As a photographer I’m always drawn to and inspired by other photographer’s work — I try to take a moment and analyze why I am drawn to a particular image, and then channel that element into my own work. I am very (very wary) of being inspired by the entire image, because that leads to work that is inauthentic and also way too similar. So I ask, what am I attracted to? Was it the model? The mood? The makeup? The pose? The emotion? The lighting? What elements drew me to this image and how could I take one of these elements and utilize in my own images?
For this shoot I came across a photograph of a musician with rich teal/blue toning to the background and rim light, and dramatic light on the face. I decided to channel this into my own fashion imagery.
I wanted to keep the styling a bit more subdued, and allow the lighting to really be showcased in the shot. For this reason I kept it simple and had my subject dress in an inexpensive black bodysuit (less than $13 on amazon.com).
For the hair I decided to go — like just jumped out of the pool wet! The tones in the image would be saturated blue/teal, and so a wet look fit quite nicely!
I seldom plan posing ahead of a shoot. Instead, once the subject is on set (hair/makeup/wardrobe complete), I start to channel the mood and the character. Sometimes once everything comes together certain poses become more appropriate than others. While there are certainly guidelines for ‘good vs bad’ posing, typically I want the posing to communicate something about the subject. Are they strong? Afraid? Sexy? The position of the body in conjunction with makeup, clothing and lighting will communicate the essence of the subject. I tried to keep most poses relatively subtle (no exaggerated body positions), and instead used how the hair was falling and expression to communicate more of a mysterious mood.
I used four different strobes in this scene, but they were actually used to simulate even more! Let’s take a look step-by-step at the role of each strobe. Here’s a diagram to illustrate exactly where the lights were:
Main Light: The first strobe was the main light illuminating my subject’s face. I used a Profoto white beauty dish and a grid — this helped to create a very small area of illumination just on her face and shoulders while allowing the light to be restricted off of the background and lower part of her body.
Fill Light: The Profoto Deep Umbrella White with diffusion (extra large) created subtle fill in the shadow areas of my subject. I wanted her lingerie and legs to go dark, but not solid black, for this reason I had the power of this light several stops below the main light.
Background Lights: I wanted to create a rich teal background by lighting a darker grey seamless. I put teal gels on the strobes and bounced them into small white umbrellas. This helped to create more even spread of light across the background. The next ‘tricky’ part of all this is that I used these background lights to also create rim lights on my subject. The strobe on the left was angled back toward the subject so that some of the bare bulb (with teal gel) would kick back as a rim light on the left hand side of the face. The right background light was used for a more subtle rim light. Depending on the angle of the umbrellas and the position of the model, I could change the amount of spill.
Retouching and color grading is an extremely important part of the creative process. The blues captured in the original image were not exactly what I envisioned, but I knew I could tweak them in post to achieve something much closer to my vision. Also, the photograph appeared very flat — lacking highlights, contrast or ‘pop’ — so that was an important part of the RAW processing. Furthermore, the harsh light emphasized a lot of texture on the subject’s skin, and retouching helped me to remove these distracting elements. I wanted the model’s skin to shine and be wet, perfect, almost alien like. Retouching and color grading allowed me to not only get the smoother skin, but also achieve pale skin tones which gorgeously contrasted the teal background.
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon 70-200 2.8
- Profoto D1 Air 500 Watt
- Profoto D2 1000Ws AirTTL Monolight
- Profoto Shallow White Umbrella (Small, 33")
- Profoto XL White Umbrella Deep with Diffusion
- Profoto White Softlight "Beauty Dish" Reflector
- Rosco Gels
- Savage Widetone Seamless Background Paper (#70 Storm Gray, 107" x 36')
- Tether Tools Cable
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I hope you enjoyed this “How I Got the Shot”, stay tuned for the next one!