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Bald Cap FX and Studio Photography

I've got a confession to make...I haven't had much time shooting studio photography as one would expect. I tend to like safety of shooting outdoors with natural light and manipulating the light using reflectors and diffusion. Recently myself and Julie were approached by make-up artist Ali Knapton to shoot a series of photographs to help showcase her prosthetic make-up work as well as some head shots of herself for her website. Shooting in a controlled environment was the order of the day to really highlight and capture the make-up work on display. So when Ali sent through her inspiration/mood boards for the shoot I immediately went to work researching how to execute the style and mood of the photo examples she sent me. Most of the photos she sent through consisted of strong key lights predominantly focused on the models face with just enough fill light to lift up the shadows and provide some contrast to the image. The backgrounds were either white or almost dark. The next step was to work out what lighting I would use and what location we would be shooting the model in.

Ali booked a studio space in Melbourne called Monster & Bear which had just finished building a large white 10m x 10m x 4.4m cyclorama within their studio the weekend before our shoot! She also found a great model name Jac Dohrmann a Stylist and Fashion Blogger who was awesome in front of the camera. I think Jac looked a lot like Eleven from 'Stranger Things' once she was made up for the shoot!

The main base of each photo in the series was a bald cap which Ali applied to Jac with make-up assistant Kylie Jackson on the day of the shoot. From here there were 3 different looks to capture. 1 - basic freckles, 2 - coloured freckles and 3 - a tribal face paint. One thing I didn't want to do while capturing these photos was overexposing the face or creating too much mood with the lighting that the make-up was not the center of focus. The art of the prosthetic and make-up was key to these photos.

Now for the past I've worked with a basic two kit studio strobe kit made by Bowens using umbrellas the softboxes to diffuse the light. I've also used Canon speedlites off camera on basic shoots. I'll admit controlled lighting isn't my strong point and to be honest for this shoot I used good old Google and YouTube to refresh my understanding of lighting using 3 sources right down to just 1 light. I'll admit I have a tendency to over complicate and over think things, so I'm really glad I refreshed myself on lighting setups beforehand knowing that starting with one light and building up from there was the key.

The lights I used for this shoot ended up being a very basic two head studio kit from Elinchrom called the D-Lite RX4 To-Go Studio Kit. I hired the kit from LensHire my go to camera equipment hire place here in Melbourne. The Elinchrom kit included 2 D-Lite It 4 strobes, 2 Portalite 66 x 66cm Softboxes, stands of course lol and a nifty EL Skyport Transmitter ECO. I'm a big fan of gadgets and the Skyport Transmitter really impressed me! Here's a studio strobe kit that includes a transmitter in the package which you just attach to the top of your cameras hot shoe and the receiver is built in to the strobes. How cool is that! No need for a sync cable or third party transmitter or receiver. Sweet!

As for the camera I used my trusty old Canon 5D Mark II (had this sucker since the end of 2009) together with a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 II lens and some reflectors I owned I was set.

My set up for a majority of the photos was 1 strobe with softbox set up high and angled down close to the models face (the 2nd strobe was set up on standby and used in the headshots for Ali). On the fill side of the model I set up a large rectangular reflector that was held up by a stand and finally underneath the model just off camera was a oval shaped diffused reflector. I didn't have the time to get hold of a light meter (really no excuse!) but I made do by taking test shots of Jac before we went into the actual poses. After a bit of tinkering with exposure and the lighting I settled at a aperture of f8 with a shutter speed of 1/125th (which really doesn't make much difference as long I was falling in the range of the sync shutter speed for the lights I was fine.) The ISO was set at 100 to keep the noise low in the image. Some of you might be wondering why I didn't light up the background with the extra strobe? On some of the tests to begin with I did add the extra strobe in but felt the bright white it was giving in the background was distracting attention away from Jac's face. I felt the gradual fall off of light into shades of grey in the background worked better for the mood of the image.

By my side was my partner in crime and girlfriend Julie Dickson who directed the model Jac in getting the right poses for each shot and also assisted me with reflectors and setups. I think it's ultra important to have another set of eyes on a shoot that you can trust and who you know is on the same wave length as you. Jules is a presenter/model/actress so her insights are always valuable to any shoot. She knows first hand what will work and what will not pretty quickly. Myself and Julie referenced the examples photos that Ali sent through and made sure we used the example poses as a base and extended upon them so they were unique for the shoot. By directing Jac to make quick but precise poses each time I snapped a photo we were able to capture a stack of photos which made it difficult for Ali to choose from because they all turned out so great!

As for editing the images I used Adobe Lightroom (love this program!). Working with RAW images I corrected the white balance, exposure and added a slight gradual filter to the photos. It's amazing how far you can push the initial image you take on the day to better the results.

In the future I'd love to use grids on the strobe lights to really focus the light in on the subject and also maybe play with a little more back lighting to separate the subject from the background. Elinchrom also have a Softlite Reflector which I'd like to try out sometime too.

At the end of the day I can go on and on about what lighting I used and how I edited the photos but in all honesty without a great model who shines and knows how to pose together with superb and precise make-up artistry my work wouldn't look so damn good!

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