Strike a pose

Recently I have had the fortune to experience a couple first times within the art of photography. I did my very first maternity photo shoot (aka the baby bump shoot) and my very first shoot with a model & studio lights on location. I’m learning tons!

Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. I need more light. Lots of it.
  2. Directing models isn’t necessarily very easy.
  3. I need to have a few extra lengths of white curtains handy.
  4. Dance veils might come in handy in surprising situations.
  5. I need an assistant.
  6. Syncing light units, my shutter and people throwing autumn leaves is challenging.
  7. Sometimes failure produces success.
  8. Always, ALWAYS shoot RAW. (Well, I do anyway, but it would be a lesson to learn if I hadn’t learned it ages ago.)
  9. Practice more!
  10. Did I say I need more light? Yeah, well, I do.

My maternity photo shoot was on this past Sunday and the model with the lovely bump was my brother’s fiancee. I’m going to be an auntie for the second time around in December.

It took a bit of coaxing, but eventually we got dad to give us a hand with a few shots.

It took a bit of coaxing, but eventually we got dad to give us a hand with a few shots.

We went for the simple, almost minimalistic approach, which I knew was what my model was after. The problem was that it was a cloudy day, we were shooting indoors and all I had for light was natural light and a few tall lamps that had paper shades on them. Quite nice for getting some soft light in the scene, but since the lamps really aren’t very bright… I had practically no way of getting proper light on her face.

Soon there will be four of them.

Soon there will be four of them.

I ended up putting some white curtains in front of the big windows, which then worked as big, natural light softboxes. Nifty. I placed the three big lamps around my model and hoped for the best.

I really didn’t want to crank up the ISO too much, because I really dislike the noise my camera creates and even though NIK Dfine is a fantastic plugin for Aperture, there’s only so much it can do.

After a few frames I decided it was time to attach the Speedlite to my camera – and the DYI honeycomb grid I’ve made for it. Out of black straws and a cereal box. It worked out rather nicely, softening up the Speedlite’s hard light.

I have to confess I wasn’t perhaps being very imaginative when it came to directing my model. We were shooting in a totally empty house (nothing but those lamps there, and I mean nothing) so there were really no props for us to use or anything like that. But since serene and simple was what we were going for, my model turned out to be rather natural even without much direction.

In the end we got a few shots I was able to work with. And there was indeed some stuff that needed to be done. I was asked to post a bit about what I do in processing, so here goes.

Most frames needed to be exposed just a bit more. This basic RAW editing I do with Apple’s Aperture, which is pretty much like Lightroom, or so I’ve understood. A bit of more exposure, a touch of bringing out the details more, some sharpening. My basic processing for any shot includes the two latter actions. After that it’s mostly just what feels and looks good. I don’t have a specific work flow as such, no absolute favorite editing styles. Although I guess there are a few things I do quite often, like go for a contrasty b&w edit or a cross processed high key style thing. Cranking up the sliders is also quite a bit of good fun.

Once I’m happy with how the RAW file looks, I’ll export to one or another of NIK’s plugins for Aperture. I just love them. I don’t even own Photoshop, I do all my editing with Aperture and the plugins. Only occasionally do I venture out to GIMP, mainly because I royally suck at using it. With the maternity shoots I used a fair share of the presets “Glamour glow”, “Classical soft focus” and of course the yellow filter when it came to the b&w shots. It makes skin look better than the neutral filter does.

Results you see in this post. Some of them, anyway. My model was happy with the shots and gave me a permission to use them on my websites. I’m very happy about it. She looks absolutely gorgeous in the shots (despite the photographer, hahah!) and for a first try at this kind of shoot – I’m not too disappointed at my own work, either.

EDIT on Oct. 6th, 2013: My model has changed her mind about the publicity of the shots. I have accordingly removed all the wider crop images I had previously posted. The images with only hands and belly visible are still ok to be used online.

