Monday, March 21, 2011

Shooting for Baby & Co: Beauty Dish and Strip Light

I was given the opportunity to shoot for Baby & Co, a fashion store in Seattle that specializes in French couture from small, independent designers. The client wanted to highlight her Spring collection, themed as "Tea in the Moroccan desert". The store set up for the campaign is pretty neat and you should visit it if you happen to be in downtown Seattle.

I had a full team: three models, MUA+hair stylist and a fashion stylist. We had better get something good! Shooting in early March was the challenge....desert? Umm. And when the weather is not your friend a plan B is necessary. We set our outdoor shoot on a roof, the silver paint turns it into a giant softbox and gives a luminous, geometric setting. My studio is downstairs so if the weather wasn't cooperating a quick strategic retreat was possible.

And in fact our outdoor session was limited to ...20 minutes, abruptly stopped by a light snowfall. I still managed to get one good shot (taken with a Canon speedlite firing at full power+diffuser).

Once back in the studio the challenge was to give a "desert feel" to the images.
The light scheme is similar to what I had used a few weeks ago: a beauty dish high on camera left (heavily masked with aluminum foil to avoid spill onto the background). However, to add a feeling of strong sunlight, perhaps seen from a darker interior, I added a gridded, full body strip light behind the models on camera right. It separates body and hair from the background and, if aimed right, provides definition to the model face.

The post production is where the mood of the campaign is set: The pallet was designed to give a sense of ancient, dusty and mysterious, and so I used warm, but heavily desaturated colors. To each image I added a distressed background pattern, set as an 'overlay' layer with a 20% opacity, which I mostly erased in front of the models. It adds to the feeling of ancient times and somehow reminded me of some of the setting in the good old Indiana Jones movies. It's a technique that should not be overdone and that I have seen used a lot in fine art but I think works well in this setting.

You can see the full set, including the outdoor image here

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The best camera is the one you have with you. Part 3: more iPhone Polaroids

This is the final set! From From left to right: a 'Polaroid' test shot for a Chanel bag, two doves (and a beehive just off camera) on the Milwaukee - Pacific railroad , breakfast at the Kingfish Cafe', and some rocky cliffs close to Ancient Lakes, WA. All images where edited with 'Camera Bag' and Lightroom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The best camera is the one you have with you 2

This time I picked a few 'iPhone Polaroids' that show a few places I like. From top left and clockwise: My roof on a Winter morning, a sandstorm nearby Odessa, WA, an old German cemetery in Eastern WA and some window reflections over a Capitol Hill building on a lazy Summer evening.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The best camera is the one you have with you. Part I

I rarely carry a fancy camera with me, and I never shoot film...too heavy, I might break it, expensive, hard to find, images came out blurry/overexposed/shaky, have no idea if I got the shot, oh I forgot to focus, the film was not expired enough...So many excuses for a bad picture or worse, no picture at all. But I stumble into moments worth remembering almost every day! Plus sometimes I 'see' the image differently from what it actually looks in reality. I am not interested in capturing what is 'really' happening, nor I think that using film gives me a more legitimate description of what I witness. So what should I do? I often end up using my iPhone and the interpreting the image using a combination of phone apps (CameraBag, Plastic Bullett and Instagram) and postprocessing with Lightroom.

I enjoy the almost Zen simplicity of capturing a moment with a simple camera with a fixed wide angle lens and where the only controls are white balance and exposure. The post processing
allows me to create the final image as I saw it in my mind. I find the process liberating.

In this and the next two posts I will show a few examples of images taken with this approach.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Road: Outdoor shooting with the Softlighter

This shot is part of a small set of test images I have done using fashion from UK brand AllSaints. True to to their gritty/steampunk look I picked a Winter outdoor location on a nature reserve. The subject is designer Ian Obermuller, band member of Snowmanplan and creator of amazing animations. The dreary winter light we often have in the NorthWest made it easy to mix natural light with my flash. It was cold and windy and too keep things easy for my freezing assistant (hello Miss Van!) we shot with a simple, but trusted set up: Canon 580x II mounted inside a boomed Softlighter II with a gold insert. The flash fired at half power. ISO 100, 50mm, f4.5 1/200th sec. That gave me the cinematic look that I was looking for. What is our hero looking at?

The shot was then burned and dodged to bring out all the details of the scene in Photoshop 5. The color palette was created in Lightroom. To emphasize the dreary, post apocaliptic, 'this can't be good' look I emphasized the browns, greens and magentas.

You can see the full set on my website. The image has been picked by the fancy blog run by design pundit Chloe Scheffe.