Tag Archives: fashion photography

June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

From Idea to Image Part 2: Lighting Clothing

When it comes to light, I hardly ever make it up as I go along.

Lots of things require forethought when you’re planning a shoot. If you want to make sure that your resulting images are folio-worthy and you make them in an efficient way, you’ve got to plan how you get those images. Few planning steps are as important, nor as exciting, as planning lighting.

Light, as they say, makes the photograph. But within the tenet of “make good light” are some details that could make the difference between an image that is OK, and an image that is dramatic and expressive.

Start with the question, What are you lighting?

If you are showcasing clothing with your image, it’s important to know how to light clothes. This sounds strange, but it’s quite true that the nature of the lighting can create an image of the clothing that sends a message: this is good stuff.

Get to know your subject.

It’s important that you see the clothes before the shoot, so you can plan the lighting. I make it a point to have several meetings with the client before the shoot, to see the fabrics, to feel their texture, to get a sense of how they will show up in an image when lit.

Two things affect the lighting of clothes. First is the color of the clothing versus the color of the light, and second is nature and intensity of the light.

Show off the color when lighting colorful clothes.

If you’re lighting clothing with vibrant color, it’s advisable to make the light bright so in the image it is reflected in the color of the clothes. For this image, I wanted the yellow and mint to punch through the image. I also wanted to minimize the wonderfully textured background, so it didn’t take away from the focus of the image, the dress.

June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

I placed a large, soft light camera left, big enough to light the whole dress from the left (as well as the model’s beautiful face). To light the right side, I placed a diffused smaller light, just enough to punch through the shadows and create some dimensionality in the portrait.

Make a white dress glow.

Lighting a white dress is slightly different. We all know that white is all colors of the spectrum reflected back to the eye, so white is itself a lighting tool. That means if I bounce light off a white dress, I get some reflected lighting from the garment itself.

For this image, I knew that the model was fair with light hair, the dress was all white, and the location had dark wood, but had these wonderful narrow windows that provided some directional light. What I needed to do was one, light the dress, two light the model, three, balance the backlight from the windows with some light in front. Knowing the situation, I brought three lights for this portrait. I wanted that dress to glow.

Irina Lysiuk in Khoon Esmode Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

The first light was a soft, large light for the model’s face. This light was at camera right, simulating a window. To balance the bright back light, I punched a couple of lights below, with a large diffuser to soften them, right at the model. All that light swirled around and mixed up for a softly lit portrait that looks like it was lit with window light. But the dress glows.

Planning lighting for a shoot begins with the subject. Then, you have to go through some lighting solutions for the subject, and finally, pack the right equipment and then set up the lights according to your solutions. With this simple process, you can ensure that the idea you started with is lit in a way that turns it into the image you had in mind.

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You might also like:
From Idea to Image Part I: Planning
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively
Finding Good Photos Where They Hide

Up next: From Idea to Image Part 3: How to Make it Up as You Go
Join me to find out what happens when you have to shoot without prior information to help you plan!

Chloe Lane copyright Aloha Lavina

6 Questions to Ask When You’re Casting Models

The right model helps a photographer produce awesome photos. How many times have you photographed someone and come away with technically superb photos that just didn’t have that extra something? That elusive awesomeness in your portraits is inspiration, and inspiration can begin with casting the right model for your shoot.

Here are six questions you can ask when you’re casting models for your photoshoots. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have tips to add, please don’t hesitate to add them in a comment!

1. Does the model fit your concept?

Unless you’re just starting out in portrait photography and just want to practice using the camera, you will want to have a solid concept before you shoot. There’s nothing like a strong concept to enhance your technical skills and help you produce compelling images. Making sure your model ‘fits’ your concept is a choice you can have. Because you’re not Tyra Banks trying to mold a modeland train her to be able to interpret concepts, you want someone who already gives you a head start toward awesome photos. Talking to your model beforehand, looking at their portfolio, and seeing if your vision and their look and personality match is a place you can begin when casting for a photoshoot.

Vachini Krairaksh as Gaga Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Does the model match the clothing you will be using during the shoot?

Models come in unique dimensions. Someone could have a perfect face for beauty shots because any close-up of their face from any angle stuns your lens. But you’re not always shooting close-up photos. You’ll sometimes want to show off the clothing—a short skirt, for instance, requires nice legs, and an evening gown might demand that someone has miles of legs. Matching your model to the clothing you want to photograph is a way to ensure that you will get the shots you need.

3. What’s the budget?

Unless you have oodles of disposable income and can pay someone from Elite for a fun photoshoot, you have to think about the budget for your photoshoot. As a general rule, models with experience modeling for fees will charge money, and they can be pretty expensive, too.

Models who are just starting out might agree to do what is called a TFCD or “time for a CD” of photos. This means you exchange benefits—you get a model for a photoshoot, and the other person gets a CD of their photos. This is not a bad way to begin, but you also have to think of the modeling skill of the person whom you have an agreement. Do you have time to train them? What are you using the photos for? If it’s for practice and portfolio building, TFCD works for you.

4. How much experience does the model have?

Since experienced models have higher fees, you might consider casting family and friends to model for you. But having your beautiful family and friends model for you is sometimes not the right choice, especially if you are casting for a paid photoshoot. If the client casts their family and friends for the photoshoot, that’s out of your hands. But if you are the one casting for the shoot, it is better to cast experienced models. Why? Well, people you know might be beautiful and all, but will they know how to pose, how to use their face, which angles are flattering, how armpits are not good in a pose, etc.

Irina Lysiuk for Khoon Esmode copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. How much post-processing do you have to do after the shoot?

Time is money, we know. A good photog also knows that every hour spent zapping skin blemishes is an hour docked against the fee. Perhaps seeming cruel, but honestly, a model with a lot of spots and hasn’t shaved means you spend hours in front of the computer, and if this is a real job, you’d be getting less than minimum wage unless you charge for the time in advance. Knowing your model’s features before you cast them is essential if you are not planning to spend hours on each image meticulously retouching.

6. What experience does the model have?

It seems strange to be asking this question because why would a model’s motivation affect your photoshoot? In my experience though, it does, so you can take this with a grain of turmeric if you wish. Here is why.

Some actors feel like they can model. If your shoot has a kind of storyline and that is the creative thrust of the whole production, an actor could be the right choice. But at times, what you need is someone who can use their body and face to sell a concept or clothing, not to emote in front of the camera. Acting is a mostly a large muscle, large movement activity, whereas a good model will give you small movements, small changes that change the way the overall photo looks. You can argue that a good actor has subtlety in their facial movements—doesn’t that help them model? Yes, it does help them in a motion picture or on stage, not a still photo. Also, sometimes actors turn a photo into a snapshot by doing their ‘signature smile,’ and that’s just another shot you can’t use.

Chloe Lane copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Dancers are also sometimes cast as models. Dancers have great physiques, so if you are photographing an art nude shoot or something where you are sculpting with light, dancers would be great to cast. But if you are doing clothing once again, dancing is a large muscle activity, and you really might not want a dance move with arms in positions that might take attention away from the clothing.

Casting the right model for your photoshoot can give you that added inspiration to create magical images. By paying attention to your criteria when you’re casting models, you can ensure that you have one more of the right ingredients to create those awesome photos.

What questions do you ask when you’re casting models?

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10 Things Tyra Banks can Teach You About Portrait Photography
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Concept is Everything

Be a Photographer, not a Lens Changer

Years ago, I had a conversation with my brother about what equipment to bring to a photoshoot. I was all into gear, and I proudly named the lenses I would lug to the location. Prime this and zoom that. I listed 4 lenses, but before I could add a macro lens into that list, he asked me, “Do you really need all that?”

I thought I did. What if I wanted a closeup of an eyelash?

Then he asked, “Do you want to be a photographer, or a lens changer?”

That question changed my outlook on gear.

Lately I’ve been wishing for a really wide lens to use with the 7D, for those tight shots in crowded markets and temples. But often when I go to a photoshoot these days, I find myself bringing just one lens. Yes, that’s right. One lens.

My bag is lighter, my shoulder and back love me more.

One lens forces me to move, to ˜zoom with my feet” and think about my compositions. Ultimately, I know I will learn something about photography if I don’t think too much about changing lenses. Here’s what I learned recently.

Change vantage point

“Trapped” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

I saw this tree that had fallen during a wild storm. The branches were clutching the ground. It was a perfect setting for an image of being trapped. I asked the model to sit in the middle of the branches and stood up, opening the lens to 18mm to include the branches in the foreground. What I got was an unusual interpretation of the portrait using the environment, an illusion of the branches closing in on the model.

