I Don’t Just Shoot Nude
I certainly wouldn’t consider myself “known” as a photographer, but within the circles I do move in, I think my work is known mostly for reasonably heavy use of flash and for the fact that a lot of what I shoot involves nudity. But I don’t just shoot nude work and I don’t always shoot using flash. In fact for the majority of shoots I did last year, ambient light was the primary light source (ok, perhaps a lot of them involved nudity). On Saturday, I worked with Irish model Fiona Ryan on a location shoot in an old country house and to a large extent it was back to basics: portraits; no nudity and ambient light for the light source.
The weather on the day was pretty horrendous. It was dull and very VERY foggy. But I viewed this as an advantage, not a problem. It meant that whilst the light levels were pretty dim, the light outside was also incredibly soft, due it being diffused by the fog. The location we used, like most of the locations I’ve been using lately had huge windows, some from floor to ceiling. One in particular was easily 20 foot high and this was my chosen light source for this set. The window took the diffused light from outside and gave it direction. With the window behind me, and Fiona facing it straight on, the light just wrapped around her.
Shooting wide open at f:1.8 and ISO400 using an 85mm prime lens, I pretty much clicked away. With this sort of setup, I take pretty much a machine gun approach, in that I put my camera into the highest frame rate possible and literally go “paparrzi” with it. Since I don’t have the concern about recycle time that I would with flash, there’s no real reason not to shoot at a high frame rate. I personally feel, using a DOF this shallow, it is a significant advantage to take this approach. Whilst you do end up with a lot of shots due to missed focus, out of each “cycle” of images, you are almost always guaranteed to have at least one that is critically sharp.
Metering as always is manual and in this case I used the inbuilt reflective meter in the camera. To be honest, there was very little contrast on the day, so exposing the scene was easy. I typically look for the white point in a scene and expose for that, but due to the small dynamic range, I was happy enough to use matrix/evaluative metering and just metered for middle grey. Processing wise, the shots were toned by adding a colour to the shadow detail and a complimentary colour to the high light detail. This has an effect of reducing contrast a little more, but I feel it suited the scene due to the lack of range in the original image.
There’s very little retouching apart from that. The combination of Fiona having amazing skin to start with, combined with amazing makeup (applied by Ruth Lawlor – my regular makeup artist), shooting wide open and using an extremely soft light source, all helped achieve the “flawless” look that the pictures have. With a set like this, my biggest difficulty is always choosing what shots to edit. Due to the high frame rate, there were literally 100′s of shots to choose from. When I whittled out the soft images and the blinks/half closed images, this probably came down to just over a 100 – a large enough set to make the final choice difficult. As it is, I could have edited 30 or 40 images, so in the end it came down to just trying to choose favourites (which I did )