Steven Brokaw Photography

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28mm, speed 1/160, aperture f/13, ISO 200
Time for another model photoshoot.  I’ve recently done “themed” model photoshoots.  The idea is to do something different each time whether it’s a unique setting, different lighting, different looks, or unusual clothing.  This time was no different.  

First I needed a theme.  Normally, this isn’t hard since I have tons of themes littering my brain, but I always do research.  I decided on “contemporary glamour” for this shoot.  The idea came to me after looking at old black and white glamour photographs of 50-60’s movie stars, especially Marilyn Monroe.  With a theme in hand it was time for planning.  For this shoot I wanted a makeup artist, hair stylist, and a studio.

First thing was to hire a local model. My criteria were specific.  A model with some experience, an interest in glamour-like work, a bit hard-girl (i.e. tattoos) style and medium length blonde hair which would allow for a Marilyn Monroe hairstyle.

I found the model I wanted using my Facebook contacts, and after a few back and forth messages she said she was good to go.  Facebook has been a good resource for the Indy photography scene to hire models.  I’ve not had any luck with ModelMayhem.

Next, was to select the make-up artist (MUA).  To my surprise this was easy.  I wanted to go with someone familiar, so I contacted a MUA I met previously.  I reached out to Sasha Niles-Carnes, and she said yes.  BTW, her work is uber.

Next up, the studio.  I’ve used a friend’s Stutz Building studio previously, but this time I wanted more controlled lighting and access to a larger softbox.  I have my own lighting equipment, but didn’t want to use it this time.  Dave Fulton’s Spark Art Photography studio came to mind.  I had shot at Dave’s studio during a year end Christmas party, and knew his space was over the top excellent.  I sent him a message, and arranged to rent his space.

45mm, speed 1/160, aperture f/11, ISO 200

Finally, a hair stylist.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have many contacts that do hair, so I put in a few calls and asked around without much luck.  Anyway, I was chatting with someone in my office who gave me a lead.  I followed the lead and had my hair stylist hired.  I also asked a buddy at work who had expressed an interest in photography if he wanted to help out.  He’s a young guy, and please, the thought of hanging out with a pretty model…I didn’t have to twist his arm.

OK, I had the model, the studio, the MUA, my photog second, and the hair stylist.  The fees were negotiated, and once again reconfirmed the photographer’s fact of life…man, this is an expensive hobby.

Next up was a storyboard.  Not really a storyboard, but a series of 6-8 photographs of the look desired.  I sent this to my “people” so they could think about what was being planned.  I’m always surprised how much work it is to plan out a photoshoot!

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a photographer the day before a shoot?  You guessed it…my model contacted me and said she couldn’t make it.  ARGH!  I really wanted to photograph with her, and the last thing I wanted to do was call everyone else and tell them I had to cancel.  Being in business as my day job I realize schedules change at the last minute, so bottomline I was cool with the fact the model needed to cancel.

What to do, what to do.  I put out a distress call on Facebook, and I was stunned.  Literally within an hour several photogs reforwarded my request and at the same time a number of models reached out to me.  A replacement was lined up in no time.   I was surprised I had a following interested in shooting with me…oh, yes it helps when there’s money involved.

Courtney Kennedy hopped on board and was signed up for her normal per hour fee.  She had the style, a hard-girl look and guess what, medium length platinum blond hair.  Karma.

The day of the shoot.  Got several messages from Courtney and agreed on dress for her to bring.  Medium length, tight, black…  I arrived at the studio.  Dave was already there and was the perfect host while I got set up.  We talked through the lighting, electronic triggers, background (I wanted a solid black background for the portraits), and timing.  He then left me to do my thing.  

Sasha, and then Michelle Bueno, the hair stylist, arrived and set up.  I talked them through the schedule, but since they already had the storyboard in advance it wasn’t really needed.  Courtney arrived and they got at it.   

50mm, speed 1/40, aperture f/3.2, ISO 560
For this shoot I brought the following:
 My weapon of choice was the Nikon D300s with the 24-70mm lens for all of the studio and speedlight shots.  I used the D200 with the 35mm or 50mm lens for the shots I took during the MUA/hair work.   The plan was to use the Mamiya for a couple of rolls, but unfortunately we ran out of time without using it.  You know a "Girls on Film" type of effect.

