Steven Brokaw Photography

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Kristen, Bill & Tiffany all working hard

I’ve followed the photography of Bill Jones for about a year.  Working primarily out of Los Angeles Bill focuses on fashion / model photography which is a genre I’ve been working on.  From his website: “A Midwest native, Bill now spends most of his time commuting between New York, Miami, and Los Angeles working with some of the top fashion models in the country”.

Recently, I had an opportunity to watch Bill work and be his photo-gofer.  It was a great learning experience.  I’ve followed him on Facebook and because of this connection I think he knew I had a studio along with 2 local photographers.  He reached out to me asking if he could do a session with a local model in the studio.  In consideration he would let me treat the shoot like a mini workshop.  I was happy to let him use the studio to watch him work and pull as much knowledge out of him as possible.

The time and date was arranged.  On the date Bill and the local model, Kristen Renee Grable, who had been interested in working with Bill arrived.  Bill also invited local MUA / hair stylist, Tiffany Holmes.  Bill and I agreed the only thing I needed to provide was the studio, light stands, set up a fashion grey seamless and he would bring the rest.  

Touch-up Time
Bill’s kit for this shoot was straight forward.  A one light setup.  A Paul C. Buff Alien Bee B1600 along with a Paul C. Buff 22-inch High Output White Beauty Dish Reflector.  He brought a backup Alien Bee B800, but didn’t need it. On the beauty dish Bill didn’t use the internal direct-light blocker but only the external diffuser sock.  The Alien Bee was mounted on a Manfrotto boom arm which was mounted on a Paul C Buff – 13” Air-Cushioned Heavy Duty Light Stand, TS13AC.  This was counter-balanced with one of our lightstand weights and several sandbags.  The Alien Bee was triggered using one of my Elinchrom EL Skyport triggers and receivers.  A solid setup. 

Here is one of Bill’s techniques I’ve used a couple of times since.  He closely controls the light bouncing back on the model with black foam core flags of different sizes clipped to light stands and laying on the floor.  He puts these flags in different locations around the model based on the setting and light to control.  Bill set the beauty dish 72” (from the bottom of the dish) with the light aimed so it brushed across Kristen’s belly button (she’s at least 5’11 in heals) and into the black foam core flag.  Interesting – I would have never set the lighting up this way. 

Kristen was constantly moving
Bill set his camera and metered Kristen using a Sekonic L-358 for f/11 through f/13.  He indicated for this type of shoot he doesn’t go wider than f/8.  Speed set at 1/125 to 1/160.  I normally shoot at f/8 as the smallest aperture.  I’ve never done model photography at f/11.  Another tip. 

While we were setting up Tiffany was working her magic on Kristen.  Before they went to work Bill was very specific on the type of makeup effect he wanted and how he wanted it applied.  Same with the hair.  Bill talked this over with Tiffany and Kristen early.  Also, when the makeup was applied Bill checked Kristen closely; taking a sample shot and having Tiffany touch up a few areas he needed work on.  Another tip I’ve used a couple of times since.  The shoot was already worth it and the photography hadn’t even started.  When we were set up and waiting for Kristen & Tiffany to finish Bill and I talked for about 30 minutes about all things photography, managing your business, working with agencies, working with models, etc., etc.  I was taking copious notes.

When Kristen was ready Bill got to work. We planned 4 sets with 4 different clothes changes.  One with a sheer shirt / shorts, one with a black leather pants / jacket, a black one piece swimsuit, and finally a long white t-shirt.  In each set Bill asked Kristen to move constantly.  Almost dancing.  Moving shoulders, body, and hair dramatically.  Bill did the sessions standing, sitting and laying down. While all of this was going on he would stop and show me and Tiffany the images he was capturing, zooming in constantly.  He would show Kristen what he was capturing and talk her through moves / poses / expressions he needed.  Tiffany stood behind us the entire shoot and stepped in when needed to fix make-up and hair.  This went on for all 4 sets.  Bill was constantly talking to model Kristen.  It was great to watch, and of course that sound you heard was my pen on notebook taking notes.  

Laying down on the job

Laying down on the job part deux
Bill is a Canon shooter and uses the heavy artillery of DSLRs, the 1D.  Throughout he used a 50mm lens.  A perfect setup for this type of shoot.  To zoom Bill simply used his body.  Another trick he used was shooting in RAW, but he set his picture control to monochrome so he could control the full dynamic range and shadows.  Smart.

I can tell you the images I saw were AMAZING.  Not sure he will post or share any of the final images, but wow.  Kristen is tall, fluid, talented and a good looking model.  Tiffany is a top notch MUA/Stylist, and Bill, well in my opinion Bill has extreme skills.  He’s not only a top notch photographer, but a good teacher.
I learned a great deal in the 4-5 hours I got to work with Bill and would love to do it again.  Hmmm, my job will be taking me to Los Angeles regularly…maybe!

Here are a few tips I picked up during the shoot:

·         In studio – aperture at f/8 to f/13
·         Use a 50mm lens on a full frame camera
·         Photos should be 9”x12” crop for agency images
·         Crop knee to head
·     Have the model constantly moving – have the model walk to and away from you while on location.
·        Use a black background for light skinned models
·        For fashion shoots the model should not look at the camera
·         Models should be 5’8” or taller for agencies
·         Don’t light the background for shoots like this
·    Don’t wear jewelry if it’s a fashion shoot – unless of course the shoot is for the jewelry company
·        And no matter how good we get as a photographer it’s always good to practice and work with other photographers – watch their style and learn!!

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