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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rags to Riches

My model is Chayneice Johnson; Chay for short. A newcomer into my arena. As with all newcomers I try to find their strengths and go into that direction with what, and how I will shoot them. My estimation is that I'll get stronger and stronger photos right? When I spoke with Chay and viewed her photos on the internet, she had a head full of natural beautiful hair. When Chay walked through the door my eyes went immediately to her hair.... cut. I loved it!! Jah (you all know who Jah is by now so I won't say my MUA anymore), and I had just been discussing finding a model with short hair and wanting to work with it. Here stood before me a girl with some height, some hips and this almost tomboy stance. I knew immediately what I wanted to do with it. Yet I knew I couldn't ignore Chay's other beautiful traits; poised, elegance, and this aura of "treat me like a lady" minus the diva attitude. She was 100% genuine and classy. If not a model, definitely a lady (with that splash of tomboy). This was my model for what I wanted to do, no doubt. I wanted to transform her, make her act like a boy, then bring her back to what she really is. As Chay and I talked and got to know more about eachother character, I knew she was going to have to overcome her shyness. I instructed Chay to wear something black and form fitting to the test shoot. I had her play with a few colorful scarves because I wanted to test out a lighting scheme I knew I wanted to use for my "boy shoot". This also allowed me to see how her face would look in that light and contrast that look with colors. I then dressed Chay in a male vest and cheap imitation leather jacket. She looked great in an outfit that cost about$5 at tops. For the next 45 minutes we had fun shooting, and I had a few other people come by because I wanted to work on Chay's shyness, and coincidently they happen to know eachother well. So now Chay was posing and getting into her zone in front of about 3 or 4 other people with only a small amount of nervousness. When I got home and looked at the photos, I loved them and posted a few online to see what kind of reviews and comments her look would get. Chay had become an overnight sensation. I knew our big shoot would be good.

Typically when I shoot, I also do some editorial video, but for this shoot I cancelled doing that for a couple of reasons. I wanted to keep Chay in her zone, and I also wanted my videographer, who is a unknown phenominal photographer that shoots more natural light and nature stuff, to use this opportunity to get more hands on with studio equipment and working with strobes. This also made Chay work a little harder because she was now posing twice as much as she would have been doing for just me. Gone was the imitation leather and goodwill test clothes. Chay now stood before us with perfect hair & makeup done by none other than Faces by Ja, and wearing a men style suit, shirt, and tie by Christian Dior. Chay pulled the look off flawlessly. As she did with all the other designer wardrobes she slipped in, and out of, ending the night in a very elegant, very sophisticated yet simple black dress. As simple as it had all begun for Chay, it ended that same way... wearing black.

How was it done:

4 light setup:

1 strobe light with red gel to model's rear

1 hair light strobe with blue gel and barn doors over models head camera right

1 snooted strobe to 45 degree angle aimed at model's face camera right (main light)

1 snooted strobe 45 degree angle aimed at model's chest camera left (fill light)

Camera settings: aperture: f11, shutter speed: 1/125th sec, ISO 250

Fashion shots:

86 inch parabolic umbrella about 10 ft away from model high camera right

350 watt daylight bulb high camera left

camera settings: aperture: f22, shutter speed: 1/125th sec, ISO 250

Monday, January 23, 2012

My amazing muse UnZipped.

" Having a muse to work with is like flying with a co-pilot. Any lighting schemes I am going to shoot have already been tested, any new look, I am going for, have already been tried, any sandwich on my plate, already have the grey poupon on it. My muse is the amazing Zipporah; Zip for short, and this is her unplugged, or shall I say Unzipped. No script, no rehearsal, just straight in the door and doing it her way." - Bluestill

Zipporah, and I got together to test out some light schemes, timing, and a few looks. Z asked me what should wardrobe be? I told her to just make it something fun and quick, because we had gone on a little shopping excursion a few weeks back, and this was a good time to see what we could do with it, however I didn't want to tie up her weekend night for too long. Of course Z arrived to the studio in muse mode, you know, not really sure what the look is going to be until she got completely dressed. Without my having to utter a word, once Z stepped on the seamless paper, she really get into character, and it's almost as if she is an entirely different person with each pose. This was suppose to just be a fun shoot but Z really gave some top grade poses and looks. I was expecting goofy but she reenforced my impression that she can do almost anything she puts her mind to. Here is what's so amazing about her; is that she is really shy in her own kind of way, and we'll go back and forth about an idea, but once she say "okay, let's do it", it is done and done very well. Then she slip back into her Zipporah mode, make a phone call "I'm done" and she's out the door, yelling on her way out "Love you Blue times a million". How is that for efficient? So Z this one is for you "Luv times one million".
How was it done:
This is a 3 light setup:
1 24x30 soft box for main light (high camera left)
1 silver bounce umbrella for side lighting (model left 3/4 meter reading: f11.7)
1 shoot through white umbrella model right aimed at backdrop meter reading: f11.7)
Camera settings:
aperture- f11
Shutter speed- 1/125th sec
ISO- 200
85 mm f 1.4
I love my prime lenses when doing
PROFILE PHOTOS were shot at F9
70-200 f2.8 everything else the same.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The 12 Peacock

