Saturday, April 23, 2011

A day in the studio ......

I was helping a friend of mine, Eimear, about a week ago with a shoot.  I had met her on a fashion photography course I was on (briefly) and she was fretting a bit because she had to produce 5 framed A3 colour fashion photos from scratch.  I said I would give her a helping hand from the technical side and bring along some gear she might need if she provided the models and ideas.

The day was a reasonable success and I was impressed with one of the girls (Thabi) who had agreed to model.  I asked her if she would consider a photo session in the club studio and she agreed.  Eimear, who had provided all the clothes and shoes for the shoot and whose real passion is to be a stylist asked if she could style the shoot.  Now I'm a bloke.  I'm Irish and, like the majority of men, have a red/green deficiency in my eyesight as well as an inability to recognise what's fashionable or what colour-coordinates with what.  So a girl offering to do all this for me was great.

We shot a few e-mails back and forth and met up last Thursday afternoon, albeit a bit late, in the studio.
Having seen Thabi in action for Eimear's shoot I wanted to do a high key fashion shot myself and then do some low key which is what I like most.
I used to light high key with two lights on either side of the white background at the wall and then light the model separately from the front.  I always got variable results and would spend a lot of time in post processing eliminating the shadows and getting the background white again.  I went to a free tutorial in DML last year where the most useful thing I learned was how to light a white background with ONE light.

The setup is relatively simple.  I have a photograph of the setup below.

The idea is to bounce the light from the flash at the ceiling which bounces off the veritical section of the background and down and forward onto the floor.  A few caveats to this setup are:  I have used a Bowens 750 at almost full power.  A 500 would be about the lowest power you could go.  The second is you need that reflector I have which is described as "A high performance reflector" (Bowens # BW 1878) which is shaped to concentrate the light.  The next is a barn door to prevent spill hitting the model's face and/or the top of the background roll.  The last is the positioning and angle of the flash.  The picture above was my initial position which I changed and moved it closer to the back wall and changed the angle.
I normally set the power to get an incident reading (with the invercone) on the flash meter of f16.  I set the camera to f8 (maybe f8 +1/2 stop) and check the histogram and highlight blowout warning on the camera adjusting the flash power if necessary.

The rest of the setup is probably more easily seen in the sketch below:

You can see the background is lit by the flash angled to the ceiling.  I've coloured it yellow to make it distinguishable from the rest.  The model is (key)lit by a softbox set to f8.  This softbox is set high enough to give a more natural light and create some shadow - a bit like butterfly lighting.  Similar to butterfly lighting I use a second softbox (smaller) on the floor to give some lighting to the floor in front of the model, the models legs and feet and to fill some of the shadow caused by the key light.

And the end result is ......
Model: Thabi Graham Nkoala
Stylist: Eimear O'Reilly.

Next time I'll show you some of the other shots from the day and tell you about a phenomenon on the 5D MkII that produces red skin when you underexpose.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A date with a Goth!

Never judge a book by its cover.

Earlier this year I was part of a photoshoot in an 18th century manor house. There were three photographers and two models. It was a hectic day and my plan to have time with both models didn't happen. I didn't have a chance to shoot with a model called "Spunky Gore" who is a Goth. So when we talked about doing a shoot together I wondered what kind of shoot I could do.
Daniella (her real name) is a very nice, intelligent girl despite the impression her full-on Goth appearance gives. She has two Goth 'modes' - one for shoots and one for everyday. Her full-on Goth mode is quite impressive and I guess most people's reaction to it would be to take a step back. I spoke to her about ideas I had to contrast the appearance of the Goth 'uniform' with the reality of the 'girl' inside. She was quite taken with that and we spoke at length about ideas. Some time passed and she reminded me (I need reminding a lot) that we hadn't had a shoot. So we planned .....

Our plan included a small girl, a dog, a librarian and a library. "Never work with children or animals" was echoing through my head and I probably should have listened but .....
The shoot didn't go quite as I had planned but we gave it the best shot (sic) we could. It might be that I can salvage a shot using Photoshop to assemble one shot from several.
Once we had called it a day on the dog/small child shot, I saw an opportunity to show how people's perception of a Goth could be shown to be flawed.
If a Goth and a librarian were going to choose reading material I was guessing that the librarian would have something like the Sunday TImes and the Goth would have a magazine like 'Piercings Monthly' or something similar. My good friend Bonnie went above and beyond the call of duty and bought a copy of 'Nuts' (lad's) magazine for me - the best that could be bought in a Mace supermarket on a Sunday - and acted as second model for the shot.
I shot this in an actual library. I wanted the lighting to look a bit like daylight coming in a window with artificial lighting coming from behind. I also wanted the background to be out of focus so chose my 100-400mm lens at 170mm and a fairly open aperture f5 to get a shallow depth of field and a shutter speed of 1/100 at an ISO of 100. Without using any flash the ambient lighting of the background was dark enough not to be a distraction and bright enough to see some detail. Now to set the flash units.
On this shot I used a 750 and 250 Bowens along with a Chinese speedlite - a YN560 - which has a similar power output to the Canon 580EX II but is manual and not TTL.
I used a softbox on the Bowens 750 and adjusted to the power to give the exposure I needed to match the shutter/aperture/ISO I had set - this was my key light. I used a shoot-through brolly on the Bowens 250 to give a fill about one stop lower than the key light. To finish, I used the YN560 as a hair/back light.
The setup is shown below.
A bit of banter as we set up.

We took a few more shots during the day. It was a pleasure to work with Daniella and I recommend her to anyone for her professionalism, enthusiasm, energy and ideas. As is my custom I have a photo taken of me with my new model. Normally I don't show these but I thought this would bring a smile to some faces and confuse others who think my Facebook profile picture is quite representative of my grumpiness.