Caroline Grogan, Reporter
Anywhere from one to three times per week, senior Sammi Smith, with a DSLR camera in hand, ascends the unassuming green-carpeted staircase that leads to one of New Canaan’s most popular clothing boutiques: Caren Forbes.
Sammi has worked as a clothing photographer for Caren Forbes for the past two years. Shopping at Caren Forbes for years prior, she naturally formed a business relationship with Ms. Forbes. Though she had experimented with photography before, shooting for a business required a new mindset. “It’s different when you’re out shooting a subject with specific ways that you need to shoot them. You’re focusing on the products that you’re trying to sell and how it would be appealing to people through social media and what kind of shots would make people want to come in and buy them,” Sammi said.
For Sammi, the photoshoot process extends both before and after the pictures are taken. “The model and I meet at the store and I go half an hour before and choose three outfits, sometimes four. Then when the girl gets there she’ll try them on and we’ll look at them. Whoever’s working will give their opinion, too, and then we’ll choose two of them. But sometimes none of the stuff I expect actually works so you’re kind of just pulling random stuff and sometimes Caren will leave specific things that she wants me to shoot,” she said.
After finalizing her clothing choices, Sammi decides where in New Canaan the shoot will take place. “Normally we’ll go to Waveny, Mead Park, sometimes Irwin. Sometimes we’ll go outside of Zumbach’s,” Sammi said.
During a shoot, Sammi focuses less on giving the model specific posing instructions and more on making sure they feel at ease. “It can’t be awkward because it’s my job to make them feel comfortable. If they’re uncomfortable then the photos aren’t going to be good,” Sammi said.
Sammi spends half an hour to forty-five minutes photographing each outfit. She takes roughly five hundred photos during a single photoshoot, then chooses thirty-five to edit. “I edit all the pictures on Photoshop and make them very aesthetically pleasing,” Sammi said. “Then I send them to Caren. We’ll go back and forth sometimes about what to post.”
Sammi has honed her photographic talents inside the classroom, as well; she is currently taking AP Studio Art for the second year in a row.
Before she reached the AP level, though, Sammi started off in a Photoshop class. “I think that was important because there’s a lot of skills that I didn’t know before and the small things like technique and rule of thirds that we learn in Photo is very effective for everyday photography,” she said.
Digital media teacher Jeanne McDonagh has had the opportunity to observe Sammi’s growth as a photographer over the years. “Sammi came in freshman year as a beginning student. She was creative and interested but she really hadn’t developed skills yet in terms of photography. She is motivated and she does all of these independent projects on her own so in terms of her growth, you can’t ask for more than that with regard to her interest and her discipline,” Ms. McDonagh said.
Ms. McDonagh was similarly impressed at Sammi’s ability to handle working for Caren Forbes. “It surprises me that she’s still doing that. She started that a couple years ago and Caren is a very interesting employer. She’s very demanding and I’m glad that Sammi has been able to stay with it because most of the students don’t,” she said.
Sammi, however, thrives in Caren Forbes’ hands-off environment. “I really like how everything is in my control and I can choose and style the models and it’s totally my vision. I just felt like it really clicked with me and I was able to have successful shoots giving people directions on where to pose and how to pose in different settings. I like how you can make simple pieces of clothing more interesting and eye-catching,” she said.