In December of last year I had the chance to do beauty test shoot with makeup artist Ann Benjamins and hair stylist Aleetha Clanton. The point of testing is to try new techniques, experiment, build your portfolio AND to try working with new creatives. You are ‘testing’ out others and ‘testing’ techniques. Thankfully on that test day we found that we three creatives were a killer creative team, and had to continue creating together.
A couple months after our test Ann reached out and invited Aleetha and I to work with her on a beauty (hair centric) editorial for L’Officiel Thailand.
We started passing around hair inspiration shots through email and Pinterest, and finally settled on a theme of braids.
The concept was to create a variety of 3 hairstyles (long waves, updo, twists), but all with a beautiful weave of delicate braids styled on top of the hair. Now the ball was in Aleetha’s court (so to speak) to craft the ideas for how the braids would look and which 3 different approaches would create a cohesive editorial but with diverse styles.
We wanted a model with luscious hair and a unique look. I reached out to Silent Models for their board of girls and was delighted to see Viki Foti on the board. I had worked with Viki at a workshop a couple years prior, and was always interested in working with her again. She was a delight to shoot (great personality and beautiful expressions), as well as unique with her signature gap-tooth look!
The Shoot Day
On the shoot day the team met about 30 minutes before our model arrived so that we could discuss our looks again. Aleetha and Ann discussed their makeup/hair concepts, and Aleetha began to lay out her looks.
While the ladies were working on Viki, I began to experiment with a variety of lighting setups. I had several concepts in mind, but there is no one ‘right’ lighting. The lighting always depends on the concept- what are you trying to emphasize? What mood are you trying to achieve? How does this lighting fit the style of the magazine?
Once Viki had completed her first look, I had her sit in front of my lens for about 10 minutes while I tried a wide range of lighting styles. We all narrowed it down to about 4 for L’officiel so they could give input on their favorite.
On some big shoots for magazines an editor may be on set to give input into the process, however in this case, we simply got feedback as to the editor’s favorites (remotely) and then we were off and ready to create some magic!
I was BEYOND thrilled with the editor selected the lighting that most fit my style AND was my favorite. Dramatic light, rich colors, sculptural, unexpected… and so ME!
For this particular setup I used 5 different strobes… each one contributing to my visual goals. Since this was in fact a hair editorial, I needed to make sure to bring the hair to life. The strobes were a mix of Profoto D1/D2s 500 watt and a variety of modifiers — each with a specific job to do!
Main Light: For the main light I used the Profoto Spot Small. This modifier allows me to project a pattern or shape on the face. For this editorial I soft-focused the edges to give me a very focused beam of light, so only a small area of the face would have ‘white’ light (allowing me to add color to the rest of the scene). I could have used a grid, however the spot small gave me the flexibility to have more of a vertical shaped illumination on the face (instead of circular).
Hair Light: Next, I added a hair light to the image to be sure that the hair was given a glowing look (and to make sure the hair wasn’t an afterthought in the image). I used a Profoto XL deep white umbrella with diffusion. This gave me a soft light source that wrapped around the hair from above and slightly behind, giving me that heavenly glow look I was going for.
Fill Lights: Lastly I added the two gel fill lights. These fill lights in the front would allow me to create beautiful washes of pastel/rich colors across my subject both on her face and in the hair. The first gel I used a Profoto Magnum reflector with a blue gel — this would create some specularity to the image (aka a bit of shine in the shadows) and the wider modifier allowed the blue to cover a greater area on the face and hair. Finally on the right side of the frame I used a grid with a purple gel to add a bit more wash of color (and visual depth) in the shadows. The gels I used were Rosco Color Effects Kit.
Skin retouching is important in an image like this because I’ve used such hard light which emphasizes all imperfections and texture to the skin. Since this was a hair editorial, a bit of clean up was done to the hair and any frayed edges to make the hair even more perfect! Finally I added some color grading (purple/blues) to the shadows to emphasize the color palette I had already selected with the light.
This beautiful editorial ended up as six glorious pages (3 double page spreads!) in the May issue of L’Officiel Thailand. It looks stunning and I would LOVE to do more editorials like this– my style with a great team!
The Creative Team
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon 24-105mm 4.0
- Profoto D2 1000Ws AirTTL Monolight
- Profoto D1 Air 500 Watt
- Profoto OCF Magnum Reflector
- Profoto XL White Umbrella Deep with Diffusion
- Profoto Spot Small
- Profoto 10 degree grid
- Profoto 20 degree grid
- Profoto Air Remote
- Rosco Gels
- Savage Seamless Background Paper - Fashion Gray
- Tether Tools Cable
- Tether Tools Tether Table Aero for 15" Apple MacBook Pro
- TetherBLOCK QR Plus Quick Release Plate