Capturing The Story: An Interview with Fashion & Editorial Photographer Paul Tocatlian

I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share my journey as a photographer in the realms of fashion and editorial photography in this interview with Off Town Magazine. It has been a humbling experience to work alongside so many talented creatives. In this exclusive feature, I’d like to invite you behind the scenes to explore my inspirations and some of the lessons I learned along the way. It’s through these experiences that I’ve come to appreciate the true beauty of fashion and the ever-evolving art of editorial photography.

What inspired you to pursue editorial and fashion photography?

There is a multitude of factors that can inspire a photographer to pursue editorial and fashion photography, such as a love for fashion, a passion for storytelling, or an interest in visual arts. In my case, however, it was a deep-seated desire to empower individuals to embrace their boldness and strive for bigger dreams. Through my work, I hope to inspire and encourage other creatives to pursue their passions, take risks, and seize opportunities to grow as individuals.

I am drawn to the diverse range of projects available in editorial and fashion photography, such as fashion campaigns and editorial spreads in magazines, because they provide a platform to express my creativity with a range of styles and techniques. By producing visually captivating images that tell a story, I aim to capture the essence of my models and convey their unique perspectives, creating images that are both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative.

Collaboration is an integral part of editorial and fashion photography, and it’s something that I truly enjoy. Working with a team of creatives, such as stylists, models, hair and makeup artists, and editors, allows us to bring our individual strengths and perspectives to the table and create something truly remarkable. The fast-paced and dynamic nature of this work keeps me on my toes, constantly pushing me to think creatively and adapt to new challenges.

What drew you to this particular location for the photo shoot, and how did you decide on the specific settings within that location?

When selecting a location for this photoshoot, we were drawn to the Palais Royal in Paris for its exceptional combination of historical, cultural, and artistic significance. The Palais Royal’s stunning architecture, particularly the striking black and white columns in the courtyard, provided an ideal setting for our shoot. Our model, Meera, showcased a design by Jesse Aquatico and jewelry by Miae Nelson. The Palais Royal’s beauty and grandeur were the perfect backdrops to highlight their exquisite work.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process when planning and executing a photoshoot like this one?

To begin the creative process for a photoshoot like this one, I typically collaborate with the model to establish an overall vision and concept for the shoot. We determine the desired mood, tone, and style and identify key elements such as the location, costume, jewelry, and accessories to help convey our vision. This initial stage is essential in ensuring that the photo shoot is aligned with everyone’s goals and expectations.

Throughout the creative process, I remain flexible and open to changes and adjustments as needed. I always strive to create a collaborative and supportive environment that fosters creativity and allows everyone involved to contribute their unique talents and perspectives. By maintaining an open and collaborative approach, I believe that we can achieve a final product that not only meets but exceeds everyone’s expectations.

How did you work with lighting and other equipment to achieve the desired mood and atmosphere in the photos?

As a photographer, I always aim to create a distinct mood and atmosphere in my photos that align with the overall vision of the shoot. To achieve this, I typically prefer to work with natural light, as it can provide a more organic and authentic feel to the images. While it may present challenges, such as dealing with shifting light conditions, I believe that the results are often more nuanced and engaging.

Additionally, by working with less equipment, the shoot becomes less constrained, allowing for more flexibility and creativity. This approach can often lead to spontaneous and unexpected moments that can enhance the overall mood and atmosphere of the photos. My approach to lighting and equipment is driven by the desire to create evocative and captivating images that effectively capture the subject’s essence.

Can you walk us through your post-processing workflow for the images from this shoot?

I aim to capture high-quality images on camera to reduce post-processing work. This includes shooting in RAW and setting the ISO level to the optimal value to produce a clean and crisp image. I also use the camera histogram to objectively evaluate the exposure, taking into account the distribution of brightness levels in the image. Additionally, I utilize features such as Zebra Patterns to identify areas that may be overexposed and Focus Peaking to confirm which parts of the image are in focus before taking the shot.

Regarding the post-processing workflow, I use Adobe Lightroom to fine-tune the images. After importing the images, I review them individually, carefully assessing the composition and other technical aspects needing improvement. From there, I crop and align the image as needed, ensuring that the subject is placed within the frame in the most effective and aesthetically pleasing way possible.

Next, I work on adjusting the brightness, colors, shadows, texture, and other elements of the image, always taking care to maintain the integrity of the original image and to create a final product that is authentic to the vision established during the planning and execution stages of the photoshoot. Throughout the editing process, I remain mindful of the overall mood and atmosphere that we aim to convey, ensuring that each image communicates the intended message.

What challenges did you face during the shoot, and how did you overcome them?

Although shooting in Paris may seem romantic, it can present its own unique set of challenges. During the winter months, the days are short, and the weather can be unforgivingly cold. Our particular shoot was not exempt from this, as Meera, dressed in a beautiful designer dress with a decolletage, found herself battling the elements.

Rather than letting the cold become a hindrance, we chose to embrace the conditions and incorporate them into the overall mood of the shoot. This allowed us to showcase Meera’s stunning outfit while also keeping her comfortable by wearing her coat for the majority of the shoot. The resulting images are a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration, demonstrating that even the most challenging conditions can be transformed into opportunities for artistic expression.

What sets your photography style apart, and how have you developed your signature look?

Celebrating the beauty and capturing the essence of the person I photograph is a profoundly inspiring experience for me. When defining my photographic style, I place a high value on authenticity, seeking to capture a genuine moment in time. For me, the ideal photograph is not just aesthetically pleasing but also has a storytelling component that evokes a range of emotions. Through my work, I strive to capture moments that are both visually striking and emotionally resonant, weaving together elements of artistry and storytelling to create a powerful and hopefully lasting impression.

Finally, can you share some of your favorite images from the shoot and tell us what makes them stand out to you?

As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase my photographic journey within your pages. Instead of providing my interpretation of what makes these images stand out, I would be honored to hear from your readers and learn what aspects of these photos truly captivate and resonate with them.

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