In anticipation of Spring, we used sleeveless and floral headpieces in this session. I am looking forward to warmer weather and location sessions. Although, I will miss playing with studio lighting during location sessions, I will enjoy being outdoors and the endless variety of natural and man made backgrounds.
I attended a group shoot last night with the theme of marionettes. It took place at Stagecrafters' Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan. Marionettes and broken dolls are themes I've visited many times. I love the theme, look, costumes and makeup. Taryn did a fantastic job bringing this looks to life. She did makeup, hair, and styling.
I've already expressed the pros and cons of group shoots in a previous post. To add to this pros list, group shoots are great for getting into venues that you normally would not have access to. The Baldwin theatre is an historic building located in downtown Royal Oak. It was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The architectural detail is stunning. The interior is beautifully extravagant. And what did I do? I challenged myself to shoot with one lens and ended up missing out on the opportunity to take some stunning architectural images! Some days, I wonder if I ever think things through.
Anyway, lets move onto the challenge that I presented to myself. I decided to stick with a prime lens. Since this was an organized model shoot, I chose the 85 mm f/1.8 lens, an excellent portrait lens. I decided to keep the images as portraits, instead of environments with models in them (in which I would use a wider angle lens). I absolutely love my 85 mm lens. However, in tight spaces, you can't really "zoom" out with your feet because there's not enough room to back up. Being in the Baldwin, there were many times I would have liked to have captured more of the environment. I would say this was poor planning on my part, but I achieved my goal. I created some fun portraits of the models at the shoot.
Almost a year ago, Scott Kelby's show, The Grid, had an episode discussing the five images you should never have in your portfolio. That episode resonated with me. I've remembered it clearly after a year and I'm sure it will stick with me for many years to come.
Keep in mind, he is not telling us to never shoot these five things. He is telling us not to include it in our portfolio when we are presenting it as our best work. Here are the five images:
2. Homeless people
3. Dead trees or tree stumps
4. Anything or anybody on railroad tracks
To find out why, you'll need to watch the video. I agree with his reasoning for not using these images in your portfolio. But, don't get discouraged. He is not saying to never shoot these subjects.
I do firmly believe you should photograph what interests you. There's no reason to take the joy out of your creativity because you've been told not to use something in your portfolio. Your portfolio is a tool for getting jobs. Keep it to your best works and avoid these subjects. For yourself and for your sanity, though, photograph whatever you like and share it as much as you'd like for the enjoyment and for practice with your equipment.
I highly recommend watching this episode, then reviewing your portfolio and pruning it according to their guidelines. See the episode here.
Yesterday was a quiet family day for me. My son had been asking me to show him how to make images in the studio. I had planned some fun high-speed projects with him, but his attentions span is short. He changed his mind and wanted to play dress up instead.
So, he donned some clothing so that he was dressed Gangnam Style. He was going to put on a performance for me so that I could create some images for him as Psy. That faded quickly when he saw his didgeridoo. The performance did a 180 turn. I suggested that he change his Gangnam clothing so that he matched his didgeridoo. As he tends to do, he came back shirtless. Yes, my son prefers to run around the house shirtless. No amount of cajoling can get him to put on clothing. Boys!
Anyway, if you read my blog, you are surely more interested in the photography and lighting aspect, not an essay on child behavior.
I have always loved the lighting from the 1930-1950s. It is a timeless look, has lovely contrast, and plays up features on faces or contours on the body. However, these lighting effects were achieved with hot lights. I've already made the decision to use flash in my studio. After playing with the look using flash during my Vintage Hollywood Glamour themed shoot, I decided to try different ways to set up my flashes to create this look. It may not be identical, but it is close enough for my liking.
For this image of my son, the vintage hot light look works perfectly because he is shirtless (see there was a reason for my child behavior explanation earlier). The light plays on the contours of his face and chest. Hot lights give skin a glowing appearance, which you can see I've created on his face with a strobe and the lights have also carved out the shapes of his neck and clavicle.
My light setup was simple. I placed the main light on a boom above him, a fill light on an angle in front of him, and a single light aimed at the background to create separation between him and the background. That's it. Three whole lights. I used reflectors without grids. Therefore, bare bulb, undiffused light hit my subject. Yes, this image was created with hard light, yet his face glows.
I think the trend to soften light and the fear of hard light has led to a lot of flat images. It's not a bad thing. It's a personal preference. Soft, diffused light removes shape and modeling from your subject. I tend to like a lot of contrast in my images so this bare-bulbed technique is something I will definitely explore more. It is not an easy technique. When you work with hard light, you have to make sure the light is placed exactly where you want it or you will have unflattering shadows and hot spots on your subject. Soft, diffused light is more forgiving of placement because the light is bouncing around everywhere. Soft light is not as directional as hard lights.
Additionally, using hard lights and placing the light exactly where you want it reduces a lot of time in post production. The shapes and contours in the body are already there. Contrast is already there. The only thing I did to this image was add texture. Again, personal preference, but I like grit and grain in my images. That's probably because I shot film for so many years.
I look forward to the challenges of using hard light in future projects. I'm sure there will be a lot of flops as I learn how to place the lights, but we learn from our mistakes, right?
Brittany likes a lot of fantasy and conceptual imagery, but today I wanted to do something different with her. We kept the theme to gowns and created some soft and pretty looks. However, I couldn't resist throwing in a fantasy image.
Brittany has a lovely smile the lights up these images.
Jessica wanted to do a pinup shoot. When she described that she wanted a Marilyn Monroe style, I suggested that we do something different, but still pinup. I countered with Veronica Lake. I didn't want to make her into Veronica Lake, but I knew she would look great as herself with that era's lighting, makeup, and styling.
Hollywood glamour is stunning. The lighting these masters used is amazing. They achieved the look with fresnels and hot lights, things that I don't have in my studio. Knowing that it's a harder light, I decided to try reflector and tight grids. I wanted to create that high-contrast, spotlight on the eyes look. These hard lights carve out cheekbones and make eyes pop. I then moved to rim lighting and a beauty dish for the lounging posts. For the entire shoot, I kept the lighting hard and contrasty.
I knew Michelle would be the perfect person to create the glamorous makeup and hair. She has created some beautiful pinup looks. Her makeup techniques are flawless and I love the way she can contour faces and carve out cheekbones...the perfect complement to lighting I was using. And, as always, she's a lot of fun.
Model: Jessica Steinhebel
MUA: Michelle Busch
Photographer/stylist: Donna Macauley
These aren't vintage, but they sure are glamorous. Jessica brought this amazing dress. Amazing dress + Jessica = STUNNING!
I am a Warren, MI based headshot, fashion, fantasy, fine art, senior, and portrait photographer. I have photographed the Detroit area and Southeastern Michigan for over 30 years.