So my friend Carla said she would love to get some new pictures to put up on her facebook page. This request came right as I was coming out of my photography 'drought', and just after I attended the excellent Lighting Essentials workshop so it was a perfect opportunity to experiment and have a low pressure, fun shoot to get back into the flow of things.
I met Carla through my girlfriend who has known her since she was a little baby. While I'm on this subject, let me just take a moment so say how important it is to have a supportive spouse, girlfriend, parent, bff, or whomever to keep you going. My wonderful girlfriend has been so supportive of my photography that I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without her. She was along all the way during this day and was a great help with location ideas and as the stylist for the shoot.
Lets get on with the shoot now.
This shoot had been in the works for a while. Something always seemed to come up at the last minute. I had almost lost all hope when suddenly the planets aligned and it finally looked like the shoot was going to happen. We met at her family's house here in the West Palm Beach, FL area and while she was getting ready, I scouted for locations.
Now, doing a shoot like this, where there is no money involved, doesn't have to cost each person an arm and a leg. I had my girlfriend assisting and acting as the stylist. Carla went to a department store in the local mall and got her makeup done for free at the cosmetics counter. In the end, all it really costs is your time.
While Carla was getting her makeup done, I scouted around the house for places to shoot. I decided to start with a simple head shot in the garage. Since Carla was not a "model" she would naturally be a little uneasy in front of the camera. I figured that starting with the head shot would be a good way to get her to loosen up.
The head shot idea was a good one. It got her to loosen up and built up her confidence in her own modeling abilities. It also helped set the mood for the shoot, which was loose and relaxed. We joked around, brought a fan out, tried funny faces, etc... It's important to always keep things fun and relaxed.
Into the Jungle
After the ice-breaker head shot, we headed into the back yard and found a nice wooded area to make some natural light shots. The woods provided some soft open shade light which we enhanced with a reflector. Using a reflector is a great way to make your subject stand out. By highlighting your subject with a reflector, you make it brighter than the surroundings which really helps it 'pop' in the scene.
Carla had the idea to climb up on a branch. It was a little challenging to do in a dress, but the result was one of the best shots of the day. Don't overlook any location. Try to consider all angles. Sometimes the most mundane location can yield a great photograph.
It was now getting a bit hot, so we continued indoors to cool off a bit. I had seen a picture on the wall that I tought would be cool to include in a shot. Carla changed into something a little sexier for these shots and we started shooting.
Here is a situation where I came in with an original idea, but ended up changing it completely. I originally wanted to have Carla sit and mimic the pose in the figure. After a few attempts, we decided to ditch that idea and try a vintage glamour look with a spot light on the face.
It was challenging to get the lighting right without picking up reflections on the glass of the frame. It took lots of trial and error positioning the lights. Fortunately Carla was a very patient subjet.
At this point we took a lunch break and reviewed the shots we had gotten thus far. Carla was much more relaxed and confident about the shoot and fter a couple of well deserved slices of pizza, we went back to the hallway.
Now let me take a moment to mention a talented photographer by the name of Ed Verosky. Ed is a New York based photographer who publishes the site About Photography. One of Ed's specialties is boudoir photography and he has written a couple of very good e-books on the subject. I tried several shots based on one of his e-books, and although this was not a boudoir shoot, the techniques worked well. Unfortunately he no longer has the particular books I bought available for purchase, but he said he is putting together a comprehensive guide on boudoir photography which basically combines the 2 books I have. You can check out his other books on the site above.
So now, back to the shoot. I took down the picture on the wall and cleared the hallway. We did some shots up against the wall. The hardest part was controlling the spill of light. Since we were in a tight hallway with light colored walls all around the light was just bouncing everywhere. A combination of getting the light in close (use the inverse square law to my advantage) and flagging the umbrella was necessary to keep the light from lighting down the hallway. A good exercise in light control to say the least.
Since we were already in the boudoir mode and all, the next stop was the bedroom. I wanted a casual yet sexy shot of Carla on the bed. Another setup from the Ed Verosky bag-o-tricks. I also wanted to use the ambient light along with the strobe, so I left the blinds open on the windows. I set my exposure to slightly under expose the ambient outside the window and used the strobes inside to bring Carla up to the correct exposure. I loved how these shots came out.
There was still plenty of daylight left, so we just kept going. Another wardrobe change. Carla had an elegant dress to put on that would look great against the beautiful glass front door at her house. As luck would have it, the green from the front yard coming through the glass looked great with the color of the dress. I decided to bring out the big guns for this shot. Did I need it? Probably not, but I had brought it so I might as well use it. I set up the Alien Bee with the large octa to camera left and a speedlight to the right to kick up the hair a bit. I loved the colors and the way the light washed across her face. We had a lot of fun with this setup and even included her mother and best friend in couple of shots. The only problem we had here was that Carla did not have any shoes that matched this dress, so she asked that I cut off her feet in the shots.
Ok, let's keep going! Another change of wardrobe and we headed back out the yard. The sun was starting to go down at this point and I wanted to get some all natural light shots. Time to break out the 70-200 f/ 2.8. Few things, in my opinion, are cooler than a natural light portrait at 200mm and f/ 2.8. Perhaps f/1.4 is cooler, but it's a close call.
Carla put on a new hat she had bought for the occasion, a long white skirt (great for back lighting) and a simple top. By this time she was in full supermodel mode and striking poses like a pro. We made some awesome shots, in fact, I think my favorite shots were from this part of the shoot. I shot Carla in the shade of the trees in her back yard. That way I had nice soft light all around her and did not have to deal with direct sun. This also placed her against a lush green backgound which looked great when placed out of focus by the f/ 2.8 aperture.
Before heading in for the final location of the day, I noticed these palms fanning out of the ground and thought it would make a great background. It also presented a good oportunity to use some creative lighting. I used one speedlight pointing up into the palms to highlight them in the background. I then set another speedlight in a shoot through umbrella to be the main light on Carla. Finally I put one more speedlight behind her to light up that skirt from behind. I was really pleased with how this shot came out.
For the final shots of the day, I convinced Carla to take a dip in the pool in one of her dresses. It actually did not take much convincing, she liked the idea right away and picked a pink flowing dress for the dunk. It was my first "trash the dress" session so I was pretty excited about it. I set up one speedlight in a shoot through umbrella near the edge of the pool. Then I set up 2 more speedlights one on each side of the pool to give her a nice rim on either side. The setup worked great! We got some very nice and sexy shots in the pool. At the end, we were all exhausted but it was such a great time. I got to try out so many different things, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. Carla was such a good sport going 110% all the way to the end. If you ever have an opportunity to just "play" like this for a whole day...I highly recommend it.