Behind the Scenes of a Women-centred Jewellery Fashion Shoot

Behind the Scenes of a Women-centred Jewellery Fashion Shoot

There’s something magical that happens when three independent, creative people come together to create something new – especially when they’re all women.

This is exactly what happened for the photo shoot that I organised for Sugarberry Shimmy – the sparkling collaborative energy of a photographer, a model and a handmade jewellery designer.

Behind the scenes in the mermaid's den courtyard of the Brunswick Picture House

Byron Bay magic

I was house sitting for friends of mine, looking after their fabulous French bulldog, Mr Bosley, and their gorgeous home south of Byron Bay, for a few weeks while they were overseas.

While I was there, I decided to harness the magic of the Byron Bay area and organise a lifestyle photo shoot with a model for Sugarberry Shimmy.

I’d done a photoshoot of my beautiful sister-in-law a few months earlier, but had soon discovered that lifestyle jewellery photography is hard, even if your model is stunning. I love taking photos, but showcasing tiny little objects of art hanging off a person is tricky. Plus, I’d gotten the lighting all wrong – harsh, dappled light; a rookie mistake.

Jewellery photo shoots and the work of post-production take lot of effort even without a model, outfits or location. I didn’t want to put all that work in again and be disappointed a second time. I took a deep breath, resolved to let go of control, and started looking for the right professionals to help me.

The photographer

Kirra Smith popped up fairly early on into an Instagram search for #byronbayphotographer. Based in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast, she’s a commercial, branding, product and portrait photographer.

I’d looked for a photographer before in Brisbane earlier on, but either couldn’t find the look I wanted or didn’t get a response from them. With Kirra, it was different. Straight away, I recognised in her images that sunshiny, joyous quality that I’d been looking for. I contacted her, she was lovely and friendly, and she had a spot available in a few days’ time. We pencilled it in, she recommended a local modelling agency, and I said I’d get back to her with the location. Tick.

The model

Browsing the model agency site, I came across a model with beautiful smooth chocolate skin, hazel eyes, long flowing dark hair, and a smile that melted my heart. I needed a model who would smile; sultry was not what my brand was about. Her name was Yasmin Honeychurch.

I called the agency and Coco, the owner, told me that Yasmin now lived in Sydney but happened to be back home visiting the area and was free the afternoon that I’d pencilled in with Kirra. Amazing.


“Yasmin’s also an actress,” Coco mentioned casually. “She’s in a movie called 6 Festivals.”

And it hit me. One of my friends from school, Shannon Wilson-McClinton, had produced that movie, and I’d gone to its premiere on a cold wintery night in Canberra last year. Yasmin and the rest of the cast were sitting in the row behind us. I didn’t meet her that night, but I remember thinking when I saw her in the lobby that she must be one of the cast. She was impossibly good looking; not-normal good looking. Normal people don’t look like that.

The movie is a gorgeous coming of age drama and celebration of live Aussie music directed by Macario De Souza, and she’d been luminous in it. Yes!

“I’ll send you the contract and if you’re happy with it, send through your running sheet,” Coco said.

“Perfect,” I said, and then hung up and Googled ‘what is a photo shoot running sheet’.

The location

Next, I Googled ‘Instagram-worthy spots in Byron Bay’. I wanted lush green foliage – the look I’d tried to capture at Roma Street Parklands with my sister-in-law. One of the places that popped up was the Brunswick Picture House in Brunswick Heads, and I happened to have already bought tickets to see singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly there the next day.

At the gig (and Stella Donnelly was sublime, by the way – the voice and smile of an angel combined with fierce ethics and a hilariously potty mouth), the Picture House courtyard stole my heart. Walking into the intimate tropical courtyard felt like swimming into a mermaid’s den. Tangles of leaves and flowers crept up walls and hung down from overhead, and mismatched brightly coloured vintage furniture was scattered around. I asked the bar staff for the best way to contact the owners.

“Oh, there’s one of them behind you now,” they said.

Brett, co-owner and seasoned world cabaret connoisseur (as I later discovered), said ‘yes’ on the spot. Oh my god!

I locked it all in and spent the next few days scrambling to finish making complete sets of the new designs I had in my pipeline, feeling intensely blessed.

I’m won’t lie though; I was highly anxious. I’m a perfectionist and my brand matters to me. As with everything in my business, I was investing personal funds – if the images were disappointing, I couldn’t afford to do it again.

On the day

On the morning of the shoot, I still haven’t received any information about Yasmin’s hair, makeup, nails and outfits, which I’d asked for her to arrange herself, with guidelines. She and her agent Coco have been attending an intensive workshop for the last few days. Those details matter for close up images though, so I’m nervous! Coco finally calls and assures me that Yasmin is taking care of everything.

After finishing my freelance work, I pack the car full of the boxes I’d prepped the night before, leave early and do laps of the back streets of Suffolk Park, collecting pink and orange bougainvillea, hibiscus and frangipani flowers from the nature strips of luxury houses, before heading north up the highway.

