The clothes may look vintage, but this video heralds the future of fashion. "Almost every brand in the world is now looking for video," says Spanish fashion photographer and filmmaker Javier Cortés. "If you're a fashion photographer, you'll be asked to make videos."
The trend is being felt across the professional photography industry, but is being embraced with particular fervour by fashion because video gives clothing a natural movement and drama. "The popularity of video in fashion is increasing all the time," Javier says – and it's not something that photographers should be daunted by...
With a style he describes as led by "light and colour," Javier has created a name for himself in the fashion industry. The Canon Ambassador's striking visual work has a deeper narrative base that lends itself to film – but Javier was originally a stills-only fashion photographer. It was the demand for video in his industry that drew him into filmmaking, and he now balances the two on almost all of his projects for high-end fashion brands and magazines including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Glamour. He may work as a director of photography shooting a fashion film one day, and as a photographer shooting the stills campaign the next. "In the beginning, film was for fun, but now I cannot separate video and photography," he says. "I think they live and work together."
Javier started shooting video after assisting a director of photography (DOP), three years into his photography career. Starting out, he used the same equipment to shoot stills and video, so he was able to switch seamlessly between the two when working on commercials or editorials. He will still use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or Canon EOS R, but as his technical abilities have grown, so has his kitbag, which now includes the Canon Cinema EOS line.
In recent months, Javier has been looking to develop his personal projects portfolio – something he believes is integral to maintaining creativity and driving your career. With an interest in fusing high fashion with classical art influences, he had an idea that explored the subjective nature of beauty. Javier paired a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with his favourite L-series prime lenses to shoot a pro-level fashion film and stills series, to demonstrate the ease with which a stills photographer can create a pro-level video.
It's an exciting time to be in fashion, says Javier. The industry is full of promise, and commissioners are open to a range of possibilities – including narrative films. "Fashion is changing," he says. "People want to see something more than just clothes. Right now you can tell almost any story in fashion. I always try to bring something more than only a photo or a video – I try to bring an idea.
"You need to take care of the aesthetic things with clothes and lighting, and to have a creative that makes the most of the art direction and styling. But the rest is down to your idea. I love the creative part – it's like a timeless moment, creating inside your mind, and it's beautiful."
With a background in classical painting, Javier has long been influenced by the Old Masters. "Rubens, Goya, Rembrandt and other painters changed my way of thinking," he says. "I started to copy the light of these painters in my photographs, and I always have paintings on my moodboards. I find inspiration almost everywhere, from cinema to the people I meet and the stories they tell me."
For his latest fashion film, Beauty is Subjective (which you can watch below), he aimed to question cultural norms of female beauty through a young woman's journey through a museum. Struggling to see the first work of art past hordes of tourists, she moves into a second room, where she's able to see the artwork but is distracted by the noises around her. A warm glow coming out of a third room catches her eye, drawing her towards a hyper-realistic sculpture of a nude Rubenesque woman. Captivated by her beauty, she sits down to sketch, becoming completely involved in the moment.
"At the end of the fashion film, we see that the sculpture is a real woman and she comes to life," says Javier. "It's a mix between an artistic concept and a fashion film. The idea is to remind people that beauty is subjective and depends on the viewpoint. Right now, 'real women' and 'real beauty' is a trend in fashion. I think it's more than a trend – it's a movement."
To film his creative fashion video, Javier teamed a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with his favourite L-series EF lenses – a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens and Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM lens.
"You can shoot professional-quality video with a DSLR," he says. "The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is great for both video and stills, and I used the same lenses for both. The L-series primes are incredibly versatile and you can work with them with a wide aperture. I love prime lenses and the one I use the most is the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, which is fast and sharp. I can live only with one lens, but it has to be this."
This streamlined setup was complemented by a basic gimbal, to add smoothness to moving video shots, and a few basic box lights. As the models, including street-cast extras, arrived on set, the museum took shape. Simple white walls were moved into place to create the spaces for the film and photographs – gallery rooms, corridors and even an elevator.
Shooting the fashion film took first priority, with each scene mapped out in a detailed shot list. When each scene wrapped, Javier switched to stills and captured high fashion posed photographs related to a moment in the film. From shots of the main character being blocked by crowds in front of the first artwork, through to the curves of the statue model, this created a symbiosis between the two mediums.
Shooting video in 4K at 25fps meant Javier captured high resolution footage, while 50fps in Full HD enabled slow motion playback. "Using different frame rates gives me more possibilities during editing," says Javier. "I use 4K because sometimes you want to crop or stabilise shots afterwards, and 4K helps you to have more detail. I used Full HD in some shots because I wanted to capture more frames per second in order to use slow motion."
High performance CFast and SD memory cards allowed for 4K recording thanks to their fast write speeds of up to 160MB/s. To deal with the larger volumes of data generated by shooting in high resolution, Javier used 64GB cards and regularly backed up onto 1TB hard drives.
