On set and behind the scenes with Amerca’s fastest growing native art brand,
Much of my career has been focused on editorial and documentary style work, but this fashion and lifestyle shoot was a welcome change of pace. Normally I’m able to execute a full photo shoot with just what I can carry in a shoulder bag… This was not one of those. We pulled out all the stops and went full force to create some beautifully crafted and polished images.
The 8th Generation team did a great job of juggling both their shot list as well being my PA crew.
We started this 2 day product shoot, at sunrise on day 1. For those willing to sacrifice some sleep, sunrise provides some very special and unique light and environmental opportunities. It was well worth waking up at 4:30am for this.
After the sunrise session, it was time to soften up the harsh sun so we used an 8×8 scrim of 1/4 stop diffusion. It’s just enough to take away the harshness of full sun without making the light look overly modified. We also used an opposing 8×8 of white fill bounce. Throughout this project I wanted to maintain a somewhat cinematic feel in the light. That meant always keeping the subject backlit and using fill bounce to gain exposure.
For shots like this where the subject isn’t backlit, I looked for scenes where the background provided some color and texture without being distracting. Wood and stone textures are always good for that. Just add a cute kid and voila!
I love the contrast of the blue-grey stone against the warmth of her face. Color contrast combined with depth of field working together to keep the subject separated from the background.
Many portrait photographers get scared of shooting people portraits in full sun and will avoid it. Personally I love shooting in sun and dislike shooting in cloud. Whenever I’m shooting in a run & gun style and don’t have all the production tools available, I would always go for the backlight. In this shot, we wanted a slightly more front lit look so this image could be used for an ad, so that meant diffusing the sun and filling in the shadows.
The morning of day 2 was more focused on staged editorial product images.
We needed a few portraits of the company owner with their product line. The problem with shooting in this direction inside the building, was that the scene was completely front lit. That means that all of the shadow in the scene in falling away from the camera. Shadow is a what gives shape and dimension so I wanted to add some backlight to this scene.
We placed lights on tripods and raised them up high behind the hanging blankets. The stands are visible in the portraits, but they’re subtle as they blend in with the vertical lines of the wall paneling. It was a trade-off for getting the look that I wanted. I’m happy with the result.
Next we momentarily detoured away from the environmental portraits and did something a little different. We wanted something more emotionally intense for this. We set up a solid black background and some overhead back lights to keep the look consistent. In this case, to save time during the set up, the key light here is actually ambient day light coming from a skylight in the ceiling.
Next we switched modes again to create some slightly more candid feeling portraits. In this shot we were using a modern take on a native American tradition of hair braiding. We wanted to capture the feeling of intimacy and closeness while still solidly showcasing the product. To get this angle, we positioned a ladder straddling the subject so that I could achieve this downward perspective. We also positioned this scene in the entry way of the building. There is a large double door directly behind the subjects and a window out of frame on camera left. This created a look that is technically still backlit but also has a nice side wrap of light from the window.
Next we’ll look at a different technique. This was the only time during the two-day shoot when the sun was behind clouds. As I mentioned before, I don’t like clouds because it makes the entire sky into one giant flat light. There’s no direction or contrast, so in order recreate the direction and contrast that I wanted, we used negative or “neg fill”. Basically it means taking light away from the scene by holding up a big black sheet. This enabled us to add shadow contrast. We used the same 8×8 frame which was previously rigged with the diffusion scrim and just added the black scrim over it. The effect isn’t drastic, but it’s just enough to add some shadow and shape.
On a side note: This venue is located on Puget Sound in Washington state. Right at this moment when we were shooting this set up, the tide was coming in fast. We had to race against time to set this up and get the shot in a matter of minutes. Its hard to tell from the BTS photo, but I am actually standing just in the edge of the water was it was coming in. 10 minutes later, this spot was completely under water.
For the next set up, we were creating some fashion catalog style images. We chose this spot with large windows out of frame on camera left and natural backlight from the window behind the subject. The key light coming the left window was already pretty soft so we just added some subtle fill bounce from frame right.
Our last set up was a tribute to an icon. When they told me about this shot earlier, I thought they were joking, then when they started getting ready for it, I said “Wait, you were serious?” This is based on a famous photo of Burt Reynolds. I’ll let you google it…
And that’s a wrap.