Monday, May 28, 2018

Blue Floral Crown

I made a large blue flower head piece last month, because I wanted to shoot with one and I did not want to buy one.  The head piece was easy to make, and consists of a wide plastic headband, a medium Styrofoam ball cut in half, three little Styrofoam cones, hot glue, and fake flowers (hydrangeas and wisteria). The key to making the head piece was having a basic picture in my mind of what I wanted, which was fluffy with long flowers dripping off the ends.  I used the leaves from the flowers to break up the blue, create a crown piece and frame the face when it is worn.  Now I did shoot with the head piece in April at the Spring Shoot on the Farm, however I also wanted to do a more studio centric shoot with it.  However, before the studio shoot I made a few adjustments to the head piece by adding more long flowers (wisteria) to the sides to eliminate the gap I was seeing during the farm shoot.  This made it larger and gave it a bit more length which I believed balanced it out a bit more. Thus, last week I shot the head piece in a studio setting.

For the flower head piece studio shoot, I worked with Lady Chapell (model) and Aly Issabelle Makeup Artistry (MUA) who are both very professional ladies. Aly did a wonderful job with the makeup and going bold, but not too bold with the blue.  The soft tulle skirt that Chapell brought that we turned into a dress worked beautifully to keep softness in the image.  I conducted the shoot in three parts, a high key part, a medium key (grey background instead of white) part, and an outdoors part.

For the two indoor sessions, I used one Phottix Indra 500LC Strobe, one beauty dish, two 430 EX–IIIRT speedlights, C-stand with boom-arm, two light stands, a white fuzzy backdrop, a radio trigger to activate the lights, and an assistant. When we went outside for the third part of the shoot, I just used an assistant holding a round gold reflector.  For all three parts of the shoot I used my Canon 70D, an 18-200mm lens.   For the high key part of the shoot the speedlights were pointed at about a 45-degree angle at the back drop and were dialed in to just barely blow it out for that high key look.  The beauty dish/strobe was up above the model and pointed straight at her nose and was at about 1/16 to a ¼ power.  To get the grey back ground for the medium key, I dialed the speedlights and strobe down but kept the same light set up.  I did move the dish around during the shoo, which was a bit easier since it was on a boom arm. However, my husband/assistant will beg to differ on the easy of movement of the strobe due to its overall weight.

I took 187 photos, edited 44 photos, and posted 42 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 22 percent, which is a little below average for my shoots. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100. My pictures were evenly dispersed between an aperture of f4.5 to f5.6, a focal length from 35mm to 200mm, and shutter speeds of 1/160s or 1/250s.  I should be noted that the 18-200mm lens does not have fixed maximum aperture, it will vary slightly depending on the focal length.  So, at a focal length of 18mm the maximum aperture is f3.5 but if I zoom to 200mm the maximum aperture is f5.6.

Editing of the images was basically the same across the board, because the lighting was dialed in.  However, since these were all beauty shots (head shots), I spent more time retouching the images to give the skin a natural yet airbrushed look. (It should be noted, I usually do not spend a lot of time on skin retouching for large full-length shots that include a lot of background.) I was going for the type of shot you would see in a magazine or on America’s Next Top Model. Now to accomplish the airbrushed look, I had to employ something called frequency separation, which is all the rage and can be very easily overdone.  This is the first time, I have used frequency separation, and it was a lot easier then I though once I watched a tutorial (Powerof Frequency Separation) from PHLEARN and established the action in Photoshop.   The other thing I did several of the photos is soften the tulle skirt by blurring that slightly, to give it more of dreamy look, especially in the outdoor shots. You can see all the images here.

The following three shots are my favorite from the indoor session. All images were shot with a focal length of 70mm, an aperture of F5,  and a shutter speed of 1/160s. 


This last photo is my favorite from the outdoor portion of the shoot.  To get this shot, I had Chapell back into the large flower bush and look serine.  When editing the image, I touched up the skin, slightly brightened the overall image, then dialed it down some by adding a very light vignette to even out a few bright spots in the upper portion of the bush, and then softened the tulle so it seems almost cloud like. The image was shot with a focal length of 50mm, an aperture of F5,  and a shutter speed of 1/250s. 

