We’ve shot landscape, nature, still life, sports, architecture, interior design, macros, abstracts and portraits. With the exception of portraits, and sports from a distance, none of these require getting too involved with people. The portraits that we did were of friends and people that we know, so there was already an element of familiarity and relative comfort. Our photographer friend, Neal, has been doing a pretty nice job of shooting models and on several occasions we have helped him as studio manager and assistant.
I noticed that I was reluctant to get involved with the actual picture taking which was not in character since I usually dive in with no trepidation. I had assisted for several fashion photographers in my youth and I was aware of how it worked, but the first time we shot together, and it was my turn to work with the model, I got flummoxed. It felt like I had no control of the shoot; not the model, not the lights, not composition, not even exposure. So when Neal set up a second studio shoot with a figure model, I decided that I better take advantage, get over my discomfort and try a couple of ideas. Sort of ‘deep end of the pool’.
One concept that I wanted to try involved shooting through this patterned piece of glass. It has been stored and been moved around our place for years and was most recently moved a couple of weeks ago. As we were carrying it around, we saw its potential and so we brought it down to the studio. It looked like a dressing room or shower door, so curtains seemed appropriate as a background. I suggested it to the model and she agreed that it could be an interesting shot. Big moment. She dons her ‘costume’ and steps behind the glass. I start to direct, she responds and we are making pictures!
What changed? I think it was mostly the fact that I had a shot in mind, a pretty good idea of what was required for the setup, had tested it the day before and the only major challenge this time was interacting with the model.
It’s strange having a nude figure model in the studio. There she is, an attractive young woman standing starkers on the set and all you are thinking about is how the light should fall on her figure, where the flash units need to be placed, how am I going to trigger them all, does her lipstick complement her hair (it didn’t until post) and how to keep that piece of glass from falling and turning the shoot into a slasher flick. I know we didn’t get them all right, but enough so that we could sense the competency and make a few interesting shots.
The other concept we had involved green screen again and compositing and will be the subject of a future post.
The initial lighting set up was for a beauty shot that Neal wanted to try. The main light is beauty dish close in front of the model about 8 feet high powered by a small flash. To camera right and about 45 degrees behind the model is a 30″ gridded softbox also with a small flash. To camera left is a v-card with a small flash bouncing into it. For the shot to the right, we added two small flashes firing through the curtain.
When we went to the shot at the top of the post, the beauty dish misfired. Since we liked the semi-silhouette effect, we shot some without it.
During the initial set up with the rippled glass we noticed that the modeling and focus light in front of it cast interesting shadows on her figure. So for the shot to the left, we moved the gridded softbox from behind the model to the front of the set. This cast the linear shadows which followed the contours of her figure. To soften the harshness of the direct shadows, I duplicated the base layer twice in Photoshop, inverted one layer with Soft Light blending mode and used Lighter Color on the top layer. I arrived at this combination through experimentation: “Let’s see what this looks like…cool!”