Body & Form – My first studio lighting project

7 04 2009

I just finished a project that I call “Body & Form”. It is a huge departure for me from my usual landscape and night photography, but it was a lot of fun. Here’s what the project was all about.

Aim of project: I wanted to push my photography into new areas. So far I have quite deliberately stayed away from shooting people or wildlife because quite frankly neither of them interest me from a photographic perspective. However I felt like I was ready for a new challenge, so I came up with the idea of doing a dramatic studio shoot of a ballet dancer’s body. My major objectives were:
1) Start getting an understanding of studio lighting
2) Learn how to work with a model
3) Get familiar with portrait and retouching workflow in Photoshop

Now I’m pretty lucky here, my Mother has a school for full-time dancers who are training to become professional, so I had my choice of dancer and also a great space to shoot in. My local camera club had the lighting gear that I could borrow.

I had done a fair bit of research, I approached the dancer (Emma) and she was keen to be part of the project. We planned two sessions:

Session 1: was to be totally experimental, I wanted to achieve the following:
• For me to get comfortable working with Emma
• For Emma to get comfortable working with me
• For me to experiment with different lighting setups to see what works
• For Emma to get comfortable with the lights and camera
• For me to work out the sort of poses I wanted to shoot.

Session 2: was “The shoot” and was taken about 4 days later. It gave me time to process the test shots from session 1 and make adjustments etc. Emma and I spent about an hour reviewing the session 1 photos and talking about what worked and what didn’t, so when we started the next session we were pretty focused on what we each needed to do.

This video is a little 2 min video that I made up for a presentation I was doing at my local camera club on the convergence of video and stills and how video can give your stills photos context rather than the traditional stills slide show. If you are interested in the lighting and the setup I used, this video will show you which lights I used and how I positioned them.

What’s Next?
Well the first thing that surprised me was I enjoyed this shoot very much and found every aspect of it a lot of fun (planning, execution, post production etc.). I’ve already talked to Emma about doing some more modelling with me out on landscape location and she has eagerly agreed. I am now about to do an Off Camera Flash course (strobist stuff) and get some portable gear that will allow me to take the studio with me on location. I have 3 very specific ideas in my mind that will introduce Emma to some of the more interesting landscape and urbanscape locations that I have photographed. I’m planning on shooting this project in May.

I find that picking some specific projects is a great way of pushing my photography further. I hope this inspires some of you to pick a project that pushes you further. It was a lot of fun for me.



2 responses

9 04 2009

these turned out great! I had my first lesson in studio lighting a few weekends ago. Its just outside what I am good at as a photographer…but its always nice for a challenge 🙂

27 04 2009

Saw the vid…i think its pretty cool. Great work is in order for your first shoot. I don’t think i would have done anything differently.

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