Afterexposure Photography

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Posts Tagged ‘Models’

Fastest. Shoot. Evar.

I knew that we had worked quickly on the previous shoot (with Lexus Lee); but I didn’t realize how quickly. Here is the shot breakdown:

Setup #1: 2 minutes, 38 seconds. 48 proof images

Setup #2:3 minutes, 37 seconds, 65 proof images

Setup #3: 49 seconds, 15 proof images.

Shooting time: 7 minutes, 4 seconds; 130 images (two were in the car)

Total shoot time: 20 minutes from first shot to last shot; about 40 minutes total, as we drove around a bit at the end to get a better feeling for the location and what it offered.

Wow! Maybe I should plan all my shoots for bad weather…

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

Shooting Vamps and Vampires

A while back Lexus Lee and I had started conversing about a non-glamour photoshoot, something fun and different. One thing we both zero’d in on was the idea of an Underworld / Selene look… NO sparkles for us! I really like shooting in landscape orientation (ie, wide), as if making a movie, so this was something I could get into. And she got to do something that was interesting to her, personally… this wasn’t just another T&A shoot (which she obviously rocks at, but has plenty in her portfolio already).

For you budding photographers on Model Mayhem, take note. This one small fact – shooting what the model finds interesting – is probably why I have such a low flake rate, why the shoots are so much fun, and why everyone puts in 110% effort.

This shoot sat on the books for months, and we just couldn’t get our calendars to line up with the right conditions. Finally we got it together for Friday evening…. and the forecast called for snow. Great! We nabbed a few shots outside, and ran back to the car to warm up. Take a look at the makeup, contact lenses, and wardrobe… she did an AMAZING job pulling this together herself.

Waiting for the snow to stop

Waiting for the snow to stop

Before it really dumped on us we got in a few good, if brief, setups. The temperature was about -2C, so we had to work fast. The color balance in these shots is basically for incandescent, which is why it has an intentional blue cast, but it’s better than shooting in the correct white balance and doing in post production. Why? Because you can see the results while you are shooting, which means you can check highlights, background details, and watch for odd colored elements.

This was all shot in RAW (DNG, specifically), so I could adjust the white balance later if needed, and with the big buffer on the Pentax K20D I could still shoot rapidly. This is really important when the model is essentially wearing only a thin stretch lycra catsuit in below freezing temps! As soon as the teeth-chattering stopped we ran out and popped off a series of shots like this one, which might be my favorite for the day:

Hunting. Freezing, too!

Hunting. Freezing, too!

… and then back into the car. The snow really started to come down. There was no way to use anything but available light; everything was getting soaked.  I think I’d like to pick up a couple of clear plastic Pelican cases for my lights, and epoxy some 1/4″ mounting studs to them. My newly replaced lens, the Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, is weather resistant, and shrugged off the wet with no issues. I would have liked to get in closer with the 16-45mm for some funkier angles, but the snow was so thick the auto-focus was picking up on the white snow against her black outfit, so I knew we didn’t have much time left before it got really dark. The 16-45mm is f/4 wide open, and looks better at f/5.6 – meaning I would have been up another notch in ISO.

By now we knew the shoot was going to have to be called off for another day. There were shots we weren’t going to get, like with the city skyline as a backdrop, that were now made invisible with the falling snow. We found another interesting location and rattled off a few quick shots:

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

The BB guns were her idea; we discussed what to do if the police were called because they are so realistic. I suggested that she not panic if  the cops drew their weapons and asked us to get on the ground :) Lucky for us the weather was so terrible nobody noticed us, and thankfully nobody got tazed!

We’ll be back, but not until it warms up a bit. In the meantime we have about 130 images from that day to study and discuss, so that when we next get a small window of weather we can take advantage of it.

A big thanks to Ms. Lee for coming out, freezing her tush off for a few minutes, and doing an outstanding job. I can’t wait for the next chinook!

Splitting Atoms II

In a prior post I wrote a bit about possible changes that might take hold in the photographic imaging business, specifically in the world of content creation, and the effects of microstock image warehouses and photographers and models that shoot ‘for free’.

Some would argue that the availability of high quality equipment has made this possible; the rise of the inexpensive dSLR and the enthusiast shooter. Some might point to sites like Model Mayhem as the root of all evil for making trade shooting available to the public (and by ‘public’ I mean ‘aspiring models’, as opposed to ‘professional models’ that don’t flake out on shoots… but that’s another rant…). Some might point to the internet as the great ‘leveler of markets’, where price information gets confused with value information, and chaos ensues.

I would argue the inevitably of it all; in fact, I would argue we haven’t crested yet (or troughed, if you are a glass-half-empty type). I think we haven’t seen the bottom of the price curve.

The crest, at least as far as past experience in other industries has shown us so far, happens when we can outsource the content creation, but use the internet as the medium… no agency, no face-to-face meetings, and sadly, no client lunches to write off. I would see this as half way between stock shooting and a commissioned shoot; with the client requesting only the general parameters of the image content, and letting the ‘market’ deliver the service.

Note I said ‘service’, not ‘experience’. That’s a key point in Pine’s video from TED about the next split in industry as a whole. Of course it’s happening now, but it’s not pushed out to Jane & John business owner in a big way.

So what’s this have to do with splitting atoms?

In a previous life at IBM (yeah, about as far from creative photography as you can get… no wonder I quit!) I participated in the creation of services, and one important thing we did was to identify the value of our people and their roles within the processes we used to deliver our services to our customers.

