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Sam "Old Hollywood" grayscale IMG_3321Got together with Sam in my studio on Sunday to work on a variety of images. One of the things we wanted to try was another take on the “Old Hollywood” style glamour photo. Since this was a TFCD (Time for CD) shoot, we were interested in trying some ideas and experimenting with different looks.

One of the things I wanted to do was create a shot similar to the one I’d done the day before with Lisa, but this time instead of using studio strobes, pull off a similar effect with a shoe mount flash unit.

For this shot I used a Canon 40D with a 580exII mounted on it’s own light stand and fired via an ST-E2 controller. I used a Zoot Snoot (see my review at: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/reviews/47288.aspx) to produce the spot light effect seen here. This $23 light modifier is a handy tool for when you want to restrict the spread of light from your flash. (Camera settings: ISO 200, 1/125th, f11, 35mm, flash placed off camera about 2 feet to the left of the camera, see next image for setup.)

Sam flash illustration IMG_3369

Lisa on couch grayscale IMG_3129Brought the “Old Battle Axe” into the studio yesterday to do a Hollywood glamour style shoot. This is a new style I’m experimenting with (I get the occasional request for this look) and I’m still working on it. This was a two-light setup using an Alien Bees B400 at 1/2 power snooted  head on and an Alien Bees B1600 with Softlighter II (the big one) off to the camera’s right at 1/4 power to provide some fill. Camera settings were: Canon EOS 40D, ISO 200 1/250th, f16, 28m focal length. While this shot was made with studio lights, it’s not that hard to do something similar with a portable shoe mount strobe, although getting the strobe off camera is necessary for best results. I’ll write about this technique tomorrow.

Worked with Zowi on Monday for the first time. This nice young lady was a responsive and versatile model and we worked on a variety of shots (including illustrations for a couple of my Brighthub reviews).

I’ve already discussed the flash versus ambient considerations in an earlier post on this site, so this time will cover some figure lighting images we made. You can see a larger selection at my pbase site at: http://www.pbase.com/digitaldan1/zowi_figure_studies

Zowi

Zowi

This shot was entirely about controlling light shape and direction. I used a single Alien Bees B400 strobe on a boom arm to direct the light downward and at an angle to Zowi. To keep the spread narrow, I used a snoot on the light and positioned it fairly close to the model. Because she’s on a black background and there’s very little light spilling in any direction, very little of Zowi is shown to the camera.

While this is a nice shot in its own right, it’s also a building block for an image I’m planning with another model later this week. (You’ll have to wait until the image is created and posted to see what the idea is.)

The process often works this way. You work on learning a technique for controlling the light and then look to adapt it to more complicated images. I did another shot with Zowi under this light that is providing a starting point for a different concept (a kind of “Old Hollywood” glamour shot where it looks like the model is illuminated by a spotlight. I’m doing a shoot for this idea on Saturday with my wife. If things work out, I may do something similar with Porsche some time in the future.

 

Zowi with flash

Zowi with flash

Zowi available light

Zowi available light

Worked with a new model today — Zowi.

Nice girl from Lancaster, Pa., who posed beautifully and took direction well.

I worked on a variety of shots with her today including figure study images in the studio and then experimenting with ambient light and off camera flash in the stairwell outside the studio (same location as the crying shot with Porsche). There are plusses and minuses to each image. While I like the mood created by the ambient light better, the slow shutter speed necessary for a good exposure resulted in a little ghosting with her left foot and a slightly softer image (ISO 800 1/30 f4 28mm focal length). The flash photo (made with a Canon 580 EXII on a flash stand to the model’s left) provides a sharper image and greater depth of field and produces a more dramatic lighting effect, that is also a little harsh. This light is a little hard for a thin model like Zowi (ISO 400, 1/60 f13 41mm focal length).

Which is the better photo? I like the ambient light shot a little better. The light is softer and more flattering to Zowi, and I can live with the image being a little bit soft.

 

Amanda sees the light

Amanda sees the light

I talked about dragging the shutter in an earlier post. Now I’m going to talk about building on the technique by adding a carefully controlled light with a colored gel to make even more of the shot. 

Once again, my studio’s stained glass windows came into play, but this time the main light was powered way down and fitted with a snoot instead of the Softlighter II. I used a yellow gel to add to the glow coming from the stained glass windows and gently light Amanda (another wonderful model I get to work with from time to time).

The trick on this type of shot is to reduce the amount of light from the strobe so it doesn’t overpower the ambient light shining through the window coupled with a slow shutter speed (ISO 200 1/8 second, f16, 28mm focal length, Sigma 28-300 ).

 

A work of art

A work of art

Porsche and I got into the studio on Friday for the beginning of a long term mixed media project. While I’ll update this site on our progress, I’m keeping the nature of the project under wraps. You can try and figure out what we’re up do from my occasional update.

This shoot involved a concept I’ve used before, a beautiful model posed kneeling on mylar with paint drizzled on her body. The model then paints herself. 

Normally I choose the colors and distributions for these images, but since this is a much bigger project than usual, I wanted to get Porsche more involved in it (as an equal partner rather than just a subject of the photography). So for this image, I asked her to come up with a color scheme and ideas for how much of each color we should use. Her choices were red for anger, blue for sadness and yellow for happiness and she determined how much of each paint I drizzled on her. It was then up to her to move the paint around her body and create the final pattern. The combination of bright colors, dark background, reflective surface and engaging model combine to produce a compelling image.

