Steven Brokaw Photography

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Time for another themed photoshoot.  This time I wanted to do something with an Asian theme.  After some research I decided to replicate a Japanese dance-drama theme with a female Kabuki character.  Of course, I planned artistic license for the shoot, doing something a bit more erotic.

OK, theme selected, check.  

Next, I studied the type of image I wanted, researching and selected images for my storyboard.  I use the storyboard more for a guide for my model and MUA.  Also to give myself an idea of how I want to use lighting.  

Storyboard done, check.  

I already knew who I wanted for my MUA.  I’ve used Sasha Starz before, and she’s a pro.  We work well together so that decision was easy.  

MUA selected, check.  

Next, I needed a studio to shoot.  Hold on, wait a minute.  This is what created a bit of a delay.  I decided to go in with 2 other local photographers and open our own photography studio.  Guess what, it takes time to get a studio set up, so that delayed me about a month.  Time well spent!!  

Anyway, studio in hand, check.

Finally, my model.  This was going to be a bit tricky because a) I wanted someone with long black hair (preferably without a wig), b) natural Asian features (although, I could have replicated this with makeup), and c) someone who was willing to do one set topless.  Mind you, it wasn’t really “topless” because she was going to be covered in white grease paint, and shots with her girly parts strategically covered, but still.  

I figured no way on earth would a model, especially someone I’ve never met want to take the risk and shoot with me.  I figured creeper-city.  I really don’t want a rep as a GWC (guy with camera) in the Indianapolis model community.  Reputation is everything.  So, I turned to Sasha to see if she could help me out, and bingo.  She identified the perfect model, Nora, stage name, Mina Vee.  I suspect I could have found other models who would have worked with me, but for this shoot I wanted Sasha’s support.

Guess what my friends, Nora was perfecto.  She’s got the look, the hair, the style, and willingness to do the shoots I had in mind.

Model lined up, check.

Dates set, we had a gig.  Shoot day everyone arrived on time.  I figured it was going to take about 3 hours of makeup, setup and shooting.  I wasn’t in a rush and I left the entire afternoon open.  One BIG bonus for the shoot is that one of my studio partners, Paul D’Andrea, happened to be coming into the studio and I asked him if he wanted to shoot with me.  We have complimentary lighting equipment so I thought it would help.

We set up 2 backdrops for this shoot in the studio.  One using #20 black SavageSeamless Background Paper, and the other #66 pure white.  The studio has plenty of room for 2 full setups, possibly even squeezing in a 3rd, but I digress.  Our new studio, M10 Studio is roomy.

The first shoot was to have Nora’s face painted lightly white, deep red lipstick and temporary tattoos on her back.  While Sasha was getting her set, Paul and I put together a clamshell lighting setup to shoot through.  This was shot against the black backdrop.  We also wanted a red halo around our model so we added a couple of Nikon speedlights with red gels.

The lighting consisted of:

·    Elinchrom D-Lite 400 monolight with a 27” beauty dish and diffuser sock as the top of the clamshell

·    Black reflective umbrella on a Manfrotto 5001B lightstand with a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight as the bottom of the clamshell  triggered with an Elinchrom EL SkyPort Universal

·    Kicker lights on the backdrop with a Nikon SB-800 and an SB-600 Speedlight both gelled red. 

The First Lighting Setup - The Clamshell

Nikon Speedlights with Red Gels Against a Black Backdrop
The SB-800 was set as a slave, whereas the SB-600 had another SkyPort to trigger it.  Both speedlights were set at ¼ power and the Speedlight in the umbrella at 1/32nd power.  The D-Lite was at the lowest setting.

Paul used his light meter and the setup was metered at f/8.  We were shooting the entire in manual mode ISO 200 & 1/160 shutter speed.  All images were shot with a Nikon D300s with an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.

OK, Nora is all ready to go, and we took turns shooting and directing.  Very nice images.  After about 30 minutes shooting it was time to move to the next set.  

For set number 2 we asked Sasha to apply thicker white face paint on our model waist up and harsher makeup on her face consisting of 2 black stripes across her eyes and a red stripe on her body.  This took about 45 minutes, but worth the wait.  

Once finished we positioned Nora in the same location, but this time with a Katana sword.  Again we spent about 30 minutes directing Nora against the black backdrop with the same lighting setup.  This produced some striking images, although in post processing I really didn’t like the effect of the light off the Katana sword.  Paul and I switched off taking turns shooting.

For the 3rd set we used the white backdrop, and slightly different makeup.  Essentially, we had Sasha darken our model’s lips to blood red and to make one big black stripe across her eyes. 
Sasha and Nora at Work
 While makeup was being applied we set up the lighting.  We did 2 setups.  First,
·        Nikon SB-800 & SB-600 Speedlights with blue gels hidden behind a “barn door” to avoid blue splashing onto our model

·        Paul C Buff 64” PLM umbrella and an Elinchrom D-Lite 400 camera right as our key light

The Speedlights were set at ½ power so we could get a solid blue caste on the white background. We set the D-Lite at a setting that would allow us to shoot at f/16. 

Our model took her place, and we shot away.  This time directing her facing different directions, tight face shots, waist up, arms across chest, etc. etc.  We were getting some great shots and everybody was getting into it.  I asked Sasha to help out by putting a maroon scarf around our model neck and holding it up so it looked like the wind was blowing.  We also moved the PLM to camera left.  We also turned off the Speedlights and fired up 2 additional Elinchrom D-Lite 400’s behind barn doors camera right and left to create a dramatic high key effect.  This worked really well especially since our model was painted full white, except for the red stripe and makeup.  We also did a series with the lipstick smeared.  A cool effect if I do say so myself.

Against White Background with Speedlights with Blue Gels & Paul C Buff PLM
Finally, after shooting for about 30 minutes Paul tried one more setup using a Westcott 7’ Octabank with a Elinchrom Ranger A studio light as the key instead of the directional PLM.   He shot this to maximize the high key effect.  Let me tell you, the Octabank is as bright as the sun.

Westcott Octabank & Ranger A MonoLight
Overall, our shoot took about 4 hours, but it felt like 30 minutes.   Everyone worked well together, and we all had fun.  The images are coming out as well as I expected.  A perfect day in the office.
High Key
I can’t wait for another shoot.

After action tips:

·        Bring space heaters.  Poor Nora.  The weather was a bit cool, but for some reason our studio heating (central heating) wasn’t on.  The heat controls are central so no joy warming the place up.  Not good when your model has only a layer of grease paint on.  She was a real sport however,

·        Natural lighting for the makeup area.  We are putting on the finishing touches to the studio and the lighting I had put in was incandescent.  Not good as it’s too orange.  I’ll be switching those out before the next shoot,

·        Spend more time taking notes.  Paul D’Andrea is an expert.  I didn’t take notes of the setup and power settings for future reference.  I’m A-OK with my lighting, but didn’t get everything on the Ranger A or the SB-800,

·        Shoot tethered.  I really didn’t get any good shots with the Katana sword simply because I overexposed do sword.  Sure I could rely on Photoshop, but I’m not going to bother, I had many other images I liked

·        Make 100% sure your model knows what you want to do, and your vision for the shoot.  I would have been very bummed if after the first set she said, “You want me to do what?”  She worked with Sasha, me and Paul and was a true pro.  Loved it. 

M10 Studio Opening in Time Lapse