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How I Got The Shot: Avant-Garde Headpiece

How I Got The Shot: Avant-Garde Headpiece

Concept & Styling

Lately I’ve been extremely inspired by the graphic shapes and clean lines seen in images in the 1950’s and 60s and have been channeling some of those visuals into my work, which is what lead me to do this avant-garde style shoot.

One fact I’ve learned from movies is that things aren’t always what they seem. Old city skylines were often painted backdrops. Elaborate columns and rock cliffs can be made out of painted foam. ‘Giants’ were made to look tall by camera angles and forced perspective.

The same is true with photography. We have a lot of tools available to make ‘movie magic’ in our images, and this is definitely true with sets and styling. If it photographs well, that’s all that matters in your image-making. The props, background or clothing don’t always need to be extraordinarily expensive or intricately crafted in order to look striking in your images.

My friend and designer Lory Sun is brilliant at taking everyday objects and reinventing them into stunning pieces that photograph as if they are bespoke designer headpieces. She uses zip ties, super glue and cardboard and suddenly we have a gorgeous prop!

For this shoot, Lory brought me a large headpiece full of texture and perfect for creating drama. Can you guess what it is made out of? I had no idea! She had spray painted Ikea placemats and strung them together into a piece she could mold into several different shapes— a headpiece, a skirt, something to wear on the shoulders. It was so versatile, so eye-catching… yet it was nothing more than placemats and ingenuity!

Whenever I begin a shoot inspired by a designer’s piece, I ask myself what I am drawn to about this item. Is it the texture? Is it the shape? Is the color? Is it the mood? Then I can craft my image in a way to showcase these strengths.

What I loved about this headpiece was the unique shape and tangle of textured. One great way to shoot this piece would be too silhouette it against the background, focusing truly on shape more than any other elements. This idea informed my lighting.


Canon 5D IV
Canon 24-105mm 4.0
Tether tools tether cable
Savage seamless paper “Super white”

(3) Profoto D1 Air 500 Watt
(1) Profoto 5 degree grid

Creative Team

Photographer: Lindsay Adler 
Hair and Makeup: James Milligan
Model: Susie Brey from Women 360 Management 
Stylist, Designer: Lory Sun 


To create the clean silhouette I needed to showcase this headpiece, I began by lighting a Savage seamless paper “Super White” background.

I used two bare strobes, one on either side of the background to help give me relatively even illumination. Then, I placed two black V-flats up against the white walls on either side of my set. This helped prevent a lot of light bouncing off of the walls and filling in the shadows (a common problem when trying to achieve silhouettes in a white space).

Lighting setup diagram - Lindsay Adler Photography


Finally, I added a 5 degree grid at a high angle pointed down at the subject’s face. What I discovered was a brilliant, happy accident. When aiming from such a high angle, the light was pointed through the textures of the headpiece casting crisp shadows on the face. I LOVE this shadows and repositioned the light to emphasize them even more. Because the light was relatively far away using a hard light source (the grid), this gave me the hard light I needed to create the well-defined shadows.

To learn more about using hard light to cast shadows on the face, check my Creative Studio Lighting tutorials for a step-by-step breakdown of the process, camera settings and more.


Because the image was silhouetted, I made sure that the poses would be clean and graphic. I used strong, clean lines to create visual interest and make use of her body position to try different compositional elements. I used triangles and negative space to provide structured body positions.


Truly this series of images needed VERY little retouching if any at all. All I needed to do in some images was to extend the edges of the white background. In some instances I cleaned up the lines in her clothing. For the most part, the images were nearly perfectly captured in camera.

Model posing on white background with Lory Sun hat - Lindsay Adler PhotographyModel posing on white background with Lory Sun hat - Lindsay Adler Photography

Gear used