I've been starting to get more serious about getting better and more subtle with my lighting and fashion photography. After hunting around the Internet and looking at a lot of places, I've duplicated the lighting setup of a picture I liked a lot, which used a large umbrella softbox against neutral gray paper, set up high and off to the side of the model. I am also pushing myself to stop being so anal about making sure the model's face is "properly" and fully lit, using shadow to be more creative.
But as much as my new lighting configuration and pushing myself into other directions has made for better pics, I'm also getting some really expressive and awesome models. I found Shingoon through Facebook, as a suggestion of one of my ex-students, who is Shingoon's "junior." I had a feeling about her after looking at her Facebook pics, in which she was really self-confident and expressive. After some email and phone tag, we finally shot today, and although this was her first real professional shoot, she fell right into love with the lens and got comfortable fast. In short, the girl's amazing and has lots of potential.
You'll be seeing a lot more of her both here and possibly in some of my professional projects.
This is a technical exercise, still, so I am experimenting with the more subtle aspects of this kind of portraiture. One thing is getting the lighting effect you want, but another is catching just the right expression. Throw into that the more luck-based element of throwing the hair and getting just the right instant, and you are paying attention to a lot of specific things, but in a clear and useful way. So once I've got the angle of her body and face down (and have shown this to the model so the feedback can help her also figure out what's going on in the actual camera), what's left is expression and catching the hair at the right instant.
Again, this speaks also to the model's skill. Little things like remembering to keep one's eyes fixed on the lens while flipping the hair, in addition to keeping one's face relaxed while also giving the specific expression you want while doing the flip, is quite a hard thing to do. Seriously. A lot of models have major trouble keeping this together, but Shingoon picked it up and did it like a pro. Very impressive.
Also, one more thing. I hope she doesn't mind the unusual expression, but I doubt she will. After meeting her, I thought it kind of fit her personality, which is why I even thought to put this one in -- it's actually a crop of a full body shot, but I liked the way her face seems to condescend to you when you look at it.
Another aspect of this pose in these pictures is her stance -- I wanted her at an angle at which one might imagine you can see into her dress, which makes the feel of the image a bit more provocative or perhaps even intimate, but the important thing is that the shadow covers everything "naturally." The whole point of these pictures is that she's not showing much, but you feel like she is. Or perhaps she's actually showing a lot, but you don't feel it's too much. Either way, that's why Vogue can show you a picture of a nearly-naked lady riding a white horse with a headpiece made of thorns while wearing Prada heels or something, but it looks neither risque not ridiculous.
Or, in my case, I can put a picture of a topless girl wearing fishnet stockings and stiletto heels and no one freaks out, because when you desaturate into nearly black and white, do another layer in Overlay mode, and crop it just right, it looks "arty." Or, as is my goal, like a picture you might see in a fashion magazine.
I love the side shot, don't like how the dress covers everything so that it looks like potato sack, but then again, she's half taken it off. But I do like the expression and pose.
An alternate shot and testament to just how well Shingoon can keep her face natural and give a specific expression even as her head is flipping up from down by her knees. Try it sometime -- it's hard. She's GOOD.
Again, I love the look. I've found one of her strengths in this test shoot and it's in her intense looks, her eyes. Also, she has great hair and a great haircut, and after each head throw, her hair lands just right. It's awesome. It's the little things.
A crop of a shot just like the picture before this one. I wanted to eliminate the dress and concentrate on her body. Also, the shadow falls just right and slims her upper arm, which every girl can appreciate. It's the #1 thing I am asked to Photoshop, above pimples, scars, and birthmarks. The back of the upper arm. Shingoon's arms look fine, but I bet you a dollar she likes this picture, mostly because her arms look great, as much as her face.
A more naturalistic Photoshop job, one I like to do that naturally makes the skin look smoother in a sheeny kinda way, and also simulates the feel of black-and-white, but still has the slightest touch of color. I could go even further with the desaturation than most pictures because it IS essentially black-and-white already, as it alternates between black and white from her hair, face and arms, dress, skin from her thigh, then stockings, which themselves alternate between black-and-white because they are fishnets with lace tops.
Her "dress" is a skirt, by the way. Pulled up over her chest. Stockings were pulled out from a bag of them from a sale at H&M. We're keeping it real.
I like her 'tude here, and she sure knows how to work a skirt-we-used-as-a-dress to make it look good. It kind of reminds me of a hanbok (Korean traditional dress) in the way it basically hides the form as it balloons out from the chest down. I think I inherited that skirt from perhaps my ex-roommate Tasha?