Get the Shot and Move on

Last week I had a big photoshoot planned but, at the last minute, one of the crew got sick and we had to postpone. However, this left me with a big drive to create and nothing to do. So I contacted the incredible Sarha Hannah who I've wanted to work with since meeting her at another shoot with Giancarlo Pawelec

Since this shoot was pure creative release (See: Basically therapy ha ha) with no real concept I wanted to try and do more looks than I usually do in much less time than I usually give myself. I felt that I needed to work more on knowing when I have the shot and just moving on. Because when you have the shot, you have the shot. You're just wasting everyone's time by still shooting.

The shoot used the Fuji XT-1, which is definitely a favorite of mine. I don't really need more than 16MP, what you see is what you get through the viewfinder, plus a whole bunch of tools built in that allow me to get tack sharp focus when using old manual lenses (My favorite!). I also used the Mitakon Turbo booster II which allows me to use the full image circle of my lenses, giving me a more full-frame look.

I also used two Cactus RF60's which allow me to use HSS which important to me since my home studio has massive windows, without blackout curtains, and sometimes I want to light a scene with JUST my flash and still have shallow depth of field.

Lets get onto the images, shall we? Overall we ended up shooting 8 photos with vastly different looks in about two hours – in other words the perfect result.

 Sarha Hannah, one light

Sarha Hannah, one light

This first image was done with just a single speedlight directly overhead and some gels. I first used a super orange gel right against the wall. With Cactus speedlights if they are zoomed in all the way and placed next to a surface you get streaks of light. Now, since – even at the lowest power, the speedlights overpowered the natural light - I had to use a dark gel, basically an ND filter, to bring the light down in brightness.

By making the speedlight super orange, and white balancing for that, I was able to force the sunlight to go super blue in relationship to it.

Believe it or not, this was only the third frame that Sarha and I shot. I took a couple more, and then remembered the goal of the project and moved on.


As you can see, this image is similar, but not identical. I moved the speedlight away from the wall, zoomed it out a bit, and with just those minor changed we have a vastly different shot! So you can see just how simple it is to change an image with just the smallest tweaks.

 Different setup

Different setup

The third setup was the first one where I made a major light change. All of these images are heavily inspired by the work of Nick Fancher and Nadav Kander – the latter's inspiration is heavily seen here, I think.

For this shot I wanted to keep the face a little darker than I normally would, having the brightest spot of the image be BEHIND Sarha – putting her face in shadow. The main light here was actually a blue-gelled speedlight, firing into a white wall – acting light a massive softbox for light that totally filled the room and wrapped around Sarha, with a second light behind her shooting through a gridded softbox, giving us that night rim light.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 4.21.36 PM.png

As you can see, it's a pretty simple setup. When your lights are too small – bounce can give you all the 'oomph' you need!





This fourth image is one of my favorite images I've shot in a long long time. As you can see, the softbox behind Sarha was more or less left untouched (Power was brought down) but now we have this bright red stripe straight down her giving this precise little POP to draw the eye.

Now, funnily enough, I originally didn't like this image in colour. I was shooting black and white and it looked better, still not amazing, but better. However, when I brought it into Lightroom – my import preset just made the image POP and I fell in love. For this shot, I used whats called cinefoil, which is basically black, thick, tin foil used to shape light. I cut a long strip of it and put a slit down the middle to allow the light through, aiming it straight for Sarha's face. Natural light help fill everything out to keep the exposure balanced. As you can see, Sarha totally rocked this image and really brought it together.

Something that I love about gels, is that they can totally change more 'traditional' lighting. The lighting setup for this is actually super-traditional clamshell lighting used in beauty images. I have that same gridded softbox above, and then a small shoot through umbrella underneath. This is normally pretty basic beauty lighting – but adding these gels adds a whole new dimension. As you can see – some very simple concepts with slight tweaks can create very dynamic, different, images that stand out. Small changes can make big differences in your lighting, the way it is feathered, the way it is gelled, etc. The first two images were just ever-so-slightly different setup wide, but just that slight movement of the light gave us two vastly different looks which Sarha helped drive home with her talents.

There were actually two versions of this image, here is a straight out of camera reject that I didn't like as much. Though these may look like massively different setups – the only difference here is exposure time/flash power. I didn't like the desaturated colours that the higher brightness brought, and a few other intangibles – so I upped my shutter speed to bring the ambient lights from my windows down in relation to the flashes and got these nice dark blacks helping Sarha really pop out.







Now, this last image was totally different, and something I'm enjoying adding to my shoots.

This image is very simple, it's purely natural light – and this was purely direction from myself – with shots like this, it is all about the eyes for me. I want a relatively neutral face, totally relaxed, but the slightest tightness in the eyes to bring out the intensity and add a bit of soul to the image.

Overall, this was a great exersize in learning to work quickly, and know when you have the shot. You often reach a time in a shoot where the model, and yourself, are just tired, and you stop getting good shots. Exersizes like this really help you learn to just move on when you have the shot – and learn WHAT that shot is. It's improv and planned at the same time, making up lighting scenarios on the fly but also knowing the general vibe that you want before you click the shutter and learning HOW to do it.

David Fulde