Frame the shot with what you have

“Winter butterflies” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

The 17-55mm lens at a location where you can’t really move around a lot, forces you to frame your shot a certain way. At this location, I had a lake behind me. One step back and I’d have been wet. So I decided to frame the shot like how I felt—that any time, I could fall. The root on which the model stood helped me create the illusion that we were high up. In reality we were beside the lake, on its banks. I just crouched really low, and leaned back as far as my poor back would go, hoping I wouldn’t fall, and pulled off an illusion.

Normal focal length with tilt is cool

“Storm” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

On this shot, I had about 4 feet of space around me, the model, and a softbox plus a couple more lights on lightstands. I really didn’t have a lot of moving space. So to add a bit of drama, I used the 35mm focal length and then tilted the camera. This way, I could add just a bit of distortion to the image and give the illusion of movement, almost like the model was bearing down on me as she ran from a storm.

On these shoots, I didn’t have the option of changing my lens. And I was able to learn some new things about how to work the lens to get the shots I wanted.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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Let the Shadows Speak
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Beginner’s Guide: Top 10 Tools for Retouching Portraits in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a complex, sophisticated software that has become the industry standard for digital photographers. Although it takes a while to get used to Photoshop and to learn its entire repertoire of tools, there are some staple tools that a photographer can use, and use effectively, to enhance a portrait. Most of the time, I have some basic tools in Photoshop that I use to retouch a portrait. Here are the top ten tools I use every time.

1. Layers

Using layers is a must for me because it’s insurance against bad judgement. What I mean is, if I make a mistake on an adjustment on the original file, I’ve got to trash the entire file and start all over again. But if I make a mistake on a layer, I can always delete the layer and start fresh on another layer.

2. Lasso

The lasso tool is great for selective adjustments. These are adjustments that affect only a small portion of the image. Take the eyes of a portrait. If you want the eyes to have some more detail in them, you can lasso the irises of the eyes and make a small curves adjustment, lightening them up a bit. This is just one example of how the lasso tool makes retouching easier.

3. Shadow Highlight

The Shadow Highlight function in Photoshop is a way for you to add some punch to the detail in the dark areas (shadow) or the light areas (highlight) of the image. Using the Lasso Tool, you can for instance select a dark area, choose the shadow highlight tool, and adjust the amount of detail in that selected area by moving the sliders right or left.

4. Curves

The Curves adjustment is something I use for every single photo. Using Curves adjustments, you can add contrast to a photo by brightening some areas and darkening others.

Photoshop is a full of great tools, which once learned can really make portraits pop.

5. Levels

In my workflow, this is actually the first thing I do. “Levels” is the amount of black and white and every value in between, in the photo. It is the levels of light being reflected by every element of the photo. Adjusting levels makes your blacks black, your whites white, and your middle values just right. Photoshop actually has an automated Levels adjustment, which I always test out for every photo I process. Sometimes the program makes a really good adjustment based on whatever mysterious digital computation it makes, and my photo looks better. Other times, I use the dropper method of adjusting levels, which I go over here.

6. Healing Tools

What retouching is done nowadays without using the Healing Tools? I don’t use this for travel portraits or other documentary work, but I use it extensively for retouching beauty shots or fashion editorial work. There are two nifty tools in this subset I use—the spot healing brush and the healing brush. The spot healing brush is like magic—you hold it over the blemish and click—and the blemish disappears! The healing brush is a little more subtle. You sample an area you want to ‘copy’ and then you brush over the areas you want to clean up, and the software helps you to paint over those blemishes with the sampled color and texture you picked.

7. Clone Tool

I use the Clone Tool for a lot of different things. One is to remove distracting spots or highlights in a wide angle shot. Another is to smoothen skin, especially underarms or for eyebags.

8. Brush Tool

The brush is a great tool in Photoshop. You can use the brush to do a lot of things. One, if you use it with a layer mask, or a layer on top of a layer, you can mask out things you don’t want and brush back things you do want. Other times, you can paint over parts of the image with white to brighten up those spots, or paint black or gray over other parts of the image, to increase shadows. This is what is called ‘painting with light,’ which is a popular technique in postprocessing.

9. Hue Saturation

I love punchy color—so I use the Hue Saturation adjustments to add more punch to clothes, or enhance makeup or eye color. The great thing about the Photoshop hue saturation adjustments is, you can choose which colors to saturate using individual color sliders.

