Classy Lady: Liz Ansley Photoshoot


What prompted the shoot?
I am often approached by models via Facebook because they see my work with other models. In this case, this model Nyana, contacted me. I noticed from her images on social media that she has modeled for a dress designer that I have worked with before. I like to work with people I know and have worked with because they understand how I work and how my work is different than most other photographers so I suggested we all work together. I contacted the designer, Cobilee West, and we set a date that worked for all of us.

Did something in particular inspire you?
I know that my portfolio is lacking in diverse ethnicities and that is something I have wanted to rectify.

How do you usually choose your subjects?
I belong to a group of photographers, models, MUAH’s and designers here in Minnesota. When I step outside my circle of friends and family for models, I look there.

Do you study trends, or do any research into the needs of clients?
I definitely study trends. I do this by searching new releases on all the amazon sites worldwide, visiting bookstores here in America, and reading articles on trends. I also study the Arcangel collection looking for gaps. In this case, I have noticed there are a lot of YA fantasy novels featuring woman in big flowing dresses but most of the models used in these shoots are caucasian. I do see other ethnicities on these covers but do not see this option in the Arcangel collection.

How do you choose the location, or any objects you’ll use?
I rent a studio in downtown Minneapolis during the winter months because it is just so cold here in Winter. If I do not use that studio then I rent out local venues that allow shoots for a fee. I also try to get outside for shoots in the snow when weather permits. In the summer I shoot EVERYWHERE but am particularly fond of using the many lakes we have here in Minnesota as neutral backdrops. As far as props, I scour thrift store and garage sales looking for potential props. I then have them handy in case they would be useful to telling a story in an image.

Do you usually work with professional models, or family and friends?
I do use professional models but if they are not interested in working for trade this gets expensive so whenever possible I employ friends and family that are willing to work for ice cream or wine (plus free images).

How important are costumes, and where do you usually source them?
Costumes are an important part of my shoots. I source them in MANY different ways. Whenever possible I try to work with models that own appropriate clothing for the shoot. I try to find costumes shops that are reasonably priced (not easy) or beg and borrow from friends or family. I once helped clean and organize High School costume space in exchange for use of some costumes. I also have a huge amount of costumes that I have found at thrift stores over the years. These costumes and props take up a large area of my basement (much to my husbands dismay).

What is your must-have gear for the type of shoot in question?
For this shoot, I just wanted a white background that would allow me to cut her out and place her into my images that I shoot around the world. I used extra continuous lights in addition to window light just to brighten her up.

Do you work with any assistants?
I sometimes have assistants but rarely. In this case, my assistant was the dress designer. She dressed the model and made alterations to the clothing on the spot. She also steamed any last minute wrinkles out of the the dresses once they were on the model. She shot the behind the scenes images for me as well.

What are your strategies for getting the best out of your models?
I try to make sure the shoot is fun. I’ve been told my shoots were much more fun than the models expected. I am pretty easy going and like to work collaboratively with my models so they feel we are a team.

How does your approach change for shooting landscapes, objects, and people?
Shooting landscapes for me is always done alone. I really enjoy being by myself shooting early in the morning or at sunset typically. It is more of a meditative process vs shooting models which requires me to be upbeat and probably more social than I am comfortable with. Objects are my least favorite, for whatever reason, still-life photography gives me a headache.

Do you plan and control your shoots tightly? How much do you improvise around opportunities and ideas that arise during the shoot?
I don’t plan my shoots tightly at all. I peruse book covers on the internet before I go to a shoot to have inspiration in my head but typically when I plan too much it’s a waste of time. I do something completely different once I start shooting. I LOVE to be inspired in the moment. This is the thrill I get from this job. Being creative in the moment based on light, backgrounds, props or furniture available etc gives me a thrill. I actually like to shoot in brand new locations, whenever possible, without visiting the place first because the newness is so inspiring otherwise I get bored too easily.

How important is photoshop or other photo editor apps to your work?
Very important. I use photoshop and add on programs with all of my images.

How much time do you usually spend editing your images?
It depends, composites can take up to 2 hours each depending on how elaborate they are. When I travel around the world I shoot potential backgrounds or just elements to create a scene later. For example, in this shoot I knew the goal was to cut the model out and put her into one of my other images or to simply make the background white to make life easier for a designer who might want to put her into another photographers background. If I am not changing the background, an image can be processed in 5 minutes.

Do you design your own photo actions?
I do design my own actions and recipes within add-on programs but I also am a junkie and buy many different actions, filters, and textures from other sources. They are all like toys to me and I love getting new toys. I don’t use textures very often anymore but if I do use them with still- life it is for vintage or grudge effect.