Overall, I’m very happy with how this shoot turned out and will be making more head pieces for future shoots.  I’m now also not afraid to use frequency separation to retouch skin.  I now also have several ideas floating around in my head, some even involve rubber ducks, paint, glitter, and a kiddy pool but not necessarily altogether.  But these ideas will have to wait till I get back from vacation.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Standard Shoot

Last weekend I got to work with the lovely Vida Muerta on building her portfolio, with some standards.  Standard images are simple images with simple backgrounds (black, white, or gray) that encompass a head-shot/beauty shot, a ¾ length image, and full-length image that show off the model’s basic look.  

I did a simple two light set up for these photos with a grey backdrop (see left).  I used two Phottix Indra 500LC Strobes, one in a square soft box with grid and the other in a socked beauty dish set to the sides of the model.  I shot using my Canon 70D, an 18-200mm lens, and a radio trigger to activate the strobes.  I thought about shooting tethered, so there could be some instant feed back for my model, but my in-home studio is not conducive to corded tethered shooting.  So, in lieu of shooting tethered, half way through the shoot we stopped and reviewed the images and reviewed them again at the end of the shoot.

This is a note to models, do not be afraid to ask to review your shots especially if you feel like you are not understanding the direction being given by your photographer.  The benefit to being able to review your shots, is you can see what is and is not working.  As I mentioned I stopped half-way through the shoot with Vida Muerta to review the images to show her what I was seeing so we could discuss what was working and what wasn’t.   This led to more confident posing in the second part of the shoot resulting in more useable photos. I personally, do not mind stopping in the middle of studio shoot to review your images, especially if they are standards for a portfolio.   Also, this is very beneficial to new models so you can see how the poses you are using emphasize parts of your body and what you look like before the editing magic occurs.  I don’t do heavy re-touching on my images, no shrinking, warping, smoothing, or expanding of the body.  I just remove any blemishes that could go away on their own like zits or get rid of stray hairs and make-up flecks.  I do try to keep my images natural in that respect.  

During this shoot I took 191 shots, edited 34 main images doing both color and black &white images for 18 thus resulting in a grand total of 54 final edited images.  However, I only delivered 46 images, thus the return was 24 percent. This is a little below average for me, but I was being pickier then usual on these images.  I shot all the images using an ISO of 100 and an aperture of F5.6.  My shutter speed had an even distribution between 1/100s, 1/125s, and 1/160s.  Finally, my focal length did range from 18mm (one image) to 155mm (three images) with the sweet spot being between 32mm to 50mm.    It should be noted of the 46 images delivered, 13 were in black & white.  I placed them in black and white because it brought more attention to the models face and black & white was working very well for her and her style of posing.

My favorite image from the shoot (right) was when I told her to think 1920s rich tragic heroine. This image reminds me of an old Hollywood image.  The socked beauty dish, acting as the main light, was raised to the models left and pointed down towards her face.  The square soft box was to the models left and about even with face and about a ¼ of the power of the main light.  The image was shot using ISO 100, an aperture of f5.6, a shutter speed of 1/160s, and at focal length of 32mm.  I converted the image to black & white because that was direction the image and mood pointed me.  I also softened the image slightly to put a bit of a glow on the model’s skin.    

Finally, I will say when editing the images from this shoot it was very hard for me to stay away from a darker noir feel edit, because her dress, posing, and facial expression just were leading me that way.  Also, I tend to edit my images a bit to the darker side almost low key, as compared to a bright high key shot.  Thus, is was just difficult to do brighter images.  Overall, I’m happy with how this session turned out.  I also highly recommend working with Vida Muerta and supporting her on her modeling journey through her patreon site (

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Spring Shoot on a Farm

On April 21, I participated in my first fashion group shoot hosed by Allie Taylor Affairs at Barr Family Farms.  This is group event was different then previous group events I have participated in for three reasons, one it wasn’t a cosplay event; two I had to schedule specific times with the models that were attending the event in stead of just working at random; and three the event lasted all day compared to about three hours.   I enjoyed the event, except for the weather which was rather cold, breezy, and cloudy with the threat of rain.  However, since the sky was cloudy, I was able to capture moody skies as my background in several photos.  Finally, one of the nice items about this shoot, is that photographers that participated can submit their photos to RealmMagazine which will be running a special issue showcasing the event.  I did submit photos for consideration but will not know for a month or two if my submissions are to be included in the feature.

