Now, about these modelling names. Normally I can’t be doing with all of that. Talking to someone and calling them “Sparkle” or “Shiny Stone” or something is just odd. However, Remo has a real job and a life she’d rather keep separate from her modelling work and that’s fine with me.
Remo contacted me with a brief for 3 styles of shot, with lots of pictures and descriptions of clothing, styles and examples. I liked Remo’s ideas a lot so a few weeks later we met at Pathways Studio in Chester to make them. Also on-set we had a fantastic make-up artist, Victoria and my assistant for the day – my friend Sandy Auden. It always helps if your assistant is a photographer, and Sandy is an accomplished concert and event shooter – more used to extracting good images in sh*tty light… The idea you could actually turn it up and down intrigued her and she agreed to come help out – and did a brilliant job.
The first set was inspired by the sort of 1950’s Hollywood, film-noir style light with the subject the classic “femme-fatale” that often featured in these movies. As Remo’s outfit was all black, we needed some fill which is provided by the gridded strip-box on the right. This is feathered off towards camera. The main light, a gridded beauty dish, is actually hidden behind that strip-box and is aimed at her head and shoulders. The last light, the edge light is off to camera left lighting the hair and providing edge light down her right arm.
Now, you can start off metering the edge light, and aim to set it maybe 1 stop less than the main light, however it was also lighting up Remo’s hair and as the pose changed that edge light needed constant adjustment both in output and angle and you can see Sandy doing this in this shot. Here’s one of the finished shots:-
My research on the femme-fatale characters in 50’s noir movies (ie typing “femme fatale noir” into Google images :P) revealed that they were all chain smokers, and held their cigarettes in these slim little holders. We got this one via ebay for a couple of pounds, however nobody smokes, and we couldn’t smoke in the studio anyway. I planned to photograph some smoke using some jos-sticks or something later, however I found it was not that hard to create smoke in Photoshop. There a ton of tutorials about how to do this online, all different however the basis of most was to use various distortion filters on a grey shape. This is what I did:-
- Draw a white line on a new blank layer, starting off thin and getting wider towards the top.
- Use the burn tool to darken the centre of the line, and then with a smaller brush, burn the centre of that too.
- Then use the wave generator with 5 generators and amplitude between around 35 and 170. I left everything else alone.
- Use Edit | fade wave at 50% to split the smoke into 2.
- Repeat the above 2 steps until it looks good
- Use the smudge tool in fast upward strokes to move the smoke – twirl the smoke about as well using this tool (it actually looks like real smoke as it does this – swirling about in front of your eyes).
- Again – do this until it looks good. The smoke should have more swirls towards the top as it cools and has less upward velocity.
- Maybe use the puppet warp tool or free transform to make the smoke the right dimensions.
- Fade out the opacity of the smoke layer until it looks realistic. I set the blend mode to “lighten only” to eliminate any dark areas in my fake smoke.
The results are pretty good and as long is it isn’t the focal point of the image, it works.
Then we moved onto an image style that is popular right now in magazines like Vogue or Esquire etc. Very direct, flat light using either a ring flash or a direct reflector pretty much straight-on. Not my usual cup of tea. In this case I used a beauty dish with grid to get the concentrated but quite large pool of light centred on her face. I tried some shots without the grid, but it was just way too even, flat and boring.
Went quite wide for this too – which is to say I shot from only 2-3 feet away, from a couple of steps up a ladder, that required a 30mm focal length. Remo is right up against that white foam-core background so I needed to be careful of where the hotspot of the light would go. The light meter is invaluable for this – meter all around and aim to get the hot core of light over the eyes, or just a bit lower. Whenever you light your subject specifically like this, it’s important that they don’t move about too much, or, as you can see in this shot, the hot core of light can become off-target. It’s a little too far to the left on this shot, lighting up the board to the left of her face a little too much.
Next, with another change of outfit, keeping the trousers and changing to a t-shirt instead of the jacket, we went for some real dramatic focussed light, against a grey background, with real contrasty edge light. The key light was the gridded beauty dish again, with gridded strip-box off to the back providing an edge light.
I “expanded” the studio in one of these shots in post, to provide a more interesting framing, and room for text. This is easily one in Photoshop by expanding the canvas to the left of this vertically shot image, and grabbing a rectangular slice of the background to the model’s left and stretching it using the free transform tool over the new image area. Blurring the background hides the stretching, and adding in some fake “lighting” on the background that covers the new and original parts of the image helps tie it in. This gives you an enormous resolution as the model is shot vertically. Putting the model on the right looking to camera or down to the left captures the viewer’s attention as the eye travels from left to right and is drawn back into the centre of the image (and the text) by the model’s gaze.
Lastly, we added some fog. I love fog. You can put lights in the fog aimed directly back at camera, or at in the frame in any case. You have to back-light fog. We always do the fog shots last as well, it’s a bugger to get rid of and takes around 10 minutes to fully clear with the fans on and the windows open. It’s harmless stuff – just vapour. It’s often called “smoke” however it isn’t – and won’t set off smoke detectors.
Sandy was chief fog director for this shoot. Its important to get an assistant to operate the fog if at all possible as once you unleash it, you need to start firing off the shots, as the fog develops. For the same reason, it’s also important that you brief your model on the poses and direction you want in advance. We ran 2 or 3 fog bursts for these final shots, going heavier each time on the fog.
Now, you can add coloured gels to the lights to create fantastic effects using fog, however I used Nik (Google) colour Efex pro 4 to add the colours to these shots. You could do the same in Photoshop or in Lightroom using the brush or grad tools however it’s just very quick to do in Colour Efex. At $149 for the whole set (Color Efex, Silver Efex, Dfine, HDR Efex Viveza etc) it’s rude not to buy these . If you already have one of the Nik tools, Google will give you the rest for free!
All of these images have had some basic skin treatment. This needs to be masked from the shadow terminators so as not to destroy the drama in the high contrast shadows. The usual adjustments to the lips, eyes and so on have been applied. Apart from that it’s dodge and burn time to lighten highlights on the hair and details like the metal spikes on the boots and rings on the trousers.
Thanks to Sandy for helping out on this shoot – we squeezed a lot in and having someone knowledgeable steering lights, changing modifiers and supplying an additional point of view is invaluable. Thanks also to Colin who owns and runs Pathway Studios – always a pleasure to shoot there.
Get in touch if you need a modelling portfolio creating. My rates are very reasonable – email me or call for details.