Portrait photography

First Impressions of Clay Cook’s Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography Tutorial


Fstoppers is starting over with another amazing tutorial. This time, Clay Cook uses his talent as an advertising and editorial photographer. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Cook has worked for a variety of local, national and international clients. However, her work all maintains a common visual style regardless of the final publication, whether printed in The Voice of Louisville or used globally by ESPN. Editorial Fashion and Portrait Photography takes you through Cook’s start-to-finish workflow, including his process of working with a retoucher, to show you how to create similar and stunning images using these techniques.

After looking at the first few sections, I immediately realized the importance of this tutorial in my own endless quest for photographic knowledge. There are a lot of things you don’t learn until someone points it out, regardless of your experience. The first sections cover Cook’s history, equipment, and workflow. Before even starting to photograph models, Cook conveys a fair amount of knowledge about smoother workflows and a few key tools that he and his team use to capture those images and make life on set easier. Even though I’ve been working in Capture One and Photoshop for a while now, Jordan Hartley (Clay’s retoucher) shows off several shortcuts and tools that will make your workflow, again, much smoother and more efficient. Between them, there are years of practice and trial and error that came together in this 12 hour tutorial.

Once the tutorial progresses into the actual lessons, it’s just as informative. While the first few lessons only cover natural light situations, Cook shows various methods of dealing with harsh natural light and how to take an interesting and enjoyable photo in less than ideal conditions. I didn’t go far enough in the tutorial for Cook to flash, and learned something that I know I’ll use later. As someone who rarely photographs in natural light, that does mean something.

For those of you who are considering the tutorial, I will say that the most important aspect for me is not just the actual on-location shooting that each lesson shows, but the post-production. It’s not uncommon for the retouching workflow to be a bit of a mystery to some. While we can all use the same shooting techniques, post-production will separate the good from the bad. While you can’t fix a bad image through post-production, you can make a good image look great, and that’s exactly what Hartley and Cook are showing with their two-part process. So, in each lesson, we not only get to draw and explain every decision Cook made on set, but also a glimpse into the retouching tools and methodology Hartley uses to help Cook achieve his vision. Cook also shows us his color grading workflow which acts as a finishing touch to the retouching work done by Hartley. So for each lesson we go through Cook’s entire process from start to finish. For those learning there, I cannot stress enough how important it is to see a photograph take shape from shoot to post-production as it completely changes your process.

Although I haven’t made it yet, I’m especially excited for the six lessons that focus on Cook’s business and marketing strategies. It’s something we all have a hard time getting started with, and Cook’s business went from 0 to 1000, as he said, pretty quickly. If you’re thinking of getting into portrait outdoors or in the studio, or just looking to improve your game a bit, I highly recommend the Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography Tutorial. It’s available now in the Fstoppers store for $ 299.99.


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