Rob Van Petten on shooting fashion photography

Atmosphere is important to my fashion images. Sometimes — like in the image you see here — I try to create a sense of danger or tension. Whatever the image, however, fashion advertising is about aspirations. Each image should say: "See how fabulous this woman's life is," while at the same time relating the image to her clothes, make-up or accessories. For this image, I envisioned a fashion-conscious woman who indulged herself with lavish clothes, cosmetics and hair treatments. She has even incorporated a wild animal as a fashion accessory. I was thinking about people who have exotic pets such as tigers or cheetahs, and then tried to approximate some of the qualities of these pets. There is an old saying which states that people begin to look like their pets. I consider images like this one akin to a miniature drama: a one-shot theater that offers a glimpse into a fashionable life. The sense of tension here comes from her delicate beauty juxtaposed against a growling animal. The sense of whimsy comes from her face: she knows she still looks great, despite her proximity to danger.

The image here is a great example of how this camera can capture sharpness and details in skin, fur and fabric, as well as a broad dynamic range in metal jewelry, shiny highlights and deep shadowy areas. Cameras with smaller file sizes often have prominent noise, especially in the darker areas. With the D800, it is virtually non-existent. A ring flash was used to light this image. This type of lighting demands a complete range of highlights, midrange tones and shadowy areas, and this camera gets it all. Even at 36.3 megapixels, this camera is fast enough to keep up with quick changes in the action. When you are shooting with an animal on the set, the window of opportunity is very small because it is very hard to keep an animal's attention. It is crucial that I can focus fast and shoot fast in situations like this.

This camera can capture detail beyond anything similar I've seen offered before. It's very light and compact and therefore travels and packs very well for location shooting. If you shoot landscapes and want smoothly rendered textures and color transitions, this camera is right for you. If you want a highly sensitive meter that renders great dynamic range under natural light, you'll like this camera. Lastly, if you need both high-quality stills and video, this provides everything you need, letting you print and broadcast confidently.

Rob Van Petten