Model Portfolio: “Ms. S” (round 2)


This is the second time I’ve worked with “Ms. S”. It’s funny how a little familiarity will add that much more to a shoot. In find that whether I’m shooting models or family portraits, having worked with the client before makes things go much smoother. Such was the case this time, and I wanted to bring “Ms. S” into the studio. Our previous shoot had been an outdoor, cityscape style shoot. “Ms. S” is tall, thin, very pretty and has cheekbones…high fashion seems like a good fit for her!

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I borrowed my friend Mike Moore’s studio for the shoot. He’s a much better photographer than I will ever be! And I’m not just saying that because he let me use his studio. I’m saying that because he started young, and I don’t stand a chance of catching up. We had Lindsey Dickenson as makeup artist. “Ms. S” did her own hair, which looked great! And I pushed buttons and muttered to myself a lot, as I usually do.

I concocted a theme of colored cellophane for the shoot, which I surprised “Ms. S” with when she arrived. So along with all the lighting to set up, I had to rig cellophane and mylar wrapping paper rolls, hanging from C-stands.

The basic lighting setup started with:

– Alien Bees B800 on one side, and two ganged SB-28s on the other, lighting the white background.

– Norman 200B as key light, smacked into an 8 ft V-card, wide open, camera right. I say “started with”, because my Norman always runs out of battery juice half way through a studio shoot.

– SB-28 in an umbrella, camera left, as fill. It was perched above a 4 ft V-card which was acting as a reflector. You can see the V-card setup below, although the lighting was changed (I’ll explain that later).

While “Ms. S’s” dress was wonderful, I thought she should slip into something a little more…shiny? Here she is, wearing the mylar wrapping paper used earlier as a prop. Seems like a better use for it, doesn’t it?


I originally set up the lighting for the shot below in reverse, sort of. If you’ll look at the setup shot at the end of this post, you can see that I’ve got two V-cards, both with strobes firing into them. The one on image left has two SB-28s…my Norman had run out of juice by then, so I grabbed the one background light and used it as the main instead. Image right is the smaller V-card, with a single SB-28, used as fill. Looking for a very large, soft light source here, but with some horizontal contrast. I had planned to shoot through the two V-cards, which is what I initially did. “Ms. S’s” head was toward the gap, and her legs toward the background.

But then I came around the side, and shot from this angle. Lights are to camera left. “Ms. S” becomes somewhat backlit, or “short lit” really. Much more drama, and my favorite shots of the day.


The shot below was while shooting through the V-card gap, but I used my homemade tilt lens to get some weird focal plane stuff. Note how her hair is out of focus, yet her mouth—which is the same distance from the camera—is sharp. And the really nitpicky people will point out that the eyes are not that sharp. Hey, it’s a homemade, manually focused tube with a lens stuck on the end! All hooked up to an expensive digital camera. That’s just the way I roll, innit?

Gave it a little bit of a polaroid look here, since it was going down the lo-fi route anyway.


Lindsey did a really great mid-shoot makeup change, putting some uber-fashionable yellow eyeshadow on “Ms. S”. Matched her yellow top and everything. However I lit the model pretty harshly, which looked much better in black and white. Below you can see “Ms. S”, all growly-looking. She’s got a beautiful smile, but when I ask her to do the “hey photographer, you’re a moron” look…well, it’s withering!

For lighting, I had an SB-28 brushing he background, which was a 4×8′ black foamcore sheet (courtesy of Mike Moore’s studio…hope he didn’t mind!). I think the main light was the Alien Bees in an umbrella camera left, and a V-card to camera right. We were running out of time, and I have no idea what I was doing at that point. Improvising, basically. Apologies to Lindsey for not showing the cool yellow look in color!


And below, the lowly set up shot. The big bright spot image-left is the Alien Bees. For the initial shoots, I’m standing in the place where the dual SB-28s would have been, lighting the bg. The V-card would have had the Norman up high, about seven or eight feet, pointing downward. And the image-right SB-28 was in an umbrella, peaking over the short V-card. But lighting is a fluid thing: what I imagine in my head beforehand, gets modified pretty quickly.

Thanks “Ms. S”! It was great working with you again.


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