Javier loves to use light and movement as part of his storytelling. "I'm obsessed with light and colour and using it as part of the narrative," he says. "It helps you to tell something more, to increase the beauty and the aesthetic." This includes the colour profile Javier chooses to use when shooting video.
"One of the best things about the EOS 5D Mark IV is Canon Log," says Javier. "It expands the dynamic range to 12 stops, bringing it closer to the Canon Cinema EOS line. By increasing the dynamic range, you will get shadows and highlights perfectly exposed. It's amazing for colour grading, which I'm always thinking of when I'm shooting." Javier also tends to underexpose his shots because he dislikes bright highlights. He then adds grain in post-production.
With the studio bathed in natural daylight, Javier used black sheeting to create pockets of darkness and control the contrast, as well as opening and closing blinds to adjust the natural light. "You can completely change the natural light in the room, just by adjusting a few things. At the beginning I used a lot of lighting in my photography and video, but now in each shoot I use less than in the one before.
"I love natural light. For me, fashion has to be real, or at least look as real as it can. If you expose natural light well, it doesn't matter if it's a DSLR or a cinema camera, you can have something amazing. I always try to shoot in the perfect moment, because it makes no sense to have 20 lights to recreate sunlight when you can shoot with real sunlight."
For his final scene, Javier sought to capture the look of soft painterly light on his sculpture model, using continuous light in a two-light setup. "I wanted her skin to feel like the skin of women in the paintings that I love," says Javier. "For that I wanted the real tones and warmer colours, more magenta. I tried not to get too complicated, so used two lights and some black and white for contrast."
Inspired by the photography of Martin Parr, Javier played with compositions of layered people throughout the shoot – "someone close to camera, someone looking back, different perspectives" – as well as capturing dynamic movement. "In fashion films you can break the rules," says Javier. "The narrative is there, but you can jump from one side to another or maybe tell stories in a different way, or split stories. You should also have aesthetic shots that help the story but are mainly there because they are beautiful."
Shooting on primes rather than zooms ensured Javier kept moving when he needed to approach the action. "For me, movement is another characteristic of a video, like the light or the main storytelling," he says. "Sometimes I was following the model, sometimes moving around the action. The gimbal allows you to move around smoothly and create new movements while the actors are walking."
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV features Dual Pixel CMOS AF, enabling smooth and precise pull focus transitions controlled on the LCD screen. Javier recorded sharp footage of people walking, leaning and shifting position, even while he was moving the camera. "I used the autofocus in some shots with the Face Detection AF enabled, which helped me a lot to capture movement," he says. "The Movie Servo Autofocus in the EOS 5D Mark IV means you can track the face of your subject. You can do amazing things when shooting alone." Javier also worked with a focus puller on some shots, who manually adjusted the focus alongside him.
Over the years, Javier has found that video and stills combined offer him more creative freedom to share the stories he wants to tell. "Sometimes, when I shoot just stills photography, I miss something," he says. "It's like you want to tell something more. With video, you can tell a story from beginning to end."
You don't need a big kitbag, but in your camera choice you should explore the autofocus capabilities (DAF), the frame rates available in 4K and 1080p, the bit-rate (the higher the bit-rate, the better the quality and larger the file size) and the availability of Canon Log for a wider dynamic range and generous exposure latitude (available as an upgrade on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV).
Javier shot this film on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which features options to record in high-resolution 4K as well as Full HD for frame rate options including 60p slow motion.
The data wrangling required when shooting video is a step up from photography. You need to consider the speed and size of SD cards, drives and computer RAM, along with your choice of editing software. "You need to make sure that your card has the speed to record in 4K in the different frame rates that you want to use," says Javier.
As photographers, it’s easy to identify and capture a “money shot”. However, successful videos focus on stories rather than singular scenes. You'll need to create short sequences that will guide your viewer into a moment – this visual explanation of how a subject gets from point A to point B creates a more compelling story.
As a photographer, you predominantly stay still – but in filmmaking, movement plays an important creative role. Too much will make your viewer feel disorientated or dizzy, but get it right and you can transport your viewer seamlessly into a scene. Make sure that you include a five-second static shot at the start and end of your cut to help in the editing process. Movement is a big part of Javier's work, and he used a gimbal and slider in the making of this film, "but I have also used a skateboard!" he says. Keep an open mind, get creative, and work within your means.
Much of the time, videographers must focus in on a scene manually while a subject is in motion, making working with wide apertures incredibly difficult. Although it’s tempting to blur out distracting details in a still photograph, keep in mind that you may not be able to successfully replicate the same effect while shooting video.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV features Dual Pixel CMOS AF – one of the most important feature upgrades over the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This will enable smooth and precise pull focus transitions in any resolution from 4K to Full HD, at the touch of a point on the camera's LCD screen. Face Detection AF in Live View enables you to track your subject hands-free.
To find out more about Canon filmmaking kit and how it can help you to shoot video, visit the Canon stand at IBC 2019.