The key activity was to split what was previously seen as an ‘atomic’ element – usually a person – into two parts; their innate expertise, and the humdrum stuff that we could stuff into a process that anyone – or any computer – could do.

This splitting of person from role is the important exercise. If you let the people focus on the creative stuff, and encapsulate all the supporting the processes into a web-accessible format, you could open the door to a new niche of industry; one where the client can get high quality content for a much lower price, and the creative team is much more focused on creating, rather than unprofitable administrivia.

There is also the flip-side to Pine and his notion of ‘the experience’; there is great value in delivering something special to the customer directly; this is evident in successful photographers that continue to command high prices and have a style with great market value.

A final thought; it’s not important which side you choose; or even to choose at all.

It is only important to know which side of the coin you are working on.

A Tale of Three Umbrellas and a Gel

I was just reviewing some shots of Kasandra (one was poster earlier). She is a make up artist that did double-duty as model on a recent shoot, and what a gem she is:

Pentax K20D, ISO 400 ,f/9.5, 1/90 sec, 135 mm, smc Pentax 50-135mm f/2.8

I had been experimenting with white umbrellas (reflective, not shoot through), and found I really prefer the light over a harder reflective material, like silver.

This shoot would be a chance to try out a lighting arrangement that normally would need a bunch of reflector cards, softboxes, and such, but since we were shooting on location I wanted to pack a bit lighter, and keep the setup time down to a minimum.

What I decided on was a variation of butterfly lighting. I knew she would be sitting, and these would be head-and-shouler shots to show off a necklace, so I placed a chair about 6′ from a scrap of seamless background paper. The room was too narrow for a a full 10′ wide roll of seamless, so I put up the portable background stands with only two lengths in the horizontal crossbar, instead of all three.

For light, I put two umbrellas up high and in front of the model, pointing about 45° down. In these shots the light stands are just barely out-of-frame to the left and right. I found that the shadow under her chin was too dark, and a small 2′ x 3′ white foamcore didn’t help enough.

To give a more even light I put my most controllable light, an Alien Bees ABR-800 (that’s right, a ringflash), on it’s umbrealla adapter (which is a curse and should be redesigned…), and put this third white umbrella on the floor, pointing up. No stand, just a pile of black scrim fabric under it, to give it the right angle. Which by no coincidence was 45° up. It was so close to her that she could touch it with her feet.

The main light in the first umbrella (on image-right) was an old hot-shoe flash on full power. It’s an old Sunpak auto 28, but for whatever reason it has a really short recycle time, making it perfect for ‘strobist’ style use.

For the fill umbrella on image-left, a second hotshoe flash, I chose my new Pentax 360. It has good manual control, so I turned it down to about 1/4 to nearly match the main, but not quite, to give some shape to her face.

The Alien Bees is quite a powerful light, so I kept it down to 1/32 – 1/16 territorry. All of these lights were fired from ebay style radio triggers, which aren’t bad for this kind of close range work. And the new ones use AAA batteries in the receivers, so rechargables are now an option.

The resulting image (above) was pretty darn good, in terms of matching my vision. It could be developed has high-key with more juice, but really I was going for a slightly lower tone and DR in the main colors to make it more suitable for print. If you look at the exposure data you’ll notice this was done at ISO 400; this is because the main was already at full power, and couldn’t pump out more light.  I could have set up a heavier stand and put the ABR-800 up in the air as the main, but balancing the output of that monster of a light with a puny little hotshoe flash would mean I would have just turned it down anyway. I could also have opened up from f/9.5 to f/8, but if you look closely enough you’ll see that at f/8 I would have to start making trade-offs in focus; the back of her pony-tail is already starting to blur; and my focus point was either the corner of her eye or her hairline around her ear.

On and off throughout the shoot I added a fourth light, right behind her head; it was sometimes pointed forward, to give her a nice rim light, but that also showed too many fine / stray hairs. Toward the end of the shoot I decided to gel this strobe and point it at the background; I think this color was a Lee Filter ‘Bastard Pink’, and the resulting images from the last 10 minutes really came to life:

Pentax K20D, ISO 400 ,f/11, 1/90 sec, 108 mm, smc Pentax 50-135mm f/2.8

The effect of the gel on the white background paper is remarkable; and the hue of the light is very close to her lipstick shade. I think when I looked in the LCD after this shot I told her she looked like the color of a sorbet!

I hope this inspires you to play around more with inexpensive lighting; I could have substituted a cheaper light for the under-fill and claimed this was done for $200 in gear (three $20 lights, three $20 umbrellas, two $20  stands with hotshoe/umbrella brackets, and two pairs of $20 ebay trigger sets.).

Maybe I should change my tagline to ‘the $20 strobist’…

Equipment – Does it make a difference?

I was chatting with the model / make-up artist Kasandra about Twitter and photography, and was showing her what it was like to take a quick picture, post it, and tweet it. This was shot with my trusty old iPhone 3G:
The resulting photo is more behind-the-scenes than actual photography, but what the heck.
Of course I was really keen to see what the finished images looked like from the Pentax K20D with the 50-135mm f/2.8 SDM lens that I was shooting with…
Needless to say, there are a lot of differences between the shots; optical equipment aside.
But we’ve all heard the old drum that ‘the equipment doesn’t make the photographer!’
Yeah. Sure.
But what if …. in some crazy corner of the world … you could make the second image with a lowly old iPhone. We’ve all seen links to galleries of ‘Amazing iPhone images
Hmm…. sounds like a great challenge… the next time I’m shooting like this I’ll see what I can do to ‘improve’ the ‘ol iPhone shots a bit. I know I’m going to start with the lighting… I just need a trigger…