Margot’s business needs even if they didn’t make it to the magazine.

PDF of images I deliver to Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine for selections
The PDF I shared with the magazine to choose which photos will end up on the cover on for the story.

The last location and shot of the day was what you see now as the cover photo. I knew we’d have to wait until dusk to get this one perfect. I wanted the lovely twinkly lights warm glow mixed with the soft light of the setting sun. By this time being photographed was old hat to Margot. Her ease filled smile and confident posture were a winning combination. I created multiple shots of her, playing with poses, expressions and composition. It all came together perfectly.

My process is actually the exact same for any photoshoot I have. This is the pre-production work necessary to create a stunning and memorable portrait.

If you are looking for a photographer for Business Portraits, Lifestyle or Editorial who knows hoot bring out the absolute best in you, schedule a chat with me! I would love to work with you!

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