“The first 10,000 shots are the worst.” – Helmut Newton
Next to “where do I find models,” the next most popular question I’m asked is how do I approach a shoot with a new model. The answer is that even if I’ve photographed the model before I use the same method, although the time spent on each section might go a little faster.
Sign the Release: After a friendly greeting, we head to the workroom that contains my paper and digital archives and previously housed my fine art printer. I go over the model release and have them sign it. My friend, Jason Anderson has written posts on this topic and it’s the first place you should check if the whole model release concept is new to you. I use a different release for each type of shoot (paid vs. TFP) and minimize the legalese. It’s written in as much plain English as possible and have it legally binding.
Wardrobe: I seldom have any lighting/background setups in mind because I don’t know what wardrobe choices I might have to work with. Even though I may ask the model to bring certain things she might not own them and wardrobe is always a surprise to me, most times it’s a pleasant surprise. Together we look at the wardrobe choices in the workroom.
While dis-cussing war-drobe options, I think about what back-ground and lighting choices I might use. We also discuss jewelry and make-up. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I prefer dramatic make-up. Before we moved to Daisy Hill, I had a wonderful make-up artist but it’s a long drive for her, so I’m looking for someone closer. Here’s a top tip: Having an artist do your model’s make-up produces better results (than most models can accomplish, although there are exceptions) and the amount of retouching needed in post production is minimized
Lighting/Background: These days, my studio lighting gear includes Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees B800 and DigiBee DB 800 monolights. For the first series of shots I’ll mount a 42-inch hexagonal Plume Wafer lightbank, attached using a Balcar speed ring to one of the Bees, unusually the DigiBee. The monolights are synced with a Pocket Wizard Plus X on the main light and another Plus X on the camera, which more often than not (as is the case here) is a Panasonic Lumix GH4.
I typically pick a simple background to get started and reach for either the Grey or Black Infinity vinyl background from Savage and was used on the image above. Having already done some preliminary testing using my ancient Gossen Luna-Pro F to measure light output. The background and lighting is already set when the model walks into my in-home studio.
When the model come into the studio, I place her approximately where I want her to stand, make some tweaks to the placement of the lights and make a few test shots adjusting exposure by checking the image’s histogram and once I’m happy with the exposure—I may go through this process a few times—I’m ready to shoot. This does two things: It gets us up to speed faster and this first series serves as a warm up for both model and photographer. Exposure for the above shot was 1/125 sec at f/8 and ISO 200.
To be continued…
If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from Amazon.com with, as I write this, new non Prime copies selling for $17.50 (plus shipping,) cheaper than the Prime price.