Friday, August 15, 2014 / 5:31 am
Cover Shoot: Behind The Scenes
"The best photo shoot day ever" was how Katherine Heigl described posing for her cover feature in the current issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. But what made the day so special? Well, not only did the take place at her ranch in Utah - so she was able to enjoy all the conveniences of home, but she also got to hang out with her best friend - photographer Cheyenne Ellis, who was behind the lens for the shoot.
We caught up with Cheyenne to go behind the scenes and share some exclusive images from Katherine's set!
Cheyenne Ellis and Katherine Heigl have been friends since first meeting on the set of My Father The Hero in the Bahamas over 20 years ago. Cheyenne was Katherine's stunt double - a role that she still undertakes today, and one which may seem at first glance to be an unusual sideline for a highly sought after professional photographer.
"Stunts have kept me active and introduced me to some amazing people" Ellis explains. "It keeps me in shape, and honestly has allowed me to shoot a lot of jobs that most clients wouldn't typically trust a woman with. When the job involves anything on the snow, in the water, or hanging out of helicopters, I feel completely confident that I can get it done."
Click Images To Enlarge. All Photographs © Cheyenne Ellis.
So how did Cheyenne get involved with the Good Housekeeping project?
"My agent wrote to me and said that Good Housekeeping was interested in one of her photographers for their next cover shoot. Knowing that the talent was Katherine Heigl, she put me in the mix right away for the job" Cheyenne says. "I had shot for the magazine before, both their US and UK versions, so it was just a natural fit. I simply had to get approved by Katie's publicity team, which I had a pretty good feeling would go alright!"
Her intuition proved to be correct and soon Cheyenne was on the phone with Bill Swan, Photo Director at Good Housekeeping, to discuss the look and feel of the imagery. The brief was to keep the shoot as casual and real as possible - focusing on Katherine's natural beauty and a very clean, fresh look. From clothing to her hair and makeup, nothing was to be over stylized or too far from the truth.
"This was an easy task" Ellis notes. "Knowing Katie so well helped my input and direction back to the magazine. It's rare that you know a subject so well before you photograph them and it only made me that much more excited for the process."
The decision by the magazine to photograph Katherine at her ranch, doing what she loves to do when she is not working, delighted Cheyenne. "The magazine chose the location, which I was thrilled about. No one had ever shot there before, and having been to the property several times in the process of it being built, I knew we would have a lot to work with. The space is gorgeous and Katie and Nancy have done such a good job with the design and all around décor, it is incredible."
The shoot took place in various locations on the Katherine's Utah property, utilizing both indoor and outdoor scenarios to try and develop a good feeling for a home environment. Each location and setup provided a different set of challenges for Cheyenne. "Indoor typically takes more setup, having to light it in a way that mimics natural light but still flows well with the images you are shooting outdoors. When you are outdoors, you have the sun to help you out. I'm a huge fan of natural light and shaping it in a way that makes for a gorgeous glow. The only challenge is chasing the sun throughout the day and being able to time it when it's working for you at its best."
"We had 3 setups with Katherine on her own and two that also included her children - one of which featured animals from the ranch as well," Cheyenne recalls. "Our goal for the day was the cover so every outfit was a cover try. We designated five favorite outfits that were a priority and chose the best locations for each one. Within each shot I would aim for specific cover shots as well as the possibility of using the images for the inside spread. I took one shot of Katie with both of her little girls in the kitchen, but we focused on singles of her and options of her with some of her animals. The goats, chickens and her horse Ronnie all had a turn in front of the camera!"
While being very familiar with the sitter is always very beneficial to the success of a shoot, there are still many things to consider and situations to adapt to during the day. "There is always a lot of pressure coming from different angles and that can make any shoot stressful" Ellis confesses. "The magazine itself has certain needs, the hair and makeup team have their own vision, and the stylist is involved as well. That doesn't even take into account the publicist and the talent themselves. I won't lie, it is sometimes hard to have so many cooks in the kitchen, but it's part of the job. The great thing about this particular experience is that I know Katie well enough to have a pretty good idea of what she likes, how she likes to present herself, and could keep that integrity going throughout the process."
So how does she manage everything during a day long shoot?
The answer - teamwork. "I have an incredible crew of guys that work with me. I travel with a digital tech and 1st assistant on every job, sometimes traveling with 2 assistants, but always pick up a local assistant, as well, wherever I go. My digital tech has been with me for years and is an integral part of the process. He keeps the files organized, works on color corrections on set, and does all the processing and post organization for myself and the client post shoot. My first assistant is in charge of lighting, gear, and any equipment we need and travel with. He and I will brainstorm on how to approach the day, scout locations together, and come up with a good flow for the shots we need to get. He also preps the lighting for me and organizes the rest of the crew, so I can focus on taking pictures. I call them my left and right hand men. I really don't know what I would do without them!"
Does Cheyenne have any tips, tricks or recommendations for a great photo?
"I shot on my Canon 5D Mark III with several different focal length lenses. It is my go to camera at this point and feels like an extension of my own view when I work with it. No special tricks were used in this shoot, just a real authentic approach to the color and lighting. Creating a relaxed environment for the day and always trying to have fun is my goal. At the end of the day, it is just photography and as much as I love it, I'm not saving lives. So, I try to put into perspective how lucky I am to do what I do and call it work. I try to keep the vibe on set as comfortable and causal as possible. I make fun of myself and try to get people to laugh, we play music and typically end the day with a bottle of wine or Moscow mules for the crew. On this particular shoot we had these incredible iced granites made for lunch by the local caterer and turned them into cocktails once we were done. I love my job, and I believe whole heartedly that if you do, you will do your job very well."
Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine McPhee, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Chambers and Josh Kelley are just a few of the many famous faces that Cheyenne has captured so beautifully with her work. Visit CheyenneEllis.com to view more from her extensive portfolio of fashion lifestyle, portrait and studio images, interspersed with wonderfully evocative shots from her international travels. Ellis's personal blog also provides an insight into the passion she has for her work and a unique behind the scenes look at her photography.
Cheyenne has recently returned from Panama where she photographed the work of the Floating Doctors, a non profit organization that delivers healthcare to those who otherwise have no access to it. Their mission is to reduce the present and future burden of disease in the developing world, and to promote improvements in healthcare delivery worldwide. Follow Cheyenne on Instagram for regular updates and amazing images as she travels the world capturing moments in time.