Inspiration - Fall Festival

On October 2nd I did an Asian fall festival inspired session with the lovely Ayla.

For this session I used:

Photography Equipment


Cannon 80D


3 strobes

2 c-stands

1 Backdrop stands

Rough canvas backdrop


2 Rectangular Soft boxes

Soft box grids

orange gel


Fake pumpkins

Fake fall leaves

Orange pails

Real pumpkins

2 foot posing cube

1.5 foot posing cube


The set up

For this session I wanted to create layers and levels of pumpkins as well as give the model a place to sit. As I learned from a previous session hay bales are messy, so I wasn’t going to use those again.  Thus, I substituted my posing cubes in place of the hay bales. The cubes are stained a nice rich dark walnut color, which I felt complemented the fall colors while breaking up all the orange. They are also easy to move around, so I could modify the set as we moved through the session.

For lighting I used a very similar set up to the Pumpkin Spice session I did the day before with a slight tweak. Instead of hiding the Westcott FJ400 strobe with an orange gel in the set, I placed it the back of the set off to model’s right angled towards the backdrop. I placed a flag on the strobe so it would not throw light forward onto the set, and only light the backdrop. Later during the session, I removed the flag and moved it directly behind the model.  I also placed two Phottix Indra 500 Strobes with rectangular soft boxes on either corner of the set closest to me. The first strobe was at about a 30-degree angle from the models left raised up and pointed slightly down. I tried to get that light as close to the model as possible without getting it in the frame. The second strobe was placed in the front corner to the model’s right at about 45-degree angle. Its job was to fill the shadows.

Camera Settings

For this session I used ISO 200 with an aperture of F8, and shutter speed of 1/200s. My focal length ranged from 18mm to 50mm with most of the images being taken at 32mm.  By keeping the same camera setting throughout the sessions, all I needed to do was dial in the lighting then just worry about composition.

The Photos

For this session, the lighting and camera setting did not change significantly, so I could speed up my editing process by editing one main photo then synchronizing those settings across all the images in the set.  I then would only have to do minor adjustments and tweaks to each photo based off pose or if a strobe didn’t fire. Which happened in a few cases.  For post processing I first adjusted the white balance based on the gray card shot I took at the beginning of the session. I highly recommend using a grey card for your studio work, to get white balance correct, even if you are going to get creative later.  I found the grey card helps with getting accurate skin tones and removing unwanted color casts.  I then converted the image to black and white by desaturating it using the HSL sliders in Lightroom. By doing this I could purely focus on the exposure, highlights, shadows, and clarity without being distracted by the color. Once the exposure was correct, I slowly brought in each of the colors starting from the bottom up. I then did sharpening, luminance, and lens correction. I applied these setting to all the images in the set then when through and did some minor tweaks based on the final look I wanted for that image. Finally, I reviewed all the images and decided to applied a slight red/orange color grade to only the shadows to further warm up the images.   Now let’s talk about a few individual images.

I would like to start with this image which was taken near the end of the session, once I removed all the posing blocks. I wanted to the image to feel like the model was the goddess of the harvest or a mother goddess. The easiest way to do that is to create a halo of light, which I did by placing a strobe directly behind the model. I aimed the strobe best I could so that the brightest point would be behind the model’s head and fade out from there.  During post processing I did add a slight vignette to the image, as well as a radial filter to the model’s face to brighten it while reducing shadows from the headpiece. I did a little Photoshop work to clean up the background slightly by removing a seam running down the center of the backdrop. I also did a little dodge and burn work to bring the model’s facial features out a bit more.

In contrast to the first image this second image is basically the same shot but the strobe is off to the side, creating a more even town across the backdrop.  I’m also shooting down towards the model instead of slightly upward which creates a completely different look and feel to the image. I applied a heavier vignette to this image, as well as radial filter to the model’s face to brighten it slightly. Then in Photoshop I cleaned up the background by removing a seam and some wrinkles. I also did a little dodging and burning to the image as well to subtly emphasize highlight and shadow areas.


This final image is from the very beginning of the session.  You can see by placing the strobe with the gel and flag to the model’s right, it is casting a more even gradient of light across the backdrop. I helped even out the gradient further by adding gradient mask in Lightroom and darkening the left-hand side of the image.  I also added a small radial filter to the model’s face to reduce some shadows from the headpiece. This is also one of the few images I didn’t apply my standard vignette too.  In Photoshop I removed the seam in the backdrop, filled in a few screw holes in the posing block, and cleaned up a few minor distractions.

Overall, I’m very happy with how the images and the overall mood of the session. If I were to reshoot this session, I think I would alter the background color to a pale blue to match the hints of blue in the dress and break up the orange. I also might add a few movement shots to really show off the dress, instead of just doing static poses.  


Model: Ayla (Instagram: @geekbellydance)

Headpiece & Set Design: Heather of Munchkin Photos (Instagram: @munckin_photos_by_heather)


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