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Last Saturday was a great day; It was one of the few fashion shoots I attempt and despite all the controversy and criticism surrounding fashion photography, it still feels like the most difficult work I’ve attempted and some of the greatest fun. Maybe the fun had less to do with it being a fashion shoot and more to do with the day, the people, the energy of the shoot.
I’ve heard two commercial fashion photographers speak recently about the importance of the right team in having a successful shoot. I have a pretty good sense of what that means and there certainly is more control over picking your team when you’re paying them to work. When you’re asking everyone to work for free, well hell, you kinda take what you get, right? I must be blessed, though. My “take what I can get” team was amazing.
Elmira Lilic – The Model: A successful model and international finance expert with Wells Fargo Bank. She and I had communicated via Facebook and finally met face to face to work out the shoot. Immediately I felt a good vibe, not only with her, but with her boyfriend Kelvin. Elmira had total buy in to the shoot, literally. She came armed with $3000 worth of clothes and accessories for the shoot (I hope she didn’t loose any receipts:)) which gave us a great deal of flexibility.
Kelvin – The boyfriend: Professor, jazz pianist and all around great guy. He came to the shoot and provided some wonderful live jazz piano (there is a piano in my studio) while we worked. He was also kind enough to get the team coffee and some cake.
Chet and Amy – The Assistants: Using the word “assistants” is a little insulting, insomuch as they are both great photogs in their own right and generous to a fault. I can tell you that the shoot would not have happened without them, their attitude and natural abilities.
Oskar Ly – professional makeup and hair: Seriously, some of you have been on shoots of mine with really unprofessioinal professionals. Oskar was the antithesis. Amazing work, great energy and personality and very generous with her time.
So the team was really really strong and the only weak link was the photog….I mean this with all sincerity and I’m not fishing for anything here. This type of photography is very difficult to do well, at least in the way I define success. I pretty much missed most of my goals for the shoot and became painfully aware of how I naturally work in these situations. I learned a great deal from it and have a greater appreciation of the folks who do it well. I’ll be taking a two day fashion photography workshop this February in Los Angeles. I now have a long list of questions for the instructor!!!!!
So on with the images. I hope you enjoy them. Remember you can click on any image to see a larger version.
This post and next features commissioned portrait work. The bulk of what we shot in both cases featured a single subject light and, in some cases, a background light. The power of a single subject light setup is that it allows the photographer and subject to concentrate on what’s really important; the soul/personality/attitude of the subject, to stay behind the camera and remain connected with your subject. To this point, its also very helpful to have an excellent assistant. In this case I had Marek Lakatko and he made all the difference.
These two light setups are GREAT, but the light modifier you choose for your subject light is critical. In today’s images I used a 46 inch Alien Bees Octobox. This is a very large softbox and produces excellent catch lights in the eyes. I move the light in to 3 feet or so of the subject, position it high and, typically, to the side. In some cases I’ll come right over the top and front of the subject. The background light is an Alien Bees strobe with a 30 degree spot grid.
These folks are the founders of a consulting firm. We shot for nearly 5 hours capturing over 500 frames in the studio with different looks of clothing, backgrounds, etc.
A shift back to studio work this week and next. Over the past month I shot two studio projects, the first of Matt Albiniak for his web brand identity which he wanted to link to his employer, Sierra Bravo. The key word to capture was “nerdtastic.” I had a definite look and feel in mind for the shoot, asked Matt to bring some props and he did the rest. I hope you enjoy these!
Technical: Canon 1Ds Mark II, 70-200 mm lens, f/10, ISO400, 1/200 shutter speed. All lights/diffuser made by Alien Bees All strobe lighting (see lighting diagram): Key Light: Beauty dish with with diffuser, rim lights with flags and 30 degree spot grids, hair light with 10 degree spot grid, background light with 40 degree spot grid.
The next two weeks or so I’ll be posting work from a recent project, creating images for a Comp Card. My model was Valerie Carpender, who has appeared in Vogue, Mademoiselle, and other national campaigns. Over a two week period we shot a mix of studio and location images.
A staple of the comp card is a natural light image. The day we were shooting was cloudy and snowing and I was very excited about the conditions, but I don’t have great natural light in my studio. So I began searching around the warehouse and found a business on the first floor with giant widows from two directions and the owner was gracious enough to allow me to shoot in the space.
The size of the windows and the cloud/snow conditions produced the worlds largest softboxes. I’m including a lighting diagram so you have an idea of how I was using this
lighting situation. The model was facing directly into window 1, and a sidelight was coming from window 2. I was paying close attention to three issues: first, I wanted a little bit of fall off of light and positioned Val so the sidelight was falling off from camera right to camera left. Next, I wanted to bring a little bit of light on to the backside of Val’s hair, so I positioned an assistant with a reflector in an attempt to capture some of the very diffuse natural light and reflect it back on to Val’s hair. Third, I had to be very careful of the wall color reflecting on to Val’s face and hair, and the reflector actually blocked some of this.
Another challenge was the lack of light. I actually had to shoot off the tripod, given the lens I was using. See below. The next two posts we’ll be back in the studio with strobe lighting.
Technical: Canon 1Ds MkII, 70-200mm tele lens, ISO1600, f/6.3, 1/80th