A peacock can spread it's tail feathers and stop traffic dead with admirers. I doubt if there is anyone out there that would disagree that peacocks are one of the most magnificent and majestically beautiful birds on the planet. In the atmosphere of 12, I thought it would be great to start the New Year with something beautiful and majestic. Pulling inspirations from a dear friend and acquaintance, I dedicate this shoot to that friend; Ms Lanna Barrones. After viewing some of Lanna's works and hearing her encouraging words, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this particular shoot. Now came the fun part; the selection process, I pretty much knew what I wanted to use, but after spending almost an entire morning in the fabric store with Jah; my makeup artist, dealing with color selection, let's just say "we had our moments". It was a hilarious day, as well as a very decisive one, because once we cleared this challenge, we had a very nice view of the big picture. At least for me, what I was seeing in my head (see my hand drawings), made me realize what my finished piece would look like. So let me break this shoot by category:

Wardrobe- would be simple yet colorful. Lanna had done a shoot in an open field which I thought was beautiful. Fall colors using a beautiful natural colored dress with an oversized train. For me, I wanted vivid, and I needed somethat that would make the final shot possible. Having a typical dress, no matter how long the train, just wouldn't work, so after a long discussion with my makeup artist, we headed to the fabric store. Once we arrived, again, Jah, asked me to explain how were we going to do this shot? LOL. I am not sure if she ever really caught on to the concept, but she really got into the whole matching fabrics. So much that I had to take a break and walk away from them because not only were we dealing with the colors we also had a fixed budget for the shoot. Finally we made a decision and surprisingly we were well under budget at the cash register.

Hair-I am very fortunate because I have access to the two most creative hairstylist on the planet. A lot of people might sometimes say this about someone they know, I mean it. A discussion about hair with these two means I only have to mention an general idea, and get out of the way. It is that simple. Ashley requested peacock feathers, and the hunt was on. Wasn't much of a hunt, because I knew exactly who to go see for something as unique as peacock feathers, and I had an ample supply of them, full length and again, still under the project budget. Thank you to the crew at London Couture (, "you ladies and gentlemen really put a new meaning to customer service". All I had to do at this point was sit back and let Ashley do her magic, (Kristy had to sit this one out to recover from a surgery. "We wish you a speedy recovery Kristy".

Makeup- Jah is another very talented part of the team who doesn't have to write anything down ( why am I starting to feel like the only person who have to write things down to remember them?). Jah described the color scheme and if I wondered if she had grasped the concept when we were looking through fabrics, there was no doubt in my mind she knew exactly where this was going when she talked about makeup.

The Model- Serenity had previously done a hair show and watching her walk that show, I said it in my head about her "A Peacock" (well actually female peafowls are referred to as peahens). I simply told her "give me that same attitude you did during the hairshow". We were now ready to go into 2012 with our first shoot.

This shoot consisted of three elements. A location shoot, a beauty shoot, and a fashion shoot.

The location shoot- I used a large softbox. I ordered a 28 inch beauty dish, which I had hoped would deliver before the shoot, but that didn't happen (It did deliver the day after the shoot... you gotta love em right?). Shot at an aperture of f16, shutter speed of 1/125, and an ISO of 200, shot with the 70-200mm f2.8. I really wanted to capture the texture and vivid colors of the feathers, make up, as well as the fabrics, and these settings seemed to do the trick perfectly.

We then went in studio for the beauty shot- used a gridded strobe and a 17 inch beauty dish. I also back lit the background with 2 snooted strobes. I shot the beauty at an aperture of f8, shutter speed of 1/160 and ISO of 200. I used the 85mm f1.4 for this shot.

The fashion shoot- The fashion shoot was shot with the 24-70mm f2.8 at an aperture of f18, shutter speed of 250 and ISO of 200. I used a large octabox, two gridded strobes for side lighting and a hair light and a studio fan to give the fabric a blown look. The fashion photo is a layered process which I knew I wanted to capture so the model was instructed to give me a shot where she tossed the ends of the fabric into the air and another shot where she gripped them as seen in the photo. I then placed the layers on top of one another with the tossed fabric being the back layer on a new layer. I then used the eraser tool in photoshop to expose the tossed fabric area of the bottom layer, and that is how I got the super high fashion look from what was simple toss of a cloth. You can learn the layering tecnique by clicking on this link if you are unfamiliar with how it is done: