Parachute Dress in Studio

June 20th, I did a photoshoot with the lovely April in the white studio at Something OldDayton.  The shoot was basic test shoot to see how the parachute dress I made from an old US Army cargo drop parachute would work and ultimately photograph. 

First, let’s talk on about the dress.  The dress is made from a 25-foot diameter green cargo drop parachute. To make the dress I placed the parachute on a dress dummy, using the center hole in the parachute as the open and relying on the tension cords to  hold it up. After centering the parachute, I pinned the top to the dress dummy, at this point I left the tension cords for the time being, while I draped and pinned the parachute to the dress dummy to give it shape.  Once everything was pinned, I did one of the hardest parts, cutting away the excess fabric so there would not be a bulge in the back.  Once the excess fabric was cut away, I did some more pinning, then hand sewed all the draping points. I also used some fray check on the cut sections.  Once that was complete, I cut the tension cords and turned those into the straps of the dress.  The final step was adding grommets all the way around the top of the dress.  These grommets have a duel function, they are used to secure the dresses straps and coarsest the back when worn while adding a decorative feature.  You can see a few progress photos below.


Now onto the photoshoot itself. For this shoot I used:

  • Canon 80D
  • 2 Phottix strobes
  • 2 Phottix rectangular soft boxes with a grid
  • 2 C-stands
  • Gold balloons
  • Wood Ladder
  • Industrial Fan

For this shoot,  I shot tethered. I shot 73 frames at ISO 100 and 274 frames at ISO 400. I used two apertures F9 and F5.6 and three distinct shutter speeds 1/100s, 1/125s, and 1/200s.  My focal length varied from 18mm to 80mm.  My most common I setting was ISO 400, with an aperture of F5.6, a shutter speed of 1/100s and a focal length of 18mm.  These setting were chosen so that I could blow out the windows in the studio, while keeping the studio a very nice white with detail and capture as much of the dress as possible. Of the 347 frames I edited 177 frames, and released 93 final images.

ISO 400, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 18mm

My personal favorite from the session is the image to the right of the dress cascading around the model while she holds some balloons that may lift her up and away. When editing this image, I made sure to blow the whites out a bit to give the whole image a glow and high-key feel. I also edited out some of the extra piping on the walls, the electrical outlets, and a few of the hanging light fixtures.  The lights were positioned at a 45-degree angle off  the center of the model and were both set to the same power level to ensure even lighting across the image. 

The image below shows off some of the volume of the dress. This was achieved by placing an industrial fan under the edge of the dress to blow air into it.  This puffed up the dress, and had the extra benefit of keeping the model cool. The studio is rather hot, due to it being in an old building that does not have central air conditioning. When editing this image, I kept it as bright as possible without loosing detail, sadly you can see some of the cars in the parking lot out the window. The lights were positioned at a 45-degree angle off  the center of the model and were both set to the same power level to ensure even lighting across the image.

ISO 400, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 28mm

ISO 400, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 24mm

This image to the right is just a fun image, which I credit the idea for to my husband. He suggested tying balloons around the base of the dress to lift it up to make it look like model was floating away.  Unfortunately, the balloons only lift the edge not the whole dress, to get the fun billow and height, we place the model on a ladder, then used the industrial fan to blow air into the dress to get the puffed-up parachute look.  When  editing this image, I added extra balloons around the base of the dress, because one balloon at each handle looked lonely. I also edited out any ladder legs and shadows. Again, I went towards high-key for this image because it is supposed to be fun and light hearted. 

ISO 400, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 18mm

This final image is based off all the wooden ladder photos I see on Pinterest. It is supposed to be a fun shot showing the size of the dress and while showing getting ready for flight through the model climbing the ladder, holding a bunch of balloons to lift her away, and having a pair of goggles on her head.  I think it is a whimsical type photo. Again, I stayed bright and airy for the photo, to keep the mood happy and light. 

Overall, this was a fun shoot, and April was a wonderful model to work with. She managed the volumes of fabric this dress has very well. I can’t to use this dress again for another photo shoot, maybe outside next time.






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