Autumn Leaves

Model shoot with the lovely Chelsea Avendano


Friday afternoon was a great opportunity for me to stretch my legs with lighting again.  I lugged almost everything I had along to this shoot, and used almost all of it.

I purchased a Lumodi 14" white beauty dish a couple of months ago, in anticipation of photographing some models that would be able to handle that classic harsh-yet-soft light.  I even tried the dish on myself, proving that sometimes a beauty dish can be an ugly dish!

Enter Chelsea Avendano: She told me she hadn't done a shoot in a while, but she was an absolute pro to work with!  We found a really nice location, and went all out with the beauty dish as a key light, letting the background and ambient fill come from the lightly overcast sun.  The dish was placed about 20 degrees off axis from the camera, and about 4 feet back from Chelsea.  It absolutely rocks!!

Not too shabby, especially since we were about 15 minutes into the shoot.  I had a keeper almost out of the gate!
Now check it out in Black and White.  Keeper!!
 I then backlit Chelsea with a bare flash while she played around with the great scarf that she brought along.  She was a superstar and the results were fabulous!


We moved along to a different location, and I got out my 50mm lens to do some very shallow depth-of-field stuff.  Even stopped up to F2.2 or F2.8, the depth of field is so shallow that focusing was difficult. If I didn't get it just right (eye closest to me) then I'd miss, have a nose in focus and eyes that were out.

The lighting here was really dead simple.  We were in a shaded area, and I had my lovely assistant Jess helping me by holding up a reflector, off camera left to bounce up some light into shadowed areas.  The smoothness of my light at this point allowed me lots of leeway in post-production.  I put some toning effects on the backdrop to enhance some of the foliage with Color Efex Pro 4.

The shallow DOF with the Nifty Fifty is a star player in this shot.  I absolutely love the bokeh!
 So now I'd used bare flash, a beauty dish and a reflector.  What about the ambient light?  For this next location, we were able to find a spot that was a little more open in the sky, and the sun had luckily descended into a hazy cloud formation and wasn't going to come back out.  That type of sky actually allowed me to put the sun over my shoulder instead of the model's, and still get brilliant light.  There are no light modifications to this next shot.

The sun was over my right shoulder, at about 45 degrees off axis to the lens.  The soft, wrapping quality of this light allowed me to get a very simple, but effective shot.  
I changed up the background from the previous shot, and got Chelsea to stand on the other side of me.  I barely moved, but now the sun was over her shoulder.  I used my softbox to get a key light similar to that in the photo I had just taken.   Once again, I used Color Efex Pro 4 to tone some of the trees.


Sometimes, magic just happens.  After a shoot like this, I'm almost tempted to say "I'm getting there!" but I almost always push myself further.   I do feel however, like this photoshoot was a step forward, with the stars all aligning to help me out.  

Some quick things I learned on this shoot: 

  1. Tripod tripod tripod.  These shots are as sharp as they are because I was using a tripod on a lot of them.  Using a longer lens such as the 70-200 f4L without image stabilization, this is almost mandatory.  
  2. ISO 400 and 800 are perfectly usable for location portraits.  Seriously, I know less noise is better, but I don't really notice much of a difference between ISO 100 and 400.  Here's the trade off, even on a tripod: Low ISO, Slow shutter speed, blurry photos.  High ISO, Fast shutter speed, sharp but noisy photos.   The second option is just better all around.
  3. Light looks best when it's not too fake, but punchy fake light can be exciting as well.  There's no right answer.  There's only YOUR right answer when it comes to light.  If it looks good to you, press the shutter! 
  4. Editing can suck when you have too many images you like.  I walked away from this shoot with almost 400 shots, and many of them were beyond my expectations.  I found it very difficult to choose from the images!!