Once I got set up we all chatted while the make-up and hair got finished. The makeup and hair took a little over 1 hour.  I had rented the studio for 2 hours, so this was cutting things close.  No dramas, Dave was cool and said I could use the studio for another 30 minutes, or so if I wanted.  While the makeup & hair was being done I took several candid shots with the D200.  For the candids the D200 was set on program mode.

All, done, so it was time to get to business.  I had 2 sets of shots planned.  The first with Courtney at the makeup table.  The plan was to shoot her reflection in the mirror both touching up makeup and looking off in different directions.  This set used an off camera speedlight with the RPS softbox as fill light and the lights on the makeup table as the key light.  The studio lights were turned off.  I triggered the speedlight with my Elinchrom Universals.  The speedlight was set at manual mode 1/8 power.

Throughout the shoot I was in manual mode, the first series the ISO set at 400, speed at 1/100 - 1/125 and aperture between f/3.5 down to f/4.5 depending on the DOF I wanted to capture.  White balance was set at incandescent.  Since the makeup table had the brightest lights color temperature was adjusted in post.  On the second series which is under studio lights the ISO was set at 200, speed at 1/160 and aperture at f/11 down to f/13.  

I asked Courtney to move around the table, stand up, cross arms, look at me, look off, look at herself, etc.  I shot her close up, standing behind, standing on a stepstool, and into the mirror.  Within 30 seconds I knew she was a pro. 

26mm, speed 1/125, aperture f/4.5, ISO 400

58mm, speed 1/100, aperture f/3.5, ISO 400
 After about 150 images to the backdrop which was the second set planned.  For the portrait / head, upper body shots I used a hairlight consisting of a gridded Paul C Buff striplight on a boom.  The studio monolight was an Alien Bee triggered by the key light.  The key light was a Profoto ComPact-R 1200c monolight with a HUGE softbox.  The monolight was triggered with an internal PocketWizard.  The Profoto was set to ¼ power positioned about 3 feet from Courtney, camera right.  The hairlight was set at 1/8 power and placed about 2 feet above and 6 inches behind Courtney’s head.  Once again the studio lights were off.

Camera in manual mode with the same settings as mentioned above. 

For this series my goal was to capture mainly head and shots from waist up trying to generally replicate poses Marilyn Monroe did.  Courtney needed only limited direction, and when I did direct her, she was a pro.  She held her poses until I told her to move which was great.  We did a series of head shots tight, more open head shots, waist up shots from different perspectives, dress open to show more cleavage, dress closed for a more demure look, & head in different position.  

24mm, speed 1/160, aperture f/13, ISO 200
 After about 150 shots we were finished. 

Oh, did I mention my second shooter had to cancel at the last minute (no major issues), so I asked Michelle who had stuck around to manage Courtney’s hair and watch the shoot to help me by holding a reflector in a few shots and to help Courtney with her dress.  A fun team.

Bottomline, I was completely happy.  It was a fun photoshoot

After action tips:

·         Although it’s often impractical it’s a good idea to have 2 models or someone on standby if one cancels or “no-shows”. 

·         Test the light settings while the makeup is being done.  In this case I didn’t do it because I didn’t have someone to use for the test.  It didn’t really matter on this shoot because I had my camera / lights locked in after just a couple of shots.

·         Keep everyone’s phone numbers and contact information handy and in one place.  Common sense, but I often put information in my notebook, in Facebook, on my iPhone, etc. 

·         Bring copies of photos (hard copies or electronic) to the shoot so everyone can reconfirm what is needed.  In this case I had created a “storyboard” and it worked well.  It was used several times.

·         Make sure everyone gets paid before you leave.  For this shoot I paid everyone before we shot.  Again, common sense to pay people, but after all my planning I forgot to pay the model because she was the last to come in.  I ended up paying her the next day. 

·         Keep your gear organized and know what you brought.  Dave’s studio is well equipped and when cleaning up I could have thought “is that Dave’s or mine?”  I kept everything together on a table.

The Big Plunge

Polaroid Colorpack II - Part Deux