As I get askd how I make my pics regularly, I want to start a series of making-of blogposts to explain my light-setups, camera-settings and post-processing. This is about the second set from the shoot with VikTory (http://www.viktoriamodel.com/).
I wanted to make this idea happen for a while now, the only thing missing was the right type of shoot for it. As I’ve came across VikTorys website a while ago, I had this “heureka”-moment and knew it was a perfect match. Her flexibility and creativity with forms and lines made it a great combination.
The idea was a very contrasty and dark set with concentrated lighting and a mirror image. I of course know that is easy to achieve in post-production, but I wanted to create the idea in cam ... if possible with only one light-source.
I’ve communicated the idea with VikTory and we came up with a couple of posings which should work out just fine. We knew from the beginning that we would be very much restricted in our movements (not just her, but me as well), because I not only had to have the light and model in my mind, but the mirror-image, the light in the mirror and the double composition as well.
As I’ve explained in the previous blog, I’ve shot this as a second set on purpose. I wanted to get to know VikTory and her shooting-habits and to get her “warmed-up” before doing such a complicated set. If anybody wants to try this setup, I’d recommend to do the same. This surely was one of the more demanding sets I’ve photographed.
As you can see on the setup-pics (made with set.a.light 3D – www.elixxier.com), I have set up one flash (profoto B1 – 500Ws) equipped with a Profoto Zoom-Reflector (adjustable normal-reflector) in front of and above Victoria (who was sitting down), pointed to her face. She was sitting on a polycarbonate plate (“plexiglass” – about 3 x 4 m). This plate was positioned on a black backdrop which I’ve pulled under the model until the front of the camera. It is not possible to show this plate on the setup pics I’m afraid, but I’m sure you can picture it. The back edge of the plate was right at the beginning of the curve in the backdrop, VikTory was sitting about 0,5m from that edge.
This setup created a little problem, as the face (or the part of the body being in that position) was in a bright spot and the falloff to the ground was relatively strong. But as sort of a trade I’ve got a nice light-spot on the background for it, which was also there in the reflection. This resulted in a very nice photographed vignette.
I’ve used the Canon 5D IV here as well, out of the same “fear” that I might need the dynamic-range advantage here as well.
The lenses used were my trusted Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art and Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art with the aperture set to f4. The other settings were studio-typical ISO 100 and 1/160s shutter-speed. Compared to the sets before I wasn’t afraid of the shallow depth of field (as the set was more static) and I wanted the mirror image to fall off into a little bit of unsharpness to make it clear which image is the mirrored one on first sight.
As I’ve mentioned before, I had a little problem with the bright spot in the face. Normally I set the lighting in a way that the highlights in the skin are perfectly lit and then go back about 1/3-stop. This time I’ve set the highlights to be almost blown out in order to don’t loose the shadows. Shooting tethered (the camera was directly wired to a computer) and be able to exactly measure the brightness made this possible. This way I was sure not to burn out the skin and could go right to the limits.
Conclusion/ final thoughts
As I’ve written in the intro, this was one of my most demanding setups yet. Everything had to be perfect not only once but twice, that and the problem that my freedom of movement and perspective was more or less non-existent (if I’ve moved sideways, the reflection was distorted; shooting too high or too low meant, that the reflection got shortened or extended too much, if I’ve got to close I’ve cut off too much ... )
One thing for sure: I wouldn’t recommend any beginner in the studio to try this set. And I wouldn`t recommend doing it with a Model you don’t know (despite the fact that VikTory did an awesome job). And of course it isn’t easy for the model as well as the poses have to be very exact and she might have to hold it a little bit longer to give the photographer a chance to align the shot perfectly. Another problem is, that you have to keep the mirror image in mind as well (especially a “problem” shooting nudes).
I think I’ll try this set again someday, but only if I have another idea (and a completely different one) that fits this set well.