Some comments on the technical side. This was a fairly simple lighting setup. I used an Alien Bees B1600 shot through a Photek Softlighter II (the big one) and used a pair of strobes bounced off my studio’s white ceiling for fill. Camera details were: Canon 40D, Sigma 28-300 lens, ISO 200, S/S 1/250 F13. One other thing to note, the mylar kicks a fair amount of light back up into shadow areas producing a nice, even exposure.

I chose not to use a background light because I wanted the effect of Porsche coming out of the darkness. Using a background light would have provided separation between her and the background. Was that the right decision? Well, I’m happy with the image, but you’re welcome to disagree with the choice.

I’ve only posted this image to my pbase galleries so far and my http://www.modelmayhem.com port, but I will be adding some others when I get the time. It’s been a busy couple of days and I’ve have some catching up to do as far as editing images from this shoot plus another shoot I did yesterday, plus I have some studying to do too.

 

Lonely girl

Lonely girl

I was in the studio with Lindsey today. She’s another terrific and versatile model. While we didn’t work on it during today’s shoot, one of her great strengths is that Lindsey is very comfortable being silly, a rare talent. 

We sometimes joke about models who only have one expression — the “gas face” — as we call it. You know the look, mouth half open, staring intensely into the camera. It’s supposed to be sexy, but usually isn’t. 

Today was kind of a winging it sort of day. We didn’t have any kind of plan in mind at the start of the session, so I ran some ideas by Lindsey. One of these was for a body painting I’d wanted to do earlier in the week with a new model I’d scheduled for Tuesday night. She unfortunately flaked on the shoot, and so I offered the painting to Lindsey who loved the idea. 

Lindsey and I have collaborated on several body paintings before, usually full body paintings, which make some kind of social commentary. This time I was just painting her back and rear end and going for more of an artistic design. Once that painting was done, we cleaned her up and posed several other shots including this one in the stairwell of my studio building. The window light, color and texture of this stairwell corner make for beautiful images. Lighting, just like in the photo of Porsche crying, was just simple window light plus a little bounce off the side wall. The shot was handheld at ISO 400, 1/45th of a second at f4.

Say hello to an angel

Say hello to an angel

Porsche and I got in the studio yesterday to work on some photos for my Brighthub article on avoiding blurry photos (should be up in the next few days).

After we got those images out of the way, we discussed some ideas for future images. Porsche, who is a delight to photograph, often brings interesting creative insights into the photographic process, so I like to explain my ideas to her and see what she thinks.

Since my studio has some beautiful stained glass windows, I often incorporate them into photos. There’s a shot I’ve been thinking about for a while and Porsche is one of the models I want to use for it, so we set up a practice shoot to help me prepare. (Sorry, the idea will remain secret a while longer.)

One of the keys to making this image is to take advantage of the outside light streaming through the stained glass windows. This provides a beautiful glow to the image, but is also easily washed out if the main light is too bright. You need some kind of main light for the subject otherwise you end up with just a silhouette (which also makes for a nice photo).

Making this image work requires a technique known as “dragging the shutter.” Namely, the photographer sets a shutter speed that’s slow enough to record the light shining through the window and then uses the flash (in this case an Alien Bees 1600 with Photek Softlighter II) to light the model. The photographer then sets the f-stop to control the exposure from the flash. The info on this image is ISO 100, 1/8th of a second exposure and f11, with the Alien Bees strobe dialed down to about 1/4 power.

Porsche’s sporting a new look hairstyle btw, one that highlights her beautiful face.

 

Chlosyne Janais, a South American species

Chlosyne Janais, a South American species

While at the Museum of Natural History, we couldn’t resist checking out the butterfly exhibition. (http://www.butterflies.si.edu/). It was amazing! Butterflies were all over the place. In fact at times we were having to dodge them as they flew by us. Sometimes we’d even see one or two land on one of the visitors. Needless to say, the opportunity for some interesting photos was pretty good. Lens Baby provided me a set of macro diopters (close-up lenses) I’ll be writing about soon. I used the more powerful 10x with the telephoto add on lens to make this image of a South American butterfly getting ready to feed. Exposure details: ISO 200, 1/125th of a second, f4 aperture ring in the Composer, available light. The image has been cropped heavily (what you see in the final photo represents about 25% of the actual file. This still leaves me with a 6.2 mb file for 5 x 7.5 at 240 ppi, which is certainly capable of good quality prints if I need them.

Bad day

Bad day

While studio lights and portable strobes give the photographer full control over lighting, sometimes available light does the job just fine. Porsche wanted an image of her crying, and by a curious coincidence, I’d ordered liquid tears makeup because I’d been planning a similar shot with her in mind.

My studio is located in an old church in Southern New Jersey. When you enter the building from the side, there’s a stairway to the second floor which has a small landing and good sized window off to the side. Porsche thought the poor condition of the landing would help make the image even more lonely and sad and she was right.

All the light for this image is coming from the window to Porsche’s right with some light bouncing off the wall beside her to fill in the shadows. No artificial or supplemental lighting was used. It’s a simple but powerful shot thanks to great lighting, a beautiful model and a little makeup.