Often when we apply for jobs, we’re not quite sure how many others are applying. We could be part of a pool of two, two dozen, or two thousand applicants. Landing any job is great, obviously, but knowing how many people you beat out for the gig is a nice feeling as well. This recently happened for Atlanta-based photographer Gianna Keiko, who went through a thorough portfolio review and came out on the other side as a collaborator with REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.).
I landed the work through a referral to the senior producer. From there, I had to undergo rigorous portfolio review alongside 10 other ATL photographers. The senior photo editor and art director eventually chose me!
The prep work for the review was substantial. Gianna, an avid outdoors person with numerous sports-based hobbies, recalibrated part of her site to match the look that REI wanted.
Prior to submitting to portfolio review, I had to curate a gallery of work that matches REI’s signature “in the moment” style. So, I created a landing page on my website that reflected this. I wasn’t present for the portfolio review, but the producer and photo editor mentioned pros and cons for why they like working with primarily natural light photographers — we can shoot in the moment, play with light, things like that. I was so stoked to be chosen! I love to surf, ski, bike, hike, and do yoga, so being able to translate a love and protection of the outdoors was really meaningful for me.
One of the main aspects of this shoot is the fact that no person photographed was a hired model. This gave Gianna the opportunity to suggest shots and settings that she felt would help relay the message of people getting outdoors and being active. The REI team, an amiable bunch, was only too happy to follow Gianna’s lead in this case.
This shoot was two days long and took place in Atlanta. REI wanted to reflect real people getting outdoors in the city. So, they street-cast the talent (no models) and walked around observing a few months prior to the shoot. I got to participate in venue scouts and as long as I covered their shot list, I got to shoot any additional that I liked.
They actually didn’t even consider the skatepark. That was a push from me, and they loved it! REI has such a talented team. Everyone was all in. Early call times, 10-hour days, insane weather forecasts, didn’t matter. Everyone was scrappy, helpful, and just funny.
With those long days, it can be easy to lose focus, which makes Gianna’s suggestion of going to the skatepark even more impactful. The art director went up to the photographer and asked if she knew of any good spots to get needed imagery, and Gianna was prepared to help.
We were shooting the yoga scene and getting really bored with it, honestly, and the art director asked if I knew of any random spots, as the light was actively fading. We hustled up to the skatepark to get skyline views in the back, and some of the guys who were not our talent were going up the half pipe and throwing/catching a football at the same time.
I loved it and felt that it translated the real life Atlanta vibes perfectly and asked the producer if she could get them to agree to be in the photos. Once she told the group of guys she’d pay whoever it was I accidentally captured, everyone wanted in on the photoshoot! It was really good vibes going on.
Check out more of Gianna’s work on her website.