I worked with five models, providing clothing and prop pieces to four of them.  For two I provided a white lace dress from Enception Rentals and the other two worked with a large blue flower headdress that I made.  This worked out well, because it allowed me to slightly pre-plan the feel/concept of each shoot even though I was not sure what the farm would be like until I arrived on site.  As for equipment I brought a Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, two 430 EX–IIIRT speed lights, two Phottix Indra 500LC Strobes, radio trigger, C-Stand, painters pole, a collapsible beauty dish with sock, light grids, and a basic shoot through umbrella.  All this was hauled around on a rock-and-roller cart, pushed by my husband who acts as my trusty assistant.   I used one strobe on a light stand with the beauty attached and sock for two sessions, then had to switch to a gridded flash on a painter’s pole due to the threat of rain for the remainder of the sessions. I can slip a rain cover, which are just quart sized sandwich bags, over the flash units which I can’t do with the strobes.

I took 538 photos, edited 221 photos, and posted 207 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 38 percent, which is about average for my shoots. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100. I was using an aperture between f5 and f6.3, with 56 percent of the photos taken at an aperture of f5.6.  My focal length ranged from 18mm to 170mm, with most photos being taken between 18mm to 50mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/60s to 1/1000s with the about 53 percent of the photos taken at 1/320s.  This was the first shoot that I used my strobes, and I kept them at ¼ power or less to reduce or remove ambient light.  When I switched to my flashes I was pushing them at a ½ to full power depending on the location.  Overall, I’m happy with how the lighting worked out on this shoot with both the strobes and the flash. Though moving the strobe around on the C-stand is not as quick as moving around with a flash on a painter’s pole which made me change my shooting style slightly.  Because moving the strobe around was more difficult, I started to trying to maximize the location before moving to a new spot or pick locations were the model could use the location in a variety of ways.  In away it was a bit of a learning experience with the strobes, but it did not affect the quality of my photos.  Now we’ll talk about a few of my favorite shots, and you can see all the images here.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 120mm 
This first shot is of Autumn wearing a blue flower headdress I made.  The headdress was inspired by ones I have seen online that cost hundreds of dollars.  This blue headdress cost me about 75 dollars to make.  Because of the headdress, I focused on doing beauty/head shots. Autumn was very nice to take beauty shots of because her skin was nice and she has beautiful blue eyes.  The girl new how to “smize” or smile with her eyes.  This shot is very close up, and I like how the flowers fill the frame drawing focus to her eyes. I shot this with a socked beauty dish mounted on a strobe pointed directly on at the model’s nose. During editing I softened the photo slightly by reducing the clarity and saturation. I also blurred the edges of the photo slightly to further soften it and bring more attention to her eyes.  

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 20mm 

This second photo is of Nyla, wearing the blue headdress. Her soft blue dress was an excellent complement to the headdress.  I like this shot because it is soft yet powerful due to her softness and the moodiness of the sky.  I shot this image with gridded flash on painter’s pole, with the light to the photographer’s right. When editing the shot, I ensured that her face was properly light and bright to make it look like a sunbeam was hitting her.  I then went in and added fake rays of light, peaking through the clouds to emphasize the mood of the shot.   

ISO 100, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/60s, Focal Length 32mm 

This third photo is of Samantha. We shot most of her set in the barn, because it was cold and windy out and this got her out of the wind and cold.  For this shot I asked to think romance and soft. I had the gridded flash on the painter’s pole up and to the photographers left.  When editing the shot, I went dark and dramatic while keeping the seductive feel of the image.  I darkened most of the ambient, and tried to ensure just the model and immediate foreground was lit.  I also increased the saturation of the colors of the image to strengthen it.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/640s, Focal Length 50mm

This final image is Veronica.  I love this image because the dress, the background, the sky, and her posing brought this image together.  I feel the image could be on the front of a romance novel. The slightly rusted fence with the field in the background, the stormy looking sky and the wind-blown hair is what makes the image.  For this image, I had the gridded flash on the painter’s pole up and to the photographers left. When editing the image, I faded and slightly softened the image to give it a more romantic feel.  I also brightened her face slightly, to draw emphasis there. I also applied some soft color grading to the image.

Overall, I’m very happy with how the photos from the group shoot turned out. The models were a delight to work with and the farm provide an excellent backdrop for the shoot.

Headshots and Tulips

Since all of Ohio is on a stay at home order currently,   I thought I would update my headshot and take some photos of the potted tulips m...