As I pull up at the Picture House, I notice with relief an open Vinnies shop across the road. If need be, I can race over and buy an emergency slip dress, I tell myself.

Yasmin is being dropped off as I’m climbing out of the car. We greet each other and I see with relief that her hair is a gorgeous cascade of natural curls, her nails are perfect and subtle, and her makeup is golden and natural. Phew! On her feet, she’s wearing fluffy, leopard print slipper-slides, her freshly manicured toes peeking out the front. Cute.

She hangs the five or so coat hangers of clothes she’s brought with her nonchalantly on a nearby tree branch and flips through them for me. I notice nervously that the collared jackets won’t work for my brand, but there’s at least one dress that will be perfect.

We start distributing a tall pile of outdoor cushions amongst the coloured chairs in the courtyard and I open up the conversation.

“So you act, model and sing too – what a privilege to do what you love for a living.”

“Absolutely,” she agrees. “Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful.”

Then she’s all chatter, bubbly with the enthusiasm of youth, gratitude for her extraordinary life and high on the energy of the workshop. She tells me all about the exercises she’s been doing there to face her inner demons, nurture her inner child and move her body in more authentic, primal and non-pretty ways. She’s pumped full of life!

Kirra the photographer arrives and gives me a reassuringly warm hug, and I introduce her to Yasmin. We take another look at the outfits Yasmin has brought and I’m ready to dash across the road to Vinnies before it shuts, but Kirra says that the dress and a long skirt pulled up like a strapless dress will be fine. Okay then. I’m still nervous and have to will myself to trust the process.

The shoot

Yasmin darts into the empty theatre to change into the dress. I give her a pair of aqua earrings and contrasting pale orange hibiscus flower and clasp a necklace and bracelet around her neck and wrist.

Then they get started. Kirra tells Yasmin where she’d like her to stand, Yasmin immediately strikes all manner of divine-looking poses and facial expressions. They chat as they work and form an immediate rapport.

At first, I feel like I shouldn’t interfere, apart from running back and forth with new colours and designs of jewellery and different flowers; I’m intimidated by their professionality and feel like a third wheel in their intimate duo. But Kirra soon asks me to hover around and straighten Yasmin’s gold heart necklace as she moves. Suddenly it feels like a trio, and I encourage Yasmin to smile more – I want the images to be full of joy, like my brand.


Within minutes, the three of us are talking about meditation and energy. Yasmin tells us about the moving experiences she’s had in the workshops that shifted energy for her, and Kirra relates a wondrous reiki experience she had once. I tell them I became a reiki master for my former massage business and then describe the free 4-week online course that I’m currently attending with the teacher of one of my teachers (Kerry, who you can read about here) on divine masculine and feminine energy.

“Yes please, send us the link,” they say.

At Kirra’s request, Yasmin darts back into the empty theatre to get changed into the skirt as a strapless dress. Kirra turns to me.

“How old is she?” she asks.

“In her 20s I think – about half my age,” I reply.

“Same. Wow, she’s amazing.”

Yasmin comes back out and Kirra says to her, “You’re so wise, Yasmin! When I was in my 20s, I was an idiot!”

I burst out laughing. “Me too!”

It’s true. Yasmin is light years ahead of me at her age.

We collectively marvel at how blessed we are to be doing something creative that we each adore.

Yasmin looking at the camera with long curly dark hair
Yasmin is outrageously beautiful

The location that keeps on giving

Kirra directs Yasmin to move from spot to spot within the tropical garden courtyard and Yasmin makes full use of each spot and the flowers and jewellery I’m giving her, crossing her braceleted wrists over an elephant ear palm leaf here and holding the flowers as props for different poses there.

Every time I give her a new piece of jewellery to wear, she and Kirra gush over the tiny detail and the shimmering colours. My heart swells with pride and love for my work. It’s been three years of business development with just one genuine customer, a former colleague of my husband’s who loves my work and whose order keep my faith alive. Apart from that, I’ve only had occasional sales from friends and family. I’m not used to receiving any attention for my work, and it instils hope in me that others will love it too.

Every corner of the courtyard yields a new surprise; it’s the location that keeps on giving. The natural wonder of the oversized tropical leaves and tendrils and the quirkiness of the place inspire us all. There’s a pair of discarded stripy rainbow socks lying on the path that may or may not be Brett’s. I tidy them out of the way with a grin.

I’ve asked Kirra for a shot with space on the side that I can edit with text later, and as a backdrop, we decide to use a section of pastel blue theatre wall that has minimal vines creeping up it. Yasmin crouches one leg up on top of a metal garbage bin lined up against the wall and starts striking poses for Kirra. She laughs at herself getting comfy on the bin and we all burst out laughing. Kirra takes a close-up shot of Yasmin striking a serious model pose and then asks her to hold the pose while she steps back to capture the full context, and we just love the silliness of it.

