Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Focus10 Studio Shoot

On Saturday, I went along to a Studio Shoot/Course run by Focus10.  The ‘course’ part of the experience was pretty informal, with the distinction between instructors, models, and students sometimes being a bit hazy – but it all added to the fun.  We had 2 what I’d call ‘real’ models, plus another model who was also a student, plus a couple of previous students who joined us for an hour or two and acted as part-instructor and part-model, plus our main instructor spent a period modelling for us too.  Even the students became models at certain times, when particular points were being discussed, or camera settings checked.  I think that Andrew (MISTER Focus10) was probably the only one that didn’t do any modelling – but then again, he was too busy keeping the rest of us occupied so we didn’t waste a moment of the 8 hour day.
I’m hopeless with names, so apologies to all concerned if I got your name wrong where mentioned below… I’ve asked Andrew for confirmation, but he’s likely busy at the moment.
We started off with some natural light situations.  The first location in the lounge was fine as far as light goes (I was using my f/1.8 50mm), but I was having trouble with the auto-focus that doesn’t auto-focus with the D3000.  I don’t think I got very many good pictures from that location at that point (but practice makes perfect, and after 8 hours of perseverance, by the end of the day, my in-focus shots were far more numerous).
The second location we tried was in a stairwell that was amply lit from above by sunlight, and painted white to ensure maximum reflection.  Joselle posed for us in a chair at the bottom (a DSC_4623_cr_1024conveniently placed mirror gave some interesting opportunities), as well as on the balcony halfway up, to be viewed from above and below.
A change of clothes, and then she posed for some shots halfway in and out of the front door, giving interesting lighting conditions with the bright sunlight outside half lighting her, while we attempted to compensate for the inside lighting with fill flash or reflectors and studio lights.  We’d played a bit with white and silver reflectors, but then had a go with a black reflector – which as you might guess, doesn’t actually reflect but rather absorbs light, and enhances shadow to give a stronger directional light effect, as seen in this shot.  The black reflector was just out of shot on the left.

Our second model, Cassie, then took over and the next session was using studio strobes and a more contrived setting.  She has blonde hair and was wearing a black outfit, sitting on a black sofa with black backdrop.  A fan, just out of shot, gave some movement to her hair (and helped keep her cool while we were all baking). 
DSC_4731_cr_1024We had a couple of 400Ws strobes in softboxes – one on each side, and another with a snoot pointing down from above.  We shared 4 or 5 radio triggers between us, and were all shooting away – this led to a few issues where some of us were trying to shoot before the strobes had recharged, and got very dark shots.  I had one happy accident where one strobe had recharged and the other hadn’t, so I got a moody shot lit from one side. 
I felt that the colouring was a little harsh using auto white-balance and tried a few other settings – the flash setting gave a much warmer image, maybe a little too warm, so I also tried the ‘cloud’ setting and that was quite nice, but would probably still benefit from some tweaking.
DSC_4752_cr_1024After a break for lunch, we created a setting outside with a white backdrop and a garden bench, and used natural light, fill-flash, and reflectors.  I didn’t cope so well with this setting, and no matter how I used my flash, I got shadows – oh well – I got on better with the reflector to enhance the lighting.  It was a very warm day, which explains why Cassie is a bit ‘shiny’ in this shot.

Carlie & Rachel

Carlie & Rachel were special guests rather than our official models, but both stood in for a short while, and gave us a few poses, filling in for Joselle and Cassie during changes of clothes and make-up fixes.  I only got three shots of Carlie, and sadly none were properly focused, but I liked this candid shot of Rachel sharing a joke with one of the other guys while she was modelling for us.


Our instructor Vivienne also brought along a few changes of clothes, and divided her time between mentoring and modelling – often doing both at the same time.
DSC_4798_cr2_1024I couldn’t make up my mind which version of this crop I prefer – the full length shot is all about her posture and the attitude that portrays, whereas the close up is about her face, and particularly (for me anyway), her eyes.  I like both crops for different reasons, and I think each one tells a different story, so decided to include them both.

My final shot of Vivienne was outside in natural light, though I suspect I may have left white balance set wrongly from a previous set of pictures – the colours look a bit flat in comparison with the indoor shots (btw – all of these are straight off the camera – apart from a bit of cropping, they have had no PP work done on them yet.  I’m sure that with the use of Photoshop, I can tweak them up a bit).  I think I also needed either fill flash, or the reflector right of picture – another alternative may have been to use a different colour profile (e.g. “Vivid” on Nikons – I don’t know what the equivalent is on Canons).

Davinka (pretty sure I've got your name wrong – so sorry)
DSC_4876_cr_1024Our final model of the day was Davinka, who posed for us in the outdoor setting.  There was a really tacky pink umbrella laying around, so we gave it to her as a prop – the colour clashed awfully, but it was a bit of fun, and it acted like a secondary reflector.  In this shot, the sun was above and to the right of the picture, so the umbrella was partially shading her face.  We had a reflector low and left to reflect light back up to her face and into the umbrella, which reflected some back down again, giving a nice overall lighting to her face. 

I love the second shot with the black pattern on the dress really setting off her raven black hair.  I think that the combination of the black and white dress, and the white backdrop, and her black hair make this a pretty eye-catching shot of her.  Well, I really like it, anyway.

This was a full-on experience – I would never have expected taking pictures all day could be so tiring (the heat didn’t help).  If nothing else, I spent a whole day practicing with my manual focus technique, which was improving as the day went on.  I learned about how to set up and use studio lights (which I’d read about, but nothing is better than practical experience), and I got some great experience working with models that knew how to pose, which I hope will help me to get the best from other people that I photograph in the future.  I learned to look for different viewpoints, and how to balance artificial and natural light  using my camera in manual mode.  I really think I got a lot out of the day – time will tell.

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