Harley Quinn Session

On September 18, I did a studio session with Kayari at LED Studio in Old Town Alexandria. The session was a cosplay session, focused around the “Birds of Prey” version of Harley Quinn.  LED Studio was a perfect location for this session, due to the lovely exposed brick walls within the studio, the seamless paper choices, and the overall size of the studio. The studio was a good value based on its overall size (a lot larger then expected) and location. 

For these sessions I used:

  • Canon 80D
  • 4 Speed light
  • 3 Light stand
  • Strip soft box with grid
  • Square Soft box with grid
  • Blue and Pink gels
  • Trigger
  • 18-200mm lens

To prepare for this session I went through several movie stills from “Birds of Prey” to understand the expressions, mood, color tones, and lighting used in the film. This allows me to determine how I’m going to approach the session and what my lighting set up will be.  I zeroed in on a still image lighting Harley Quinn from the from the sides with light matching the color of each of her pig-tails, so that became the base inspiration for the session.  So, during the session I placed gels over the flashes before placing them in the soft boxes then used them as side lights.  I then used a bare flash, with no gel as my main light for the image.  I played off this lighting combination throughout the session. 

I shot using an ISO of 100 and apertures of F8 and F9 with most images taken using an aperture of F9.  I had to work to dial in my shutter speeds when, I changed my lighting configurations based on the backgrounds thus my shutter speed ranged from 1/20s to 1/100s. The two most commons shutter speeds were 1/40s and 1/100 seconds.  My focal length varied from 18mm to 50mm, with 18mm being the most common.    

Kiera was very fun to work with, and we got several great images. My favorite image is below. To get this image I had her sit on one of those cube foot-stools, then angled the two side lights towards her.  Then filled with the main white light. You can see the touches of blue and pink light along the sides of her body, mostly in her hair.  When editing the image, I ran through my basic retouching process and then worked with the colors slightly to try to make the blue and pink light stand out a touch more.  When doing this I had to make sure I was not damaging the underlying skin tones and base colors of the image. It was very much a balancing act.  Once I was happy with the image I added a very strong vignette, to finish it.

My second favorite image is one using a red seamless and a chair. I like this image just because of the overall mood it portrays through the lighting. To light this image, I had the gelled flashes in the soft boxes to either side of the model.  In this case the blue flash was a bit better aligned then then the pink, but the image still works overall. Then had the bare flash zoomed and to my right, giving it a bit of a spot light feel. You could say that the bottom of the image is overly dark, especially the left-hand corner, but I intentionally left these areas dark during the editing process due to the mood of the raw image.  

Most studios, if they have seamless have a roller system that has plastic chains that you manipulate to roll and unroll the paper; this studio was no different.  I ended up using these chains as a prop because they were colorful and worked with the character and aligned slightly with the movie setting.   I tried several lighting configurations, starting with the single bare flash and then adding in the pink flash in the square soft box.  For this image the bare flash is to my right with the pink flash to my left. However, the key to this image was the post processing and color management. The wall behind the model is white, but I when white balancing the image I went towards the cooler side of the spectrum and slightly increased the magenta tones. This change in white balance brought out the pink light from the gelled flash, and contrasts nice with the resulting blue/grey of the background. Also, when editing I added a bit more brightness to the model’s face and eyes to ensure the viewers attention was brought there. I finished off the image with a strong vignette to increase that spot light feel.

Overall, Kiera was a good model to work with and we ended up with a wide range of images from this session that aligned with the characters personality and the overall tone of the movie.  You can see all the images from this session here.


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