The polished pose...


... and behind the scenes – standing on rubbish bins

As we’re shooting, Brett comes rolling in on a pastel coloured cruiser bike, steering with one hand and holding an ice-cream cone in the other. He’s delightfully blasé about us using his space and we all instantly adore him. At one point, a friend of his rocks up holding a potato masher that she’s come to return to him. I love the small-town vibe of it.

Creative playfulness

As the light softens, Kirra and Yasmin riff on a spot where Yasmin is surrounded by dark leafy shadows, but her features are lit up by golden sunlight. They’re excited by the outcome as they huddle to see the digital images on the back of Kirra’s camera.

“Oh my god, is this a Vogue shoot?” laughs Yasmin.

Playing with soft afternoon light and shadows

In another spot, Yasmin holds sprays of small violet flowers that hang down from the golden dewdrop bush above her head. She looks heavenly.

Yasmin looking heavenly amongst the golden dewdrop flowers ...

I’d like to make her smile, so I say, “Can we talk about what you’re wearing on your feet, Yasmin?”

She looks down at her red toenails poking out of her fluffy leopard-print slippers and everyone bursts out laughing. Kirra’s ready for it – the chik chik of her camera shutter is constant.

... and behind the scenes - those fab leopard-print slippers

Handfuls of stars and bougainvillea

Later, I hold up a zip-lock bag of the coloured beaded stars that I use for my Gemini Star earrings.

“Let’s get a shot of a handful of these!” I say.

Yasmin cups her hands together and I pour in mauve, pink and gold stars, and then arrange the bracelets on her wrists.

A handful of the beaded stars from our Gemini Star Earrings ...

“Now let’s get these,” I say, and I take back the stars and switch to bougainvillea flowers, snapping purple, pink and coral blooms off stems and arranging them in her cupped hands. Lastly, as the courtyard light starts to fade, I arrange my cute Sugarberry Shimmy gift box and lid in her hands with a Gold Heart Necklace placed carefully inside.

Yasmin's hands full of bougainvillea flowers

... and a handful of bougainvillea blooms

And then suddenly, it’s a wrap. It feels perfect. I’m beaming from ear to ear.

Kirra and Yasmin arrange a time to meet up again before Yasmin flies back to Sydney so they can experiment with another creative shoot just for fun.

“Would you like to choose which photos we use?” Kirra asks me. It’s a generous offer but I trust her judgement and I know I’d get decision fatigue and fail to narrow down the choices.

“No, you choose, please,” I say, and hug her with heartfelt thanks and relief.

After Kirra leaves, Yasmin and I tidy the cushions away and then Brett and his friend give us an impromptu tour of his garden. He shows us a spectacular orchid hidden in a secluded corner that he’d acquired from a prolific local orchid lover when she’d downsized to a retirement home. He tells us how he’d grown the entire garden from clippings when he and his partner had bought the run down, disused movie theatre five years earlier.

Settling down after 15 years touring his cabaret show around the world, he thought he’d give gardening a try, entirely unaware of his own green thumb. Yasmin and I are full of wonder at the treasure trove he’s created.

We say our thanks and goodbyes and climb into the car so I can give Yasmin a lift home and I realise I have a cracking headache. I gulp down half a bottle of water and place the leftover grapes I’d brought for our snacks in Yasmin’s lap to help her rehydrate.

As I drive us back down the highway she chats easily, tells stories and answers my curious questions with grace. I drop her off and hop out to give her a thankyou hug. She was everything I’d hoped for and more.


Head throbbing, I roll into Lennox Head and hang a handful of posters around town as a favour for Brett; Wil Anderson is doing a last minute comedy show at the Picture House the following night. Then I head for the gelato bar where I’ve become a repeat customer, and as the sun starts to sink, I order a celebratory gelato: spiced golden turmeric with coconut. It’s a cool, sweet balm to sooth my headache and residual stress hormones. I devour it with a satisfied glow, awestruck by the success of the day.

Collaborative creativity: the handmade jewellery designer, the model and the photographer

Back at the house, Mr Bosley the French bulldog is elated to see me.  

Later that night, Kirra posts a tantalising sneak peek of the images on her Instagram page and sums the day up beautifully:

Today was one of those days that reminds me why I’m in love with my work. I met two women (one half my age) who are creative, intelligent, joy-filled and wise beyond measure and it was one of the most uplifting, laughter-filled shoots of my life. It’s so rare to meet people and immediately feel like you can completely and unapologetically be your weird, authentic self and it’s one of the best feelings there is. We created some magic today and I’m pretty sure it was because of the connection we made, as soon as we said hello. A dream day ✨

Thank you Kirra Smith Photography, Yasmin Honeychurch and Brunswick Picture House for making my dreams comes true.

Note: the images here are unavoidably squashed by Shopify blog platform - they're slightly better throughout the site😉


Aren’t these images divine??! And have you seen Yasmin on the big screen? Tell me what you think!

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