Lighting “down”!

Looking back through past photo shoots, it strikes me that nearly everything I’ve shot (with the notable exception of the UV test in the last post) has been rather high key – bright backgrounds and bright lighting! I largely blame the “corporate brand” at work for this, as it specifically demands white backgrounds et al, but then again, not everything I shoot is for work…
So with glee, this week I was able to set up a shoot that was (by comparison), kind of underlit, and modestly only ended up using two lanterns (monolights) to light everything. Such restraint…
The brief was a portrait to grace all the print/web propaganda for a specific fashion & textiles event during next year’s L’Oreal Fashion Festival – my colleague Jodie, had a couple of good visual ideas, so I needed to find a model, makeup artist, space to shoot, time, and figure out how I was going to light it!
With the resources sorted, I was able to setup the day before to test out some lighting theories, and came up with this setup:

Unusually for me, the key light is a shoot-through umbrella – I wanted a really soft lighting source, to approximate the diffuse lighting through a window, and I’d experimented with bouncing a flash off a large reflector panel, and that worked for the quality of shadow/softness, but gave a rather horrible catchlight reflection in the test subject (me)’s eyes! So the shoot through umbrella does the same thing whilst keeping the catchlight ’round’ and pleasing looking (I reckon!).
I’ve also added a backlight to lift the hair and neck – I used my least powerful studio flash, at a height of around 3 metres, and some distance away so it wouldn’t flare into the camera. And with this setup I was able to squeeze f/16 at 1/160th second within ISO100 – so, nice sharpness and no grain!

I keep forgetting to make reference photos as I go – so this shot comes from right at the end of the shoot, where I’d wheeled in an additional reflector to test as a white background, and another flash to light it with. One thing we found with the sheer fabric the kaftan was made from (a beautiful, digitally printed silk cloth) was that the colour came out MUCH better with a dark background – the white made the colour look weak. Putting the key light so close to the model meant that the background (black woollen drapes) fairly disappeared into black as well, instead of being a wishy washy grey, had the key light been further back.
I had the camera tethered to a laptop throughout, so my colleagues could help art direct/choreograph as we went, to get the best shot for print – and a slightly annoying discovery was that Canon’s EOS Utility does not actually work with Mac OS X Lion yet (grrr!!) – lucky I had a PC to hand…
And so, the final result: the glamorous Tayla Gentle, with finely crafted hair and makeup by Kate Radford, Brief & Art Direction by Jo Lawson, and general helpfulness and some good choreographic advice from Lynne Ellis. Hardly any fiddling in post except to get rid of some sensor dust spots that the 5D seems horribly prone to. This never happens with film – if only folks would put up with me shooting 4×5″ 🙂

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