Steven Brokaw Photography

Welcome to my portfolio site including photos, my blog, contact information and social media links


I’ve worked with Caroline Nauth several times, because she’s a fun and skilled model.  She reached out to me to do a shoot for her portfolio.  She wanted dramatic shadows, strong processing and some very tasteful implied work.  I was good to go.

I lined up hair and MU for this shoot.  I wanted to bring in someone I’ve worked with before and who was comfortable with the theme.  I hired the always-excellent Sasha Star for both MU & hair. 

Over the next 2 weeks Caroline and I went back and forth discussing the look, clothes, and traded inspirational photos.  We were set.  The night before the shoot I went to the studio and set up the following backgrounds and lighting:


  • Savage brand Fashion Grey (#56) 107” background paper sweeped, but taped to the wall (more on this later),
  • Savage brand Primary Red (#08) 53” background paper mounted on an Avenger C-stand,
  • Savage brand Black (#20) 107” background paper sweep on a standard background stand.


  • 8” reflector with a 30-degree grid mounted on an Elinchrom Digital Style 1200RX (1200Ws) Compact Flash Unit,
  • Rotalux 43” softbox mounted on an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 IT 400ws studio strobe,
  • Rotalux 20” x 51” strip softbox mounted on an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 IT 400ws studio strobe,
  • Elinchrom 27” beauty dish reflector with a grid mounted on an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 IT 400ws studio strobe.

When Caroline and Sasha arrive we reviewed the inspiration photos, discussed and agreed to the poses, clothes to wear and lighting for each look.  With that Sasha started on Caroline’s makeup and hair.  That took just over an hour.

As always I started with my Nikon D600 set at ISO 160, 1/160 and aperture set to f/9.  I metered the lights using my Sekonic light meter to this setting.  A few times I opened up the aperture to f/5.6 and increased the speed to 1/200 when I used the reflector and wanted a darker look.  I used a Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G the entire shoot.

Once done with MU & hair, we started on the grey sweep.  I wanted some strong implied looks, so we had Caroline start with a skirt and loose top.  I had her stand in front of and lean against the sweep (and this is the reason I taped the sweep to the wall versus simply using a background stand), and we took very controlled shots.  For this look I used the 43” softbox camera right 6’ high and the 20”x51” strip box aimed at the background.  For the first set we shot tethered.  This worked, but it was too slow, so I only used the tether for the first set.  We changed clothing, opened up the top, etc., etc. to get some great looks.

We changed up clothes a bit and then used only the strip box aimed right at Caroline, camera left.  The light was directly left of Caroline.  With this lighting it put her body ½ in shadow.  Therefore, by having her move around we got extremely dramatic lighting. 

After this look we moved over to the red background.  For this I used the gridded beauty dish.  We aimed it 6’ high, camera right.  Of course Caroline had a new change of clothes.  The idea of this look was to primarily do head / portrait shots.  I also bought a rose that we could use for a prop.  I really like the red, and we got some great looks.

Finally, we moved to the black background and used the 8” reflector.  I had the light set up directly above Caroline slighting in front of her and aimed toward the background.  For this look I had Caroline sit and stand.  I had her pose with her arms around herself, sitting with her arms on the seat to pop her muscles.  The idea was to do a very implied look but keep her primarily in shadows.  The advantage of this lighting was that it cast a “halo” around my model, and very little onto the background.  The drop-off was very fast.  It worked great.

Well, after about 4 hours we were done.  We had a lot of fun and got some great shots.   Now it’s time to focus on processing the images for Caroline’s portfolio.

After action report:

  • If you are going to shoot “implied” make 100% sure your model and creative team know this, and are comfortable with a bit of skin.  In this case Caroline wanted this look, so it was a mute point,
  • Keep the studio warm.  No explanation needed,
  • Take breaks – I’ve said this before, but I can shoot all night without a break, but I have to remind myself to let my creative team take a break, go to the bathroom, etc.
  • Have food.  Our studio has a kitchen so it’s easy, but when you shoot this long people get hungry.  I went through a bag of carrots, a tub of hummus & a bunch of crackers…OK, OK, I ate most of it,
  • Because these images were primarily for my model I showed her what we were getting regularly.  I wanted he to be happy with the photos along the way so she could adjust her look, pose, and expressions as needed.  She caught herself with some looks I missed and changed some things up that worked great.
  • This is “implied”, so nothing showed in ANY of my pictures.  Keep it that way


Presentation on Model Photography - Part 1

Photo Workshop with Valerie Jardin – Minneapolis Street Life