Katie (LA Models)


Shorts: American Apparel. Ring, vest: stylist's own.

A few weeks ago I worked with Katie from LA Models on a shoot. I had some very specific ideas about the final look of the images, based on some inspirational pages I’d pulled from magazines. Sometimes I start with visual references from other photographs, to give me some guidance on where I want to take the shoot. Other times, I have more of a conceptual story in mind, and the look of the shoot exists more in my mind than reality (you’ll see that in a post coming up in a week or two). It certainly is easier to translate my vision into something concrete when I can hand the stylist some pages and say “let’s do this, but not this part, and change this to that” etc. Otherwise I’m left trying to describe vague things I see in my head! But both styles of shoot design have their advantages.

For this shoot, the look was all about ‘boy shorts’, casual tops, and reclining on soft and furry blankets. The trick was to keep it fashion and not have it turn into something cheesy or “pin-up”. I thought long and hard about how I was going to achieve this. The key component for maintaining a fashion look was going to be facial expression. Wardrobe and posing would make their own statement, but if the model had a “come hither” look on her face, the results would be a disaster. Instead, I wanted the model conveying anything but sexy: anger, melancholy, even a hint of a smile as in the lead image. This would create subtle layers rather than just a one-dimensional image.

So I kept telling Katie to “give me stink eye”.

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This did however occasionally make her laugh, which is what happened on the lead shot. I waited until the laughter subsided and then caught her while she still had a twinkle in her eye. It probably comes from my portrait background…I can make people laugh! Sometimes unintentionally.


This shoot did give me an opportunity to try out a variety of lighting techniques, including some I hadn’t used before. Above is a set up of the lighting for the lead image. While Katie was laying on the ground, it was still important that I light her face from a pleasing angle. In relation to her face, the light should come from the front and above, possibly off to one side. But since she was lying down, this meant suspending a light on a boom over her head. The set up shot below is actually not the final version of the lighting, because the beauty dish aimed down at the blanket was too dead center over her face. I moved it camera left to put the light source above her, as seen in the image. This gives a nice nose shadow and shadow under the chin. Meanwhile, the light you see firing in this shot is aimed directly up at the ceiling. This is the fill light, even though it was probably firing at full power. The ceiling was probably 20 ft high, so there was a lot of distance to cover. But it was coated with metal sheeting of some sort, so it reflected well, while still diffusing the light somewhat.

The ladder you see there is my camera position for most of the shoot. The beauty dish has an Alien Bees 800 in it, and the fill light is a 1600.


Blouse: Dolce & Gabbana. Shorts: American Apparel. Ring: Stylist's own.

To be honest, I don’t recall the details of the lighting for the image above. One can tell of course that there is a light camera-left, hitting Katie from the far side. And also that there is a fill light on the camera side, also camera-left. But I don’t remember what I used! I think though that the edge light is probably a beauty dish, and the fill light…I’m not sure. In an umbrella? I did tone down the brightness on her body though in post, to draw attention to her face. And yes I intentionally left that stray hair across her eye, as I thought it gave a slightly mussed look to the image.


T-Shirt: Alexander Wang. Tights: ASOS. Bracelets: Stylist's own.

And now for something completely different: Katie standing up! I didn’t want the entire shoot to consist of images of the model lying down, so I decided to simulate some window light. This was done very simply, by placing two very large, black V-cards close together so there was roughly a one foot gab between them. Behind it I set up a frame with a diffuser over it, and fired a strobe through it to light the model. The strobe was about four feet from the diffuser, and slightly higher than the model’s face. I had also set up a fill light, but didn’t like the result. So this is a one-light affair.

Jennifer Margolin, the wardrobe stylist for this shoot (and the Bianca/Ford shoot from earlier), put Katie into some really rockin’ two-tone tights, which she’s wearing above but aren’t visible. But unfortunately this was the wrong backdrop/lighting to make them look good. I hope she saves them for a future shoot!

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Tank Top: Aqua. Shorts: America Apparel. Cuff: Amrita Singh

Above you see Katie giving her best “stink eye” interpretation. The post-production on this image is intentionally dark and a little cool, to give it a moonlight-through-window feel. In reality I’m simply using the same strobe-through-diffuser-panel technique as mentioned above, but without the V-cards in place. In some of the images I shot, I appear to have used a slight fill, camera left from “above” (although Katie is lying down again, and I’m on the ladder). But I’m not sure of the details.


Dress: Alexander Wang. Cuff, ring: stylist's own.

My makeup artist, Naz Madaen, and my hair stylist Joey Villegas apparently were conspiring together while I was shooting. When I thought I’d finished the shoot, it was made clear that I had at least one more look to do! This one’s for you, Naz and Joey. And it was a nice addition to the shoot too. Messy up-do, funky makeup stripes on her cheek, and a purple dress…it’s a different look than the rest of the images, but well worth doing. It pays to be flexible and listen to ideas! (My wife is probably thinking I should take that advice more often.)


Above, Naz and Joey get Katie ready for the ‘up do’ look at the end.

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13 thoughts on “Katie (LA Models)

  1. Loving the first image! The other are good too, but the first one is my favourite.. Very nice work! 😀

  2. The model is absolutely fabulous, i love the line you said…”The key component for maintaining a fashion look was going to be facial expression”, for me that line is impressive!..

  3. That is a beautiful cover shot. Although the boy shorts got lost a bit in it, the picture captures your idea of a subtle smile. It didn’t look too commercial. Good job!

  4. Indeed, very compelling. I mean, this pics are suited for those high profile magazines.

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