Model Portfolio Shoot: Eugenie


Eugenie is a Russian model currently signed to a French modeling agency. She’s kickin’ around the US for the summer, and we got in contact with each other to do a shoot. I was honored and flattered that she and her manager drove down from San Francisco to shoot with me. So we made the most of the day, and shot for about ten hours! It was grueling and a lot of fun, and I managed not to run out of battery power the entire time. We hit both a wild-west location and an urban location…

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(If there are typos in this post, sue me. 🙂 I’m off to Alaska for ten days tomorrow, and I wanted to get a blog post out before I go.)

First stop was Corriganville Regional Park in Simi Valley. This park used to be a movie set for Hollywood westerns back in the 40s and 50s, and was also open to the public for tours. All that remain now of the buildings are mere foundations. But it’s the perfect for location for that iconic California “Wild West” look.

The lead shot was taken about 10am. I placed Eugenie right at the edge of the shade from a large tree. The main light (Norman 200B, 43″ shoot through umbrella) is positioned so that it hits her from approximately the same direction as the sun, so that it makes sense and appears natural…just softer. You can see from the set up shot below how it’s placed, and there’s a pretty strong fill from the SB-28 in a Lumiquest Softbox III. I generally shot between the two lights, or to the left of the fill. You can see makeup artist Ja’Nice Estrada at work here. My assistant for the day was Eugenie’s manager, Mark (who’s arm holds the lightstand steady from the slight breeze).


We shot in various shady locations, and then I decided hey it’s about noon, let’s shoot in full sun! What am I crazy? Well sort of, but that’s not relevant here. Rather than give up on noon sun as being useless, just think of it as a light coming from a different direction. If you can’t move the light, move your subject so that the light is coming from a flattering angle. Tilt her face up so the eye sockets aren’t in dark shadow, and watch out the nose highlights. Sure all your noon shots might all be lying down, but at least you’re not stuck inside. Here’s Eugenie, enjoying the sun and the 95° heat. She’s up on a couple of rocks, higher than the rest of us. So I’ve got the key light VERY high, with Mark holding it as best he can in the breeze and on the uneven ground. I think I had a fill somewhere too, but the main light is really a fill at this point. She’s backlit from the sun, which gives a nice edge to her.


Speaking of noon sun, here’s another idea I just had to try. It proved problematic, but I thought this was interesting shot. I put my camera up on my pole-cam, put Eugenie down on the ground (one of the old building’s foundations) and fired away using a radio remote. Since the light is direct and very hard (sunlight only), it creates a cool look. I just had trouble aiming the darn thing from fifteen feet up, and eventually gave up because we were all hot and thirsty.


The image below was taken in a small rock crevice, up the side of a steep hill. Everyone was precariously positioned: Mark and Ja’Nice holding the lights steady, and I was precariously placed on a rock. Eugenie’s expression here seemed to cry out for an antique look, which I accomplished in Lightroom. This and the following images were taken before the ‘direct sun’ shots above, but I’m placing them out of order for artistic purposes. Same basic lighting, but key was to the left and fill to the right.


Further up the hill we climbed, and here was Eugenie with the sun to her back (that hair highlight on her left side), with the key light to the right. I think I gave up on the fill for this location, as I didn’t want Ja’Nice to fall off a rock. The sun back-lit the grass, making it glow and was an immediate eye catcher.


We take a break, have some lunch, and then Ja’Nice does a makeup modification for Eugenie. We’re heading to downtown Los Angeles (yes that’s right, Simi Valley AND LA in one day!) and Ja’Nice isn’t coming with us. Now we’re going for some guerrilla-style shooting. Mark was holding the light, which I’d switched out to the Metz Mecablitz 60 because the Norman had run out of juice. We simply wandered around and found interesting locations to shoot in. We’d set up quickly, I’d give some directions, and then we’d fire off a few shots. Then we’d get moving again, so that we didn’t get hassled and/or get in anyone’s way.


This is my personal favorite from the day, below. It was shot in front of the Eastern Building, and the wind is blowing Eugenie’s hair. For these city shots, I didn’t use a fill flash for portability reasons. I just used the Metz and balanced for the ambient.


And another cool one.



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