10. Dodge and Burn

This is a tool that even Ansel Adams used, only he did it manually. On Photoshop, we’ve got a burn tool which makes things you brush with it darker, and a dodge tool, which makes things you brush with it lighter. I use it sparingly because it does ruin the pixels of a photo, but I do use it especially for monochrome shots. Dodging and burning are techniques that can add drama to a photo.

So now that you have this introduction to the top ten tools of Photoshop I use for retouching portraits, give it a go! Here’s a free tutorial on how to retouch an environmental portrait using most of the tools in the list–it’s a preview to what you might learn at a 3inOne Workshop©. This ebook is only going to be available for a limited time, so hurry on over and check it out.

Have fun, and don’t forget to let me know how you did!

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
The Girl with the Polka Dots
Shooting the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
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How to Stay Creative

The Girl with the Polka Dots

Light it! Shoot it! Process it! Welcome to our second installation of the 3inOne Workshop© series.

I had always wanted to do a shoot with a car, but not just any car. A car with a classic beauty. So when the owner of a 1959 Mercedes Benz agreed to let us use his car in a photoshoot, I designed a shoot called “Classic Beauty” and headed out to the man’s apartment building parking lot to make some images.

I wanted to shoot classics, so we used polka dots, strings of pearls, long gloves. The model was the perfect beauty for this shoot. Nook, a Swedish-Thai model, is statuesque and models H to T or “head to toe” in Tyra Banks‘ lingo. She can lower her eyelids just a tad and give you the most arrogant, sexy look one moment, and then soften her whole face the next.

On photoshoots, I always bring portable flash guns. In this case the shoot started at around 11 am after makeup. It was cloudy; this shot was taken in the rainy season in Bangkok when the clouds are thick and gray. I decided then to use only natural light with a couple of reflectors to enhance it and control where it was most intense.

The girl in the polka dots is actually Nook Wiwanno, a Swedish-Thai model based in Bangkok.

This particular shot was taken inside the driver’s side of the Merc with the door open. I had one assistant hold a large six-feet by four-feet reflector with the silver side toward the model. This reflector was position outside the windshield, angled at 45 degrees. This created the side lighting that gives us a three-dimensional effect in the image. The subtle highlights on the model’s arm is from the same source as the more pronounced highlight on the steering wheel.

This shot used two reflectors, much like a main light and a fill light.

I also placed a smaller 60-inch reflector with the silver side up, below camera, on the model’s lap. This light was to fill in the shadows on her face, and to give emphasis to her lips, the subject of the photo.

I used a very shallow depth of field, f/2.8, to give the shot a dreamy quality. I also shot it from slightly above, so that the subject of the shot (those lips!) would be framed by the model’s hands and the polka dot hat she wore.

Lastly, the light on the hat is from above, and that’s the sun diffused by the clouds on this rainy day.

So there you have it, an image shot with natural light.

Stay head on over our next 3inOne © post, which is a detailed, illustrated tutorial on how to process a fashion portrait using Adobe Photoshop.

I’ll be happy to answer questions you post in the comments.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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The Girl in the Pink Dress
Shooting the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe
The Man at the Window
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Shooting the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe

It’s dark inside the bar, except for a few bare bulbs emitting a feeble orange light. Miss Universe is here, and I have to shoot her in brilliant Indian couture.

I love the dark location. It means the camera is only going to see the light from the flashguns I’ll use. Sometimes, you can blend ambient light with strobe light, like in this shot with a brilliant blouse in deep red with gold embroidery. There is a bare light bulb just above the most beautiful woman in the universe, and it’s mixing in with the main light I have firing with a diffuser on from camera right.

She is soft spoken and humble.

Other times, it’s good not to have too much ambient light. Controlling light from flash gives more pop to a photo—more saturated color, more detail. When you’re shooting people, for example, closeup with flash, it seems every pore on their face is visible.

Off camera flash, small and portable, have been catapulted into star status among photography enthusiasts by The Strobist extraordinaire David Hobby. I chose flash units rather than buying a studio set because the flashguns are easy to carry around to locations away from my small home studio. These flashguns are versatile, accompanying me from shoots in a tropical forest to a tabletop where I shot jewelry.

