Samantha Alexander

I have shot with Samantha on two previous occasions, the first time was a home shoot, while I was still getting the hang of photographing models, she proved to be easy to work with and great fun to boot, so the first shoot flew by. It’s exactly what you want from your early experiences of model photography, a selection of good photographs but also remembering the fact that the shoot was easy to set up and great fun throughout.

the image above was one of the shots from later in the shoot, I had been firing away with my speedlights most of the shoot and though I should use the sun as my main source for a change. So this is shot on a landing by a stained glass window. The sun was pouring in and lighting Samantha’s face really nicely with good fall off across the rest of her body, the windowsill providing a natural cutter to the light source, I added a small amount of flash to fill in Sam’s arm on the far side by bouncing it off the wall, you can see the highlight in the door frame. I like the softness of the image and Sam has a great expression.

The next shoot I did with Samantha was on a scorching summer day, we headed out to some woodland and water for some location shots, I wanted to test some techniques for shooting outdoors and balancing sun with small flash.

The above image was a case of trying to fill the shadow under the trees with flash and provide a more even contrast on the shot, the setup was a single speedlight to camera left through an umbrella, I set the exposure to keep some of the highlights from the sun coming through the trees. Looking back I realise the positioning of these highlight is really important and to make the shot complete I should have added some more highlights especially around Sam’s face, I could have done it by adding a speedlight with some foliage in front of it to cast shadows and highlight, the technique is shown here by a much better photographer…

This image was a real test for the speedlight, I was in direct sun using a Canon ST-E2 to trigger my flash and they are supposed to be really unreliable in these conditions. Mine seemed to fire okay! The shot is using the sun as a back light and hair light, bouncing beautifully off Samantha’s golden locks. The speedlight was then used to fill in the shadow side facing the camera, I like the shot but as was pointed out to me later there are distinct double shadows, I can cope with the ones around the legs, but the shadow of Sam’s face on her hair can be distracting, to solve that all I needed to do was bring the light around a little more, but I think I would have lost a bit of the shape in the image.

This image shows just how much shadow there is when the flash doesn’t fire, a big reflector would have done a similar job, but I don’t have one, or an assistant to hold it…..

This one used the flash as the main light and underexposed the ambient light. The flash is a single strobe through an umbrella again, it is quite close, just out of the frame, the light is aimed at Sam’s head and falls off towards the floor, so following the old rule of making the point of interest the brightest part in the image. Underexposing everything else has given really saturated colours and given a really strong contrast with the pink dress.

The last shoot of 2009

The last shoot I had with Samantha was also my last shoot of 2009, and it produced one of my favourite images. Most of the shoots I had done to this point had featured minimum styling, so for this one I decided to think more about the whole makeup outfit and photography package, I came up with the idea of shooting a goth style shoot but not in a goth style……still doesn’t make any sense but I liked the results.

The important thing with this shoot was to get a good makeup artist, luckily I know one! Gaynor or Secondskin on t’internet can do the makeup, hair, styling everything basically. Sam was already on board so I described the concept to both of them, ‘it’s a kind of goth but not goth high fashion stylee thing’ amazingly both of them interpreted that into the perfect hair and makeup combination. I think the only thing that was clear was that I wanted a top hat in the shot!

I shot at Barone’s studio again, we started off and I decided to build the outfit and the makeup throughout the shoot, starting simple then making it more complicated.

The first lighting set up was with a beauty dish to camera right and a softbox off to camera left, this gave a defined shadow, and showed up loads of shape in the jacket, overall the lighting was a bit harsh so a quick change around while some more makeup was being applied.

So the image above is what I consider to be my best of 2009, Gaynor and Sam got the full outfit and makeup on, top hat, messy makeup, I didn’t want it to look like streaks from tears so the makeup comes down from behind the eye, Gaynor also had the gloves with her, the perfect touch which I hadn’t thought about! Shows how a good stylist is well worth investing in. The makeup shines nicely under the lighting.

The light setup was a single softbox high up to camera left, the light was quite a way from Sam so it doesn’t wrap around as much as it would if set closer. The processing is fairly simple too, I removed any blemishes including some bits of fluff and stray threads on the outfit, using the healing brush and occasionally the clone stamp. The next step is a bit of shaping, very subtle changes in light and dark areas that help accentuate what is already there. This can be done with the dodge and burn tools, but I use two curves adjustment layers, one set to dark and the other to light, add a layer mask, then using a soft brush at about 4 to 5% opacity paint the light and shadow onto the image. I do it this way as it allows me to adjust easily within the layer stack. In the image the cheekbones were changed by a tiny adjustment to the highlight and then painting in shadow around the jaw line, the neck around the jaw was also darkened slightly to help the face to stand out.

Once that was done some desaturation was applied to the reds to get a paler skin tone, the final adjustment being a vignette added, simply create a filled black layer, cut it out with a feathered elliptical mask and reduce the fill to suit the image.

I am very happy with the final result it looks exactly like a kind of goth but not goth high fashion stylee thing in my opinion. Even better both Gaynor and Sam use the image in their portfolios 🙂 Click here to go to the Samantha set on flickr.

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