I recently photographed actress Phoebe Fox for Harrods Magazine in London. Before the shoot, the fashion editor told me that we would be using gowns and couture.
The imagery she sent as inspiration featured gels and bokeh surrounding the subject. Being a photographer that prefers natural light and simple set ups I tried to get my head around how I could still make this ‘my style’ without overpowering the image with saturated colors and contrast. Usually gowns & couture and busy set ups = photographs that don’t have connection. They miss the point. The point of these images were to accompany an interview of the rise of the actress in the movie industry. It wasn’t an experimental editorial where the focus was the clothes, the clothes were secondary. In this case the SUBJECT is the HERO of the shot.
As a photographer you always need to think on your feet and have a good team around you that can think of a solution whilst you are focusing on the overall image and connection with your subject. In this case my assistant Matt Richards really helped - he knows my lighting style and listened to what I was looking for. He was able to set everything up quickly and he stood in as the subject while we tested the light. We were working in tight spaces in a location house and we had to tether the camera for the client, the actress’ agent and the actress to view. Talk about pressure in a tight space!
We decided to set up the shoot by using a key light (in this case a small Bron 75 octabox) and two separate lights (both with small Bron soft boxes) and red & blue gels attached to each light. Our key light was always slightly higher than our subject, pointing slightly downwards and most often feathered to give a softer more flattering light. The walls in the location house were all white, which helped when it came to bouncing the key light to further enhance the softness of the images.
For the soft boxes with gels - they were never pointing directly at the model, they were to highlight the areas around her or slightly add color to the sides of her clothing etc. This added depth to the images.
To make things even more complicated (for us all!) we decided to create a wall of fairy lights on a c-stand to create the bokeh ‘in camera’. The fairy lights were held close to my lens and were out of focus which created the effects you see in the images. To assist my retoucher I decided to shoot ‘plates’ (extra images to give the option of choosing different parts of the images to edit together later on) of the bokeh without the subject and options when the subject stood in the shot also. This gave us options to add more bokeh afterwards depending on the preference of the client.
This was an experimental light set up for me but I really enjoyed going out of my comfort zone and trying something new!
Bro 75 Octa (as key)
Two small soft boxes
One red and one blue gel
(Big thanks to Chris Burfoot at Bron/Hasselblad in the UK for the EQ rental!)