BEHIND THE SHOTS: Fella & The American Crew All Star Challenge 2019 / by Peter Sladen

Another great shoot with Fella barbers complete. This time we were entering a national hairdressing competition, The American Crew All Star Challenge. Every year photographers and hairdressers have to submit two black and white portrait images, one face-on and one in profile. The competition is run by the men’s grooming giant American Crew, so we had to make sure to capture images that were complementary to their look and style.

We arrived just as fantastic stylist Alex Wakefield was giving the hairstyle some finishing touches. We set up our backdrop and lighting ready for shooting. Our subject was an unfairly good-looking French model named Soren Paillou.

We set  up a portable studio inside of the barber shop, it was a bit of a squeeze, but we managed to get everything in place. We spent the next few hours experimenting with different lighting and poses, to get everything just right.


The final images we decided on, showed both the versatility of the haircut Alex had created and matched our vision of the American Crew brand.

We wanted the face-on portrait to convey a classic, gentlemanly look. To achieve this we explored a range of  poses, outfits and camera angles. With our model dressed in a suitable white shirt, we directed him into a slightly regal pose, which gave the image the feel of a classic 1950s Hollywood portrait.

For the side profile image, Soren had a costume change into something more casual, which matched the “swoosh” style on the side of the haircut. This complemented and contrasted the smart style of the front-on image, helping to demonstrate the versatility of the cut.



We were all very happy with the final two images.  We didn’t quite make it to the finals but we were shortlisted among the top 20 and we received some very positive feedback from Fella and the judges, and we are already excited for next year's challenge.

Huge congratulations to everyone who made it to the finals. Wishing the best of luck to this year’s world finalists. A big thank you to Soren, Bobby and Alex for the great opportunity and all the work they put in for the shoot.



The Lens - Portraits was the name of the game so we stuck with the classic choice of the 85 mm lens shooting mainly around F7.1 to keep the face and hair tack sharp. We dropped it down to around f 5.6 to help smooth out the background and keep the focus on the hair for some shots.  

The Lighting -  Getting the look of the lighting just right was a huge part of the final images in order to match the aesthetics of the American Crew brand. We had a large Octobox softbox for our key light, a small gridded square softbox positioned behind the model as a focused rim / hair light and finally a silver reflector for some nice fill light. We took the key-light in nice and close to get some beautiful soft light/shadows on our model.

To really enhance the hair we used some bounce cards and even mirrors to add a bit more pop and shine.


We were pretty happy with the shots Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC), some basic enhancements were made in Lightroom and then the final touches were done in photoshop before converting the images to black and white.  

Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC)

Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC)

Basic Lightroom edit

Basic Lightroom edit

Final image with Photoshop edits and black and white filter

Final image with Photoshop edits and black and white filter

Credits & Social media links

Behind the Scenes Shots - Kamila Lobuzinska. (All behind the scenes photography is taken on 35mm film (Fuji colour 400) with a Canon AE-1)

Model - Soren Paillou

Hair Stylist - Alex Wakefield - A.W Hair

Make-up - Hrista Karapneva

Fella Barbering: Fella / Fella Folkestone / Fella Margate

American Crew UK - IG Page