This is a walkthrough of some of the things I did during a recent shoot that became the cover for Agenda Magazine. I’ll talk about some of the gear I used, how I assessed the light and used it to my advantage, some of the different poses we came up with, and clean up I did in post.
The location was the National Theater for the Performing Arts, also known as “The Egg”. The model I was working with is Anina, a very professional person with a lot of experience, you can see more of her work here. There is a difference between working with amateur models who are just getting started (or people that have never posed for a photo before) and professional models, which can turn on the “model look” like a flip of a switch. All I had to say was “go” and she was off.
We started the shoot around 6am in order to avoid the big crowds that swarm all over the place taking pictures, which would cause a stir and be a problem trying to block them from taking pictures of us. It was also a great way to avoid security since there didn’t seem to be much during the first half of the shoot.
The first shot below was just a test of exposure and light, you can see it’s tilted and Anina was just getting ready. I would be shooting manual for all of this, an advantage is you can keep your exposures consistent, making it easier to make slight changes and to edit later when you have hundreds of images to go through, like I did for this shoot.
After I saw that it was a little overexposed, I made some adjustments and we started to do a few test shots. It had been raining all night and we didn’t know if we would be able to get some pictures if it rained hard. We had some beautiful light come in, but only for a few seconds, as you can see below. It was nice, but nothing we could depend on. Exposure for the pic below: 10o ISO, f4, 1/100 sec, 20mm lens.
I also felt I was too close in the above shot, her hand was getting lost in the sky, and the framing of the egg was opposed to the contours of her body, so I decided to back up and use a telephoto lens. This would give a more straight on shot, and I could blur out the background a little better. We also changed positions to the other side of the curve in the egg. Exposure for the pic below: ISO 200, f4, 1/250 sec, 85mm lens.
We did some more, but the light was really flat, the clothes she wore and her face in general blended into the background.
That is when I took out my portable light set-up. You can see it’s a very simple set-up consisting of a lightstand, umbrella, and my on-camera electronic flash. The flash I already had, which is the most substantial cost (canon brands start at around 500rmb and go up to 3000, you can get a great Chinese brand for around 800 that does similar things to the one you see).
The light stand, umbrella, the little connector, and the remote triggers all cost less than 400rmb (the trigger is not TTL, so you camera will only fire the flash, no automatic settings, everything I shot had to be in manual mode on camera and flash).
By placing the light just out of frame and off to her right, I was able to add some fill light, creating more depth to the image and making it more dramatic. Same exposure as before, just adding the flash (I think it was at 1/4 power in manual mode)
This is the final one I choose, with some processing in Lightroom.
We then had a wardrobe change, and a short delay while some rain came in. You can see Anina using my light umbrella as a regular umbrella 🙂
After the rain passed, we then had some dramatic sky. I wanted to take advantage of that, so I switched to the wide angle, and had her swish the dress around, with some wind helping as well. You can see I ran another test, and it was very dark, I had to use my flash at full power in order to overpower the shadows created by exposing for the sky. Exposure for the pic below: ISO 100, f11, 1/250 sec, 17mm lens.
I couldn’t darken the sky anymore, and my flash was a full power, so I had to do some editing in Lightroom to bring out more details, as well as some photoshop work to fix her hair and remove a bird that flew into the shot.
After that, the skies cleared and we had sun for the rest of the shoot, so we decided to move over to the other side of the egg, and work with the sun now. I wanted to blur out the background and remove the guard rail from the shot, but both weren’t possible. I shot wide open to blur, and then removed the rail in Photoshop afterwards. Exposure for the pic below: ISO 100, f2, 1/8000 sec, 30mm lens.
The last shot we took was at the mirror opposite location from the first set at the egg, which put the sun over her left shoulder and created a harsh shadow across her face. I then pulled out a reflector which had a silver cover on it to match the silver of her outfit, and filled in the darker part of her face. There was some bad shadows on her face which we tried to fix there to no avail, so I had to do it in post. Exposure was the same as the previous image.
After a few more shots between Anina and my student/assistant, that was about it (they traded emails so both can use the images for their respective portfolios, True Run keeps all rights to images that I shoot for them). Here is what they ran in the magazine, front cover, and a two page spread inside.
One more for good measure, you can see how we had to be creative at the egg, moving the guard rail and leaving gear all around. Funny thing was the dog in the picture did in Chinese what is called a “small comfort” on her suitcase, she wasn’t too happy 🙂