Beauty in a Frame
On March 18th, I did a spring themed session with Patty. This session revolved around lots of white and yellow spring flowers and a large gold frame.
For this session I used:
2 Phottix strobes
1 Westcott FJ400 strobe
2 Cannon speed lights
1 light stand
2 Backdrop stands
White fluffy backdrop
3 bell reflectors
2 foot posing cube
1.5 foot posing cube
3x2 foot frame
Large Styrofoam pyramid
White shear material
The set up
The set up for this shoot seems simple but was complicated, since I was going to lean towards high key and did not want any shadows from the frame showing up in images. I started with a white fluffy backdrop, then placed my cubes, pyramid, and cardboard boxes to create levels. I then covered this structure with a second white fluffy backdrop and draped white shear material over that. I then placed the flower arrangements. The next task was to hang the frame in front of the set I just built. To do this I set up a second backdrop stand and hung the frame from it using thin gage wire. By using the backdrop stand I could easily adjust the height of the frame.
Once the set was complete, I focused on lighting. To light the images, I used 5 lights (3 strobes and 2 speedlights). I placed the two Phottix strobes with their small bell reflectors, on C-stands and pointed the strobes basically straight up at my white ceiling and used it as super large bounce. To help see how the light would bounce, I turned the main studio lights off and turned on the modeling lights to adjust the strobes position till no shadow was appearing on the background. Once the main strobes were in place I added two speed lights to the background to ensure it stayed white and not grey, then added the gels later in the session to turn the background blue. Finally, I brought in the FJ400 with bell reflector and 30-degree grid onto a light stand. The purpose of this light was to add a bit of pop to the model’s face, as the light was very diffuse due to the bounce. The grid would help control the spread of the light, and ensure it only landed were I wanted reducing the possibility of shadows on the background.
For this session I used ISO 100 with an aperture of F5 and F5.6, and shutter speed of 1/250s. My focal length ranged from 18mm to 50mm with most of the images being taken at 28mm. For the lighting, the two Phottix strobes were around 1/16 to 1/8 power. The FJ400 was adjusted based on mood but was around 1/8 to ¼ power. The two speed lights were at ¼ to ½ power.
The inspiration for this shoot came from several Pinterest images of women sitting in frames adorned with flowers or coming out of frames surrounded by flowers. However, most of these images used black backgrounds or leaned towards a lower key or darker images. I wanted to go in the opposite direction and use a white background and lean towards a higher key or brighter images. To accomplish this I used as much white as possible and added pops of yellow to complement the gold frame. I also tried to go for a softer look by using a smaller aperture and keeping the lighting very diffuse.
This first image is one of my personal favorites from the session. I like how the dress is flowing out the frame in front of her, and how the flowers help provide additional framing. Then the model’s expression is soft, and the slight lean towards the frame, I feel gives the image a nice romantic feel of a spring bride. To edit the image I did basic adjustments, and removed a slight yellow cast from the images. (My ceiling might not be as white as I thought.) Then boosted the whites, while I didn’t get the background to pure white like I hoped, it is a pale enough grey to keep the image light and airy. I then used a radial filter to add just a touch more light to the model’s face. Then went in and removed the wires holding up the frame and the edge of the backdrop covering the cubes. A also did a bit of dodge and burn work to bring out some of the texture in the dress. Finally, I added a very light reverse vignette, which is white vignette instead of the traditional black.
Then in contrast to the first image, I went low key, which changes the overall feel of the image. It still has that air of romance but is a bit moodier and possibly a bit sadder. For this image I turned off the speedlights and turned the power on the Phottix strobes down to around 1/32 or 1/64, relying mostly on the light from the FJ400. I did all the basics steps as in the earlier image. The editing differs in that I did not blow out the whites for this this image, just lightened the shadows and blacks to ensure the detail can still be seen. I did not do any dodge or burn work. I used a normal vignette to finish the image. This shows you can use the same light set up, but by changing the power settings slightly create a completely different mood.
Now for this next two images I used the same light set up but, I ditched the frame, changed the dress, and added nice blue gels the speed lights. This first image in the blue-grey dress reminds slightly of a bridal image or an image out of Vanity Fair magazine. The main trick here was to ensure the strobes did not overpower the speedlights, and I wasn’t pushing too much power out of the speedlights to ensure the blue would show up in the background. The more power you push through a gel the lighter the color. To edit this image I did my basic adjustments, and worked to ensure the blues did not overly effect the model’s skin tone. (I personally like cooler images; thus, my images usually lean heavy towards blue in general.) I then smoothed out the transition between the two backdrops. I then finished with a light vignette.
This final image was inspired by the poster for the movie “Spencer”, were it is mostly her back and all dress. I did change mine up a little bit by having the model look towards me, but keeping the long sweep of the dress. I the same edits as in the previous image.
I love all the images that came out of this session and my take on using a frame as a prop. Working with the frame and the lighting was a bit challenging, but once the lights were set it was just a mater of adjusting power to achieve the look. The only thing I will change in the future is swapping out the wire for high tensile strength fishing line, which is a bit easier to work with. You can see all the images from this session here: Romance in White & Blue.
Model: Patty (Instagram: @pattyvsworld)
Blue Dress: Book a Look: DMV Virginia Dress Rentals (@bookalooker)Set Design: Heather of Munchkin Photos (Instagram: @munckin_photos_by_heather)