I spent a happy day yesterday working with Kristina, an actress/model from L.A. It was very much a last minute thing for both of us. We have been working together since 2012 when she was in college.
She was in Columbus visiting family when she got a last minute message from the producers of the TV series Investigation Discovery. They sent her part of the script from an upcoming episode and needed an audition tape from her by Tuesday at the end of day. (She has been in several prior episodes.) After she got the message she called me. We set up a shoot for the next day, Tuesday, at 1 pm. Nothing like short notice.
I was home at noon Tuesday to empty the living room and convert it into a photo studio. When Kristina arrived we rehearsed our parts until we were comfortable with the testy dialogue between a wife and her husband. Then we taped. My voice can be heard on the tape but I was off camera. I used a Canon 5D Mark III with an auxiliary microphone to shoot the video.
We did a number of takes complete with a nice collection of bloopers. We would download the memory card, watch the video on my desktop, load another memory card and shoot some more. After two hours work and parts of three memory cards, we had eight takes that we liked. We narrowed it down to three, and then Kristina picked the final version that she liked best. The 90 second video was a 327 MB file. Even compressed it took over an hour to transmit online to the producers in L.A. So while we waited we decided to do some still photography which was not part of our original plan. Just a short shoot.
Our shoot ended up lasting over three hours. We just went crazy trying out different ideas and poses that we both came up with. Some worked and some didn’t. That’s ok. Great photos come from taking risks, not playing it safe. At one point Kristina said she really liked the natural light in the bathroom. So we shot in the bathroom for a while.
It doesn’t matter how many images you create on a shoot. What matters is ending up with something you love. As Dewitt Jones (National Geographic photographer) says, “How many good shots do you get in an 8 GB card?” is an amateur question. The professional question is: “Did you get the shot?” Pros don’t worry about how many clicks of the shutter or the percentage of keepers. They just want to get the shot.
When the shoot was over we went through all the images and made a list of favorites. Kristina was out the door at 7:30. After a late dinner I turned the studio back into a living.
Although most of the photos were created using studio lights, for the image at the top of this article (high on our list of favorites) we used natural light coming through a diffusion screen covering a large window. The light level was low so I had to boost the ISO to 1600. Even at ISO 1600 the shutter speed was a painfully slow 1/13 second.
I double processed the RAW file with Adobe Camera Raw, one version with slightly reduced clarity (for skin) and one version with slightly increased clarity (for hair). I layered the two files in Photoshop and used a layer mask to mask out parts of the higher clarity layer to reveal parts of the lower clarity layer underneath. If you haven’t tried layer masks it is high time to give it a go. Think of layer masks as a way to erase and un-erase as often as you want. Plus you can vary the opacity to partially erase a layer (you see part of the layer underneath and part of the layer you erased at the same time). Or partially un-erase a layer.
If you want to learn more about portrait photography there are articles and books linked below.
Photo Data: Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens at 45mm. f5.6, 1/13 second. ISO 100.
Kristina at the IMDb