Shoot days are normally about simply executing the concept. But there’s always things that happen during the shoot that evolve the concept and push it in unexpected directions and this was no different. As I mentioned in Part 1 I had my team of make-up artist in Nikki Reign, hair stylist of Malia Malir, and clothing stylist in Megan Lacki. I trust these people to be fantastic and they didn’t disappoint.
Both Megan and Malia brought in accessories that fit the theme. There were feathers, beads, loops of wire, and pieces of jewelry that we could use in various creative ways. Once I was able to see all the elements we were able to build a plan of attack. We mixed and matched jewelry and other accessories to develop the final look. We selected elements that would work well together as well as for the overall theme we were going for. We were specifically looking for pieces that went well together but that no one piece stood out. We could go heavier on the jewelry for this one because the theme allowed for it, rather than for Aries or Libra where other items like the props, the hair, the makeup, or the outfit were the “hero”, in this one it was more about the entire look rather than one piece or another. We chose a choker necklace but used it instead as a head-piece, and several feathers and beads to put in the hair. We also chose a necklace, bracelet, and belt to complete the look.
Then Madison, the model, went into wardrobe. Megan had modified a shirt she had bought at Forever 21 and matched it with a skirt and it looked fantastic on Madison.
Then it was time for hair. Malia did a wonderful braided look that worked with Madison’s existing hairstyle which was short on the sides and long on the top and worked in the various elements.
Then it was on to make-up. This was going to be the most extensive part of the look. Nikki brought in several doilies to use as stencils and ran several tests while wardrobe and hair were being done. When she got Madison in the chair she did our basic makeup look, accentuating the features we wanted to bring out. Then she used an airbrush on top of the doilies to paint what became feather patterns on her cheeks and other cool geometric patters on her forehead and around her eyes, contouring the stencils to the model’s face. I’ve never seen a make-up artist work this way and it was entrancing. She also whitened her eye lashes and her eye-brows to accentuate the ghostly theme.
While all this was happening I took the dark-wood bow outside and used a white temporary hair-spray to spray down the bow and several of the arrows to make the bow less contemporary and give it some texture.
I set up this shoot much the same way that I started Aries. I did this because I wanted there to be a distinctly “familial” feel to the series. So I brought out the same silver 60” PLM umbrella with the white diffusion panel and set it up at about 4 o’clock and then a gridded beauty dish above and opposite and behind the model in the same way I did Aries. My “studio” is actually a racquetball court, so there are white walls all around me, and the white wall to the left provided me with some bounce as a fill. I did end up moving the setup around a bit, eventually flipping the lighting to 7 o’clock because I really wanted her looking to my left (because that side of the hair looked better to me) and I wanted to get some shadows on the camera-side of the face.
I’m a big fan of shadows. I like the way the add contrast and help contour the model’s face and I generally prefer to “short-light” my models, which means having the model facing away from the main light but having them turn their heads towards the light.
Posing And Direction
I envisioned this character to be haunting the viewer. To be threatening or intimidating but not in a “horror movie” sort of way. Like you’ve just turned around and caught a glimpse of her standing there watching you, stalking you, but then she evaporates into thin air so the viewer is left wondering if what they saw was a ghost or just a trick of the light.
Props generally make a shoot easier for me. It gives the model a role to play and something to interact with, and generally helps the model get into character. But I found the bow to be an especially tricky prop to use for several reasons. First of all, from straight on a bow can very easily look like a walking stick. It generally “reads” best as a bow from the profile, but I definitely didn’t want that. I wanted the character to be haunting and stalking the viewer, so that wasn’t going to work. Secondly, the way to draw a bow is you hold the shaft of the bow straight out in front of you, locking the elbow in place. I consider this to be a generally unflattering position from an aesthetic point of view. Not to mention that drawing the bow back properly close to the ear requires a great deal of force, and that force shows in the muscles of the arms as well as the face. I didn’t want my model to look like she was straining or tense. I wanted her to look relaxed and confident. Also, when drawing the bow there’s a good 2 feet of bow above the model’s face, which will reduce the size of the model in the frame. Lastly, the bow was a good 3.5-4 feet long and it MUST be carried in the middle, which makes it an awkward prop to work with. I quickly concluded that having the model drawing the bow wasn’t going to work for the look I wanted, so I opted for looks where she looks like she’s stalking her prey either standing or kneeling, holding the bow at her side or resting the end of it on the ground. I originally liked the idea of her kneeling because that would give me a realistic way to bring the horse’s head into the scene as I originally envisioned it, but standing would work as well, so I shot it both ways.
There are things that I look for in poses. I like to accentuate curves, especially in the hips, elbows, and legs. I also like to get the chin pointed in a different direction from the shoulders and having the model’s weight shifted onto one foot helps that. I picture how I want the hips, shoulders, and face positioned first in my head, and then figure out how the model should stand in order to get that pose. I try to give direction from the feet up as the pose really flows from how the model is standing. Putting the weight on one leg is almost always the best way to pose someone. It pushes the hip out and gives you a nice curve to work with. I really like asymmetry so having the hip pushed one way pushes the shoulders in the opposite direction and so forth.
Here’s the image I selected for my final image so you can see what I’m talking about.
Shooting Post-Production Elements
After the shoot was done I still had to shoot the grasses that I had bought from Michaels. This actually happened AFTER I had made my final selects, but since it’s all part of the “shooting” phase I’ll describe that here. The grasses were white and I knew that I wanted to clip them out and put them into the photo, so to add contrast I shot them on a black background. I set up my lights to directly mimic the lighting in my final photo. I then grabbed a nice decent amount of the grasses and held them out at arm’s-length to take photos of them. I INSTANTLY understood the problem with this approach. All of the grasses were clutched in my fist, which meant that, although I had a decent spread at the tops of the grasses, they all angled down towards the center as if into a funnel at the base. If I had an assistant I could have had them hold them straighter, but sadly I did not have that option. I had only myself. So I came up with a rather ingenious solution, if I do say so myself. I clamped the grasses in the middle of a hard-back book (one of the later Harry Potter books if I remember correctly). This allowed me to hold out the grasses at arm’s length without getting that funneled “bouquet of flowers” look I was getting before.
The smoke elements I simply used from the Paranormal shoot I did in September of last year. If you’ve already got it, why bother shooting it again? You can see the tutorial for that here.
That’s about it for the shooting phase. Lastly was the post-production phase, where it was all going to come together… or fall apart miserably. Stay tuned!