Lisa Michelle and Mary Jane (model portfolio shoot)


A week ago I did a model-portfolio shoot with Lisa Michelle and Mary Jane, two models who are friends and often work together. I wanted to get them into the studio to do some ‘beauty’ shots (i.e. hair and make up rather than clothing-oriented). The plan was also to have a second set, with full-length fashion shots. But we only had an hour for hair and two hours for shooting. So what happened when the models and the stylist showed up late?

What happened was the best studio shoot I’ve had in many months!

I needn’t have worried about the late start. Lisa and Jane were both extremely professional, and required very little coaching to get the look I was after. And the stylist Catherine (and her assistant, Aman), really knew her stuff. Once we started shooting, it was bam bam bam. Even with such an abbreviated shoot schedule, we managed to get two complete sets/looks done (including a change of background seamless paper), and have fun doing it!

The lead image is of Mary Jane (left) and Lisa Michelle. Very typical ‘clamshell’ lighting, with a hairlight camera left. Typical, but that’s because it works so well for beauty shots.

Below is a shot of Mary Jane, using the same ‘beauty’ set up. To be honest, there were sooooo many great images from this session, I almost had to pick at random the ones that I would do a full retouch/enhancement on.


It’s rare, but sometimes I remember to take a set up shot. Here you can see the ‘clamshell’ lighting. The brolly box (a softbox that folds up like an umbrella) is up top as key. That was my Norman 200B. The shadows are filled using my Alien Bees AB800, set to low power, bounced off a white card at the bottom. And camera left you can see an SB-28, with a ‘pale amber gold’ gel, and a cardboard snoot. (The SB-28 on the right wasn’t being used.) You can see the crates and cardboard boxes…this was a working warehouse! Note that the SB-28 is triggered using my Cybersync radio trigger, but the AB800 and Norman are being triggered optically. This becomes an issue later on…


Strike the set, get the models in clothes, and switch everything around! I didn’t take a set up shot for the second look, which is a shame. But I’ve drawn a lighting diagram below. The background is black seamless. The main light is now my AB800, fired into an 8 ft high V-card (made from 1.5″ foam insulation, bought in 4×8′ panels for $15, at Lowe’s). Camera left, with the V-card open to 90°, and the AB800 with 7″ reflector about 7 ft high, pointed down to light the whole V-card. This creates a nice big light source, with falloff from top to bottom. I flagged part of the V-card so it would spill less of the light on the background.

Camera right and a little behind the model is a 4 ft V-card, with an SB-28 firing into it. The ‘V’ is much narrower however, simulating a striplight but with the same falloff from top to bottom. You can see the effect of this on Lisa’s camera-right side below (small highlight on hair, arm).

And finally, an SB-28 camera left, acting as edgelight/hairlight. I don’t rembember if I geled this or not, but it doesn’t look like it.


Another shot of Lisa below, with the same set up.


Mary Jane actually went first with this set up. And initially I had the Norman 200B camera-right in the striplight (below). I really like the cool lens flare that seems to radiate from her earring.


About half way through this set with Mary Jane, the Norman 200B ran out of battery power. The SB-28 (with radio trigger) was triggering the Norman optically. But the AB800 relied on the Norman for its optical trigger, as it wasn’t seeing the snooted SB-28 directly. So when the Norman stopped firing, the AB800 stopped too. It took me a few frames to figure this out, but meanwhile Mary Jane kept posing.

At first I thought these were going to be lost frames. But I boosted the gain on the image and got some cool shots. This showt shows just the SB-28 as edge light, but the extreme gain increase shows either fill from the far right wall, or perhaps ambient from the skylight overhead. The noise was pretty horrendous, but converting it to black and white gives it a great, grainy gritty feel.


And a lighting diagram to show what I’m talking about.


6 thoughts on “Lisa Michelle and Mary Jane (model portfolio shoot)

  1. I don’t do much studio work,but it’s fascinating to see the set up you have used.

    Also a really clear, informed and well illustrated article.



  2. Great images and thanks heaps for posting the setup shots !!

    Are you “V-Cards” white polystyrene foam insulation boards, or are they some sort of silver-faced boards ?

    Many thanks,

    Steve, Adelaide, South Australia.

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