Pumpkin Spice

On October 1st I did a “pumpkin princess” session with the lovely Tiffany.  This session based on a lovely corset I imported from Germany from Mel Plum Fine Art.

For this session I used:

Photography Equipment


Cannon 80D


3 strobes

2 c-stands

1 Backdrop stands

Rough Canvas drop cloths


2 Rectangular Soft boxes

Soft box grids

1 light stand

CTO gel

Fake pumpkins

Fake fall leaves

Fake mums

Orange pails

Real pumpkins

Hay bales

Burlap wrapped Styrofoam blocks

1.5 foot posing cube

Corn stalks

The set up

This set was designed around warm golden colors and lots of pumpkins.  I started by hanging a large rough canvas drop cloth as the background, then placing a second on the floor as a floor drop. I felt the canvas help with projecting the feeling of fall. These are back and floor drops were nothing special, just cheap drop cloths you can get in the paint section of Lowes or Home Depot. The anchor piece for this set can’t technically be seen, only its effects; because it was the background light. I hid a Westcott FJ400 strobe with a CTO gel behind the cornstalks to create a warm orange glow behind the model.  Thus, the set had to be designed to hide the strobe, then the pot holding the cornstalks. I purposely designed this set so I could deconstruct and move bits around during the session to best show off the corset and set the mood.  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 45-degree angle from the center line of the set, its main goal was to light the model.  The second strobe also at about -45-dgrees from the center line of the set, its goal was to fill shadows and light the pumpkins. I specifically turned the soft box on the second strobe horizontal so light would spread evenly along the row of pumpkins focusing on the lower portion of the frame.  See the lighting diagram below.

Third strobe hidden behind corn stalks 

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 70mm with most of the images being taken at 24mm.  By keeping the same camera setting throughout the sessions, all I needed to do was dial in the lighting then just worry about composition. I tend to try to get my lighting as close to correct before the model arrives and then make minor adjustments with the model on set. In this case getting the background light was key, because to much power will blow all the color out of the gel, and to little will not fully light the background and make it seem a little dingy. I believe the background light was somewhere between a quarter and an eight power. 

The Photos

I had several nice images from this session, I’m going to talk about three. 

This first image required movement on the model’s part and several takes, to capture the movement of the tulle. Note any time you see a fashion photo with lots of movement of the fabric, it probably took several takes to get that one perfect photo.  In my case I took about 16 frames to get the shot. The first think I did for this photo was to adjust the white balance, which was keyed off one of the first frames I took during the session where the model holds a set of grey cards. I then use this white balance throughout the set.  (The sync feature in Lightroom is wonderful time saver, and I use it to apply all the basic setting to the images of the set, which allows me to only have to do slight tweaks here and there.)  I then went in and did basic adjustments to the exposure, contrast, clarity, and saturation. I then adjust the sharpness and luminance, and apply lens correction to remove any distortion. I then applied a small radial filter to the model’s face to brighten that up just a touch and finish with a light vignette. I then pulled the image into Photoshop to clean up any minor blemishes, and remove the seem that was running down the center of the backdrop.  I also filled in the tulle a bit, as there were a few gaps.  

This second photo was taken at the end of the session, where I asked the model to lay down on the floor so I could surround her in pumpkins.  Laying down shots are always challenge for the model, so it is import to provide feed back as to what is working and what isn’t working.  To get this shot I moved the strobes with the soft boxes closer to the model and pointed them down, and turned off the gelled strobe as that wasn’t needed. The goal here was nice soft even light.  I then placed my step stool behind the model’s head, and stood on that to shoot down towards her. I find shooting down from the top of the model’s head produces a nice image if you can’t get directly over the center of them. (One day I’ll put scaffolding up so I can get that perfect downward facing shot.) For this image I did all the same light room adjustments as in the previous image.  However, I did a lot more work in Photoshop.  I first went in and filled any gaps.  I then removed any blemishes.  I then used frequency separation to even out the skin tone. The model had very nice skin, but flash always tends to bring out the small unevenness in tone that you wouldn’t notice under standard lighting conditions. I then applied a doge and burn layer to enhance the highlights and shadows, to finish the image.

This last image I’m going to discuss was an oops, of sorts.  The background strobe was firing normally at the lower power settings, then for this image it decided to fire at full power.  I did not adjust the power setting via the transmitter/trigger. I do like how the image looks, but I would not do a whole set at this power, due to the huge hot spot in the background.  While it creates a beautiful glow, I feel it would have been a bit overwhelming for all the images.  However, I did use this glow look for a different shoot, were it make sense for a few of the images. I processed this image like the very first image, except used a heavier vignette for the final image.  Sometimes oops can turn out cool.

Overall, this was a very nice session.  I wouldn’t change a lot, except possibly removing the grid from the fill soft box to allow that light to spread a tad more. I also would add more pumpkins and mums of different colors to just break up the orange a little bit more. I might consider doing a blue or teal background as that is more complimentary color scheme as opposed to the monochromatic that I used for this session.  You can see all the images from this set here – Pumpkin Spice.


Tiffany (@tiffniiy on Instagram)

Corset & choker:
Mel Plum Fine Art (@aucontrairephotography on Instagram)

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


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