My second “first try” was a location shoot with a model (this time a young woman who actually does modeling as a side job) and proper studio lighting equipment. What a fun photo shoot! The model, Elena Ahjosaari, gave me permission to use these photos on my websites. I will also be sending her some of these, in case she has some use for them.

One of the first frames I took. I quite like the pose, but in retrospect I realized I should've done something about the lining of the coat showing. Have her button the coat up or something.

One of the first frames I took. I quite like the pose, but in retrospect I realized I should’ve done something about the lining of the coat showing. Have her button the coat up or something.

It was arranged by the local camera club Aboca that I just joined a short while ago – and already I feel like I’ve gotten my membership fee’s worth of experience.

What I like best about this shot? The fact that I managed not to focus on the branch in front of her!

What I like best about this shot? The fact that I managed not to focus on the branch in front of her!

I’ve no real understanding or knowledge about studio lighting. It’s something I know I need to learn and I also want to learn it, soon. It might help me with the commissions I might be getting in the future. I do realize I need to buy some equipment for myself and that’s holding me back at the moment. The shopping list is soooo long and the next things I’m going to buy are a proper, sturdy tripod (a Benro C2989T Versatile Tripod) and a f/2.8 70-200mm lens. Softboxes and such come after that.

Alternative version, slightly different pose. I think I prefer the other one, as in this her gaze doesn't have much room, the branch is a bit too close. I guess.

Alternative version, slightly different pose. I think I prefer the other one, as in this her gaze doesn’t have much room, the branch is a bit too close. I guess.

Anyway, I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to direct a model, to try to think of poses I could suggest to her (yay for watching all the seasons of America’s Next Top Model!) and to see how a synced lighting system really works. Whoa! It was so cool.

In this one I asked Elena if she could give me a really angry, almost bitchy look. She delivered.

In this one I asked Elena if she could give me a really angry, almost bitchy look. She delivered.

What I struggled most with was focusing and some issues with timing. But in the end I got a few shots I am fairly happy with, a few really crappy ones and some that I know aren’t very good, but that have some good features to them.

Here I was totally out of sync with everything that was happening. The main flash unit didn't have time to recharge for a second shutter click (which I didn't realize) so the only lights reacting to my second click were the back lights. But the result is still pretty cool, isn't it?

Here I was totally out of sync with everything that was happening. The main flash unit didn’t have time to recharge for a second shutter click (which I didn’t realize) so the only lights reacting to my second click were the back lights. But the result is still pretty cool, isn’t it?

I can’t wait till I get another chance to try something like this out. I have nothing but high praise for the model, who had the patience and professionalism to deal with a bunch of inexperienced photographers (most of us were first timers with studio lights and directing a model), first in the cooling autumn evening and then indoors. I was very impressed. (And as someone who really doesn’t know how to pose in front of a camera, I’m always amazed by the people who really know what they’re doing.)

I love her expression in this one, my only regret was that I couldn't get her legs in the frame. I was shooting with my 50mm and I only had time for a quick snap as the guys wanted to move the gear indoors for the second set of photos. So I quickly got this pose, because it was great.

I love her expression in this one, my only regret was that I couldn’t get her legs in the frame. I was shooting with my 50mm and I only had time for a quick snap as the guys wanted to move the gear indoors for the second set of photos. So I quickly got this pose, because it was great.

So there, a bit of a story of what I’ve been up to since prog rocking. You can’t blame me for being a one trick pony, hahah!

Most of my indoor shots were no good at all. This has some flaws in it as well (focus, mainly), but still it's the shot I had in mind of a bored, young lady of a manor. (The location of the shoot was a real manor house, that's why.)

Most of my indoor shots were no good at all. This has some flaws in it as well (focus, mainly), but still it’s the shot I had in mind of a bored, young lady of a manor. (The location of the shoot was a real manor house, that’s why.)

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3 Responses to Strike a pose

  1. ae.i says:

    Great work for a first timer!

  2. abbey7224 says:

    Great up close and thanks for the lessons!

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