It’s a rare occasion when I do a team collaboration on a personal shoot. I typically prefer to work directly with the model, having them bring their own wardrobe and arrive with their hair and makeup already done. It not only saves time and is easier to coordinate but I also love the challenge of coming up with a cohesive theme for the shoot, basing my techniques, lighting, and color palette on the items that they brought with them.
That said, when I do get to work with a great team such as this, I can see how the images really elevate. This was my first time shooting with Sonia Constable and I was excited to see how her look and presence translated with my style of imagery. Victoria took care of the makeup beforehand, and Jessica Williams accompanied Sonia to style each look.
One night, several weeks ago, as I was laying in bed waiting for sleep to take me I had the image of a shadowed face with red vertical lines that warped around the features on the person’s face. I opened my notes app and quickly sketched it out on my phone before falling asleep. As I mentally prepped for this shoot (which started about 30-minutes before everyone arrived) I decided to try and recreate the vague mental image. Since this was a team shoot I wanted to be fair to everyone involved not just shoot a bunch of silhouetted images.
I set up two strobes, one aimed at the white backdrop and one gelled red and used as a main, hard light. I hung a 4×4’ piece of foam core from a c-stand boom arm and placed it between the main light and where Sonia would stand, effectively flagging the light so Sonia’s face fell partially into shadow.
Next, I closed the blackout curtains in my studio (I need low ambient light for this to work) and I set up my EPSON Powerlite 2250 projector at a low angle so it would light her face. After that I used a Bluetooth dongle to wirelessly connect my MacBook to the projector, I opened Photoshop, and I created a pattern of thin red lines.
Once Sonia was ready we shot for about ten minutes, reviewed the images, collectively, audibly gasped, and then moved on to the next look.
For the next set, I decided to stick with the same setup but change the main light gel to cyan and the projected image to green, horizontal stripes. The resulting images made me think of a Cyberpunk flapper girl— two styles I’ve personally never seen together. Now I was really getting excited.
For the third look, I left the cyan light but added an additional front light, gelled gold. I also changed the projection to diagonal purple lines. The resulting images reminded me of a Miami nightclub: sunny, vibrant, and neon.
If you enjoyed this post make sure to pre-order my upcoming book, The Creative Portrait, which releases late 2021.
About the author: Nick Fancher is an editorial and music photographer who specializes in dramatic lighting, often employing the use of bold colors and experimental camera techniques. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can also find more of his work and writing on his website. His popular books can be purchased on Amazon. This article was also published here and here.