Oh how easy life can be as a photographer if you have a professional fitness model. Art Directors often want everything on white. Thankfully when you have a wonderful subject like Silvia Reibero and a good lighting plan, the photo will pop!
Prepping for a shoot like this is essential. I do my research on the subject. I hash out a wish list with the AD and most importantly, I have the studio pre-lit and tested long before the model ever shows up. I've attached a lighting plan for the cover below.
I used a six light setup. The lights for the white seamless have two heads and two umbrellas on each side, commonly known as a 'tree'. The 4 lights allow for even top-to-bottom spread and they also allow for lower output demand on each light which helps with recycle time (important when you have models that know how to move). I tuck the trees behind the v-flats. I use a white beauty dish as the key light. For Silvia I used a diffuser on the BD to soften it even more. I like the soft but directional light on a Beauty Dish and when you position it correctly it gives you that beautiful fall-off you see on Silvia plus that short, yet defining shadow under her chin. The 7' Octa is my go-to fill light to both lighten shadow density, lighten shadow area around the eyes and balance the light for the overall scene. I have the octa directly behind camera so it becomes directionless and soft.
One of the benefits of having your set pre-lit is you can go over unforeseen problems and also have the benefit of a test shot with your model as soon as they show up and before they go to Hair and Makeup for two hours. The image below is the second frame I took of Silvia within minutes of her arrival.
How easy was that? She has natural beauty and photographs amazingly before the HMUA even starts to soften shiny spots and work their own brand of magic. The first frame had the black side of the V-Flats towards subject. I immediately decided the shadows were too deep, added white on each side and second shot was our finished lighting. Ready to go whenever she was! I find it best to go in with a few easily modifiable lighting plans, test them as necessary and time isn't wasted when your model is ready.
So you've seen the cover shot. We did variations with and without the bike. Wardrobe is usually dictated by the sponsorship and is often not changed during the entire shoot. We did however plan for a second look which involved a set change. During a break, my assistant and I built a new set using an 8'x8' painted canvas wall and 4'x8' white plexi on the floor. For this we have Silvia stand close to the wall with the intention of having the hard, crisp short shadow. I've always done this as a one-light setup. Usually just a head with a reflector and sometimes a grid. It's something we had done a lot when I assisted for Ben Watts in NYC. I put the black V-flats on either side of Silvia to add shape to the light. I believe I had my assistant hand-holding the head directly above camera and aiming it at Silvia as she moved around the set.
Mind you, besides the cover these are unretouched images. With an amazing model, good HMUA, and the right lighting, everything gets real easy. If the EIC and AD chose one of these images for publication, the retoucher would have softened the highlight areas and cleaned up the hair but not much else (beyond color evening/perfection and contrast controls). You'll notice the key light makes that hard shadow under Silvia's chin and behind her. The distance of those shadows is crucial to me and has to be perfect before I start shooting for real.
After many many frames, I check in with the AD to make sure we've got shots she will be happy with. Then it's my turn to see what else we can get. I feel like I can show anyone my lighting, my exposures, my camera and computer settings. I could even build the set for someone else. What I'm confident of is that no one else is going to have the rapport with the model that I have. It's all individual and it's essential to getting your subject to relax, have fun, and trust that you're going to make them look good. I assisted in NYC for 5 years for the BEST PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE WORLD. Their secret? It's not the lighting. It's whatever they bring to the shoot. Whether it's charisma, charm, intimidation, fun, carefree-ness, or sexuality, it's all essential to why that photographer gets their results consistently and reliably. It is the aspect of the shoot that I find most fun and most Zen-like. It's like an actor or a musician. We tend to think they live the life they personify when in fact they are projecting that publicly and usually receding privately (ie David Bowie). My inclination with models is they want to have fun after the business end of the shoot is over. I like to express that with motion. I got Silvia jumping, swearing, listening to Iron Maiden (her request), throwing Skittles at me (her favorite pick-me-up) and just letting her personality shine through.
We also shot a behind the scenes video. You can get a sense of how the whole day went.
And don't forget to take a photo with you and your subject...
For all you gear monkeys, I was shooting the Nikon D5 with the 85mm 2.8 lens. Probably around f/11 for depth of field and best aperture for that lens in general. Again, if you can take only two things from this post as a photographer, I can't stress enough how important it is to have your set pre-lit with alternate plans in mind as well as the importance of building rapport with your subject via the persona you project. Key to success in this business!
If you have any questions, feel free to hollaaaaaaaa!