Sarah Rae

Been meaning to try out a Joel Grimes style high-key blown-out image for a while.  I got a message from a local shooter – John Gannon, who’d recently built a studio – in his back garden, was busy teaching himself to shoot pictures and had a fantastic model – Sarah Rae from Bournemouth, at his studio all day.  It just said – you’re local – fancy shooting with Sarah in my studio – just pay Sarah for her time.  Well


– how could I refuse?  It would seem rude! John’s back yard studio is a good size and he’s equipped it with basic lighting, a lot of backdrops, and even a little make-up station.  Sarah showed up right on time with a massive wardrobe packed into 3 cases.  She had been on tour in the North West for 3 weeks or so.  I only intended to spend a couple of hours there, however Sarah has such a fantastical look – intense impressions, with an overwhelming sense of concentrated attention – and John’s a brilliant bloke – very generous, helpful and dead easy to get on with.  I ended up spending 4 hours shooting with Sarah, and we got some great results.

So, first up was the Joel Grimes nuclear detonation light-everywhere shot.  Joel uses some really big modifiers to provide fill left and right and a medium/large softbox to provide slightly more directional light from the front and centre.  Go watch his videos on “Lit Up” – they’re really useful. I didn’t have 2 really big modifiers, however, the walls of John’s studio are all white, so I pointed both of his small softboxes at the left and right walls/pitched roof which had the perfect angle to reflect that light as a massive soft light source back onto Sarah.


Behind me, I put the most powerful light John had, in between 2 5ft umbrellas.  The light is firing back in a 5ft silver reflective umbrella, which then sends the light forwards through a 5ft shoot-through to create a very big, very even soft light source.  Now!  Normally I measure the exposure and I did here but just for reference.  I can see why Joel doesn’t bother – for this type of lighting, it’s gonna be way off “normal” so I ramped the lights up until the highlights on Sarah were just on the edge.  I didn’t really care about blowing out the white walls – I needed those a flat 255 anyway.

And here’s the result after following Joel’s processing workflow which I picked up from his videos on Kelby Training  (note we took the BTS shots after that part of the shoot, and Sarah’s changed outfits for the next set, but it gives the general idea).




And just to prove that digital photography is not film – the aim is *not* to get a finished image out of the camera.  These images were exposed to capture maximum detail  (each successive line to the right on the histogram holds twice as many levels of tone as the previous – the rightmost column holds as much as all the others put together) and so processing for “normal” exposure in Lightroom gives you:-



And then we moved onto a red paper background, cool lacy short dress and heels, with dramatic contrasty light.  Tried a snoot first, however it’s just a little too concentrated.  Moved up the 17″ beauty dish with grid, lighting Sarah’s face and upper body and later on added a med strip-box with egg-crate to fill on the lower body and legs – aimed in the same direction as the dish and powered down to minimum.   Added a fan to push the dress against Sarah and lift the hair slightly.  The fan was really close and removed in post.




Love contrasty light like this, and grid-on beauty dish is a nice spread of light.  You could also use the grid with the diffusion sock on underneath to give more or less the same light spread, but with more diffusion between the grid squares.

Thanks again to  Sarah – a really fun person to work with, and a great model.  And to John Gannon for letting me use his studio – it’s a  great little set-up.







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