While the makeup artist Hilde Marie Johansen is working with Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova, I am working with Bianca Kirn, a young model working out of Bangkok. The outfit is an orange and bright pink variation of salwar kameez, a three-piece set worn in the day time. I want the color to pop, so I use a high shutter speed to kill the ambient light from the bare light bulbs. To light Bianca, I use one light on a lightstand above her, attached to a softbox—essentially a black box with one white side through which the light comes out soft and diffused. Another flash gun provides fill light—just a little burst of light to fill in the shadows on the fabric.

Brilliant orange and pink on Bianca.

Later, Natalie comes out in a beautiful lehenga choli, a traditionally red outfit worn by brides in the Northern part of India. This lehenga is ice lemon and turquoise,  so lovely on Natalie. To light Natalie, who is already very tall and is standing on a staircase, I have to prop my lightstand on three bar stools and tie it to the rail of the staircase with a couple of bungee balls—these nifty little elastic bands with large plastic balls at the end. The main light is the softbox on the lightstand camera right. Two other flash guns provide fill, one below the camera for the dress, and another camera left for the shadows on the model.

Although a celebrity in her own right, Natalie is very down to earth.

We shoot six outfits, and the last set is with a white salwar kameez with fringe made of 19 meters of fabric. To show off that fringe on the skirt, I ask Natalie to hold the skirt beside her. To light this shot, I place the softbox on camera right and the fill light three yards on camera left, zoomed to 85mm. The great thing about the flash guns these days is the zoom function. Some flashguns can zoom up to 200mm; this means the light is stronger coming out of the unit, and it can be thrown a long way.

Natalie is one of the classiest famous people I have ever met.

I could have been there all night, shooting away. It didn’t matter what the light outside looked like, or what light was available on location. There was a way to make light, and this is always, always a good thing.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

When It’s a Wrap

5 Ways to Effectively Work with Models

“It’s a wrap!” are three of the most important words for a fashion photographer. Knowing that you’ve done an excellent job and that the day has been productive, fun and creative

(c) Aloha Lavina

makes it worth while to wake up early for 6.30 am call times and the lifting of some hundred pounds of equipment to the location. But getting to the wrap of a shoot involves more than just being able to light and compose shots. You have to learn how to care for your models, too.

Caring for your models means great relationships in the industry, and great relationships could translate to references later on. Because of my wonderful relationship with Anna, a Swedish model living in Thailand, I was able to work with her and Christian Dior’s Omar at a fun and fabulous photoshoot at the Sukothai hotel.

Caring for your model during a shoot is actually a really important part of being a portrait photographer. Here are some ways you can make sure your photoshoot is fabulous and your model is happy.

1. Wait for the moment

When you’re photographing a beautiful person, it’s easy to get carried away with the shutter release. Because you’re excited, you want to get everything down. But do you really want to get everything, even the blink? Keeping yourself calm and waiting for a moment which is expressive and emotive is key to getting artful images instead of hoping to get lucky and getting 3 good ones out of every 10 shots.

2. Encourage the model

Models want to know how they’re doing. Feedback is a great way to shape how a shoot goes; it’s vital to improvement in most things people do, including modeling.  If you like what the model is doing, say so. Conversely, if you find that something doesn’t work, tell the model. It’s better to avoid a bad pose than spend time weeding out shots later because the

(c) Aloha Lavina

model’s knee looks like a yamcha dumpling.

3. Learn how to direct in concrete ways

When you’re photographing a model, it’s very easy to say things you feel about the shot you want, like “Can you look like someone whose quantum reason for existence is no longer a quark but has broken up into photons without mass?” or something similar. Remember that the model has no mirror to create a pose that works. Also remember that the model doesn’t read your mind but needs clear direction. So if you want the shot to look like what it does in your head, tell the model how to move their body and face. Say things like, “Can you move your head to the left and close your eyes a little.” Clear directions help a shoot move along and when a pose works, it’s a lot more fun.

4. Take breaks

Yes, time is money, but when you take care of someone, they work harder. Take breaks—wipe sweat when it’s hot, let the model drink some water. A little kindness can establish you as a caring photographer, but most of all, it makes you human.

(c) Aloha Lavina

5. Know when it’s a wrap

When working with models it’s easy to keep shooting, especially with a DSLR since memory is so cheap these days.  Dominique, a model with Elite Switzerland told me on our last shoot, “I really like photographers who know when they have the shot.” Modeling is difficult; it is work. Holding poses can be extremely athletic, and looking happy for eight hours for the summer wear catalogue can wear a person down.  Know what you want before the shoot, and know when you have got it. Then you can say the three most favorite words of photographers and models.