Steven Brokaw Photography

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I had a good idea for another themed model photoshoot.  This time “Plastic”.  The idea was to use heavy makeup to create a skin effect that gave my model’s skin a plastic looking effect.  More out of science fiction than the freak-a-zoid looking robots from Sony or other Japanese manufacturers.

While researching for the shoot I came across the following image.  This is what I was going for.

The Original Idea
With my theme in hand I created a photo storyboard of looks I wanted.  Sasha Starz, the MUA I usually hire, was contacted to see if she wanted to help.  She was onboard.  Based on my main image I was leaning to hiring a model of color, but didn’t have anyone in mind, so as in the past Sasha was asked to help.  She identified Cory, a local model who goes under the model name of Amyle Leon.  

I checked images of Cory, and determined she was perfecto.  Tall, lean and straightened hair (more on this later).  We even had a chance to meet up before the shoot at a local Artist Meet-up get together.  Yep, she was what I was looking for, and seemed really interested in working with me.

Over the next week I was getting doubts how we were going to pull this off.  Do I  pull Cory’s hair back, what type of lighting, background color, clothes, etc.?  This theme wasn’t developing as easily as hoped. I decided to just go for it, and do lots of adjustments in studio.

Wanting maximum flexibility in lighting & backgrounds, I went to the studio the evening before and set up 3 backdrop and 2 lighting setups. I used Savage Seamless Background Paper brand fashion grey, pure white, and black.  Got all the lighting set up, so less time would be spent setting up when Cory arrived.

Day of the shoot and everything was ready to go.  We scheduled to shoot for 7’ish and everyone started to arrive at M10 Studio.  The second Sasha and Cory arrived I thought, “oh no”.  First, Cory didn’t have straight hair anymore, but a modified, loose afro.  Yikes, and secondly she brought her boyfriend.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I encourage models to bring a friend or escort, but the problem tonight, I hadn’t expected it.  More, on why this was an issue later.

Anyway, in her normal professional manner, Sasha got to work.  We talked about Cory’s hair and decided pulling it back in a ponytail wasn’t going to work.  No way to get her hair tight to her skull, so we decided to go a ‘natural.  A photographer has to be flexible.  We discussed makeup, making final decisions on several colors.  Off we go. 

While Cory and Sasha did their thing I wanted to do a final lighting setup and then chat up Cory a bit more to get to know her better and talk more of what I had in mind in terms of posing and lighting concepts.  That’s where Cory’s boyfriend changed the flow.  Don’t get me wrong, he is a really cool guy; the problem is I enjoyed talking to him so much I didn’t get a chance to focus on Cory or getting my lighting setup finalized.  I knew that was a bad move.

Anyway, Cory was ready, and honestly the makeup concept I had in mind just wasn’t going to be pulled off.  Cory’s hair was going to create too many shadows on her face if I put my studio lights directly above with minimal diffusion as planned.  We got started against the black backdrop and I did several test shots to get the camera settings down.  I used manual mode with shutter speed at 1/160 second, f/8 aperture setting and ISO at 200.  This is the normal setting I use to get started and adjust from there.  All photos were taken with a Nikon D300s mounted with my AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.

Camera locked in, and off we went.  I moved Cory around, moved lighting, changed position, etc. and just didn’t get the “plastic” effect I wanted, and so I decided to focus on more of a standard portrait shoot.  I brought some bubble wrap so I thought I could use it to get a “plastic” effect by using it as clothing later in the shoot.  Lighting throughout the shoot consisted of 1 or 2 Elinchrom D-Lite studio strobes as my key lighting, and 2 Nikon SB-600 speedlights for fill lighting, and to add effect onto the background.  I used different modifiers on the Elinchrom studio lights, but later in the shoot found a 30 degree grid worked the best.

After about 30 minutes we switched to the fashion grey background and changed the lighting.  This time I put a large Elinchrom beauty dish with a white diffuser on an Elinchrom D-Lite for the key light.  I set the power to the lowest setting, but very close to Cory.  I used another Elinchrom D-Lite with a grid at higher power.  My goal was to get much more dramatic shadowing.  Once set I shot multiple photos moving the lighting around.  On several shots I turned off the key light and simply used the gridded light.

After about 30 minutes Cory changed clothes replacing her clothes with bubble wrap.  That was interesting since I was still trying to get at least something along the Plastic theme.  I think we hit on a good idea by using bubble wrap as bikini styled top, and worked the shadows.  We played with this for about 30-45 minutes.  Cory, Sasha & Cory’s boyfriend all contributed to ideas how to get the right effect.  

Bubble Wrap
Overall it was fun, but I really didn’t get the themed effect I was looking for.  Ultimately, that’s OK, because I still was able to get some quality time in the studio, met a new cool guy that I'd like to hang out with, and walked away with some good images. 

OK, as always you get my daily dose of after action tips & thoughts.  Not to disappoint: 

·         Be very specific about the theme with the model, including how you expect them to prepare.  In this shoot it was specifically my model’s hair.  If I knew it was going to be changed up, I would have either changed my theme or rescheduled.

·         Escorts, boy/girlfriends, significant others are A-OK, but note to self, ask first if my model is going to bring someone.  At minimum I should have simply welcomed him, made him comfortable and went on with my business.

·         Have a backup plan for a shoot if for some reason you first theme just isn’t working.

·         Don’t do 2 model shoots in 1 day.  I did on this day, and I was feeling it around 10pm while cleaning up the studio.  The first one was before sunrise.  Yikes.

·         Meet your model in advance if possible.  I did and it really helped me get to know Cory a bit in advance.  She’s a good model and was fun to chat with.  I felt completely at ease with her and I think the earlier get together helped.


Indianapolis Airshow 2012