Model Folio: Cherry

Cherry has been one of our favorite go-to models. She was already one of our pretty guinea pigs back in the day when Raffy and I used to experiment with sets in his garage. That was about 7-8 years ago. It was reunion of sorts when I got to work with her again over a string of test shoots. 

Phottix recently lent me a set of Indra 500 lights to try out in some my model folio / tutorial shoots. I've heard much about this strobe, and got excited at the chance of using it. The challenge is how to incorporate a strobe into a naturally-lit shoot. 

The weather was quite unpredictable when we shot. It was cloudy one minute, and sunny the next. There were several instances of a good pose, but would lose out to bad lighting. Now this was where the Indra provided that consistency in maintaining the overall feel of the images. The highlights were still there despite the sudden changes in natural light. There were just minor adjustments in the shutter speed when relying on the Indras. 

The first image was exposed to open sun when the clouds parted, while the third had more light assist coming from the Indra. You could see the stark differences in output even though I had two various workflows executed on them. One tell-tale sign is the washout background. I had makeshift relfector (a.k.a styrofoam) placed the camera left. 

Locations can be tricky in making a lighting guide since they're not as straight-forward as shooting in a studio.

The center image was shot against a mirror found in the room. The frames gave an interesting foreground blur factor, and added texture in the overall image. It adds a tinge of "voyeurism" into the image when you add blurred foreground elements. 

Since it was getting dark (and about to rain), we had to simulate natural light streaming from a window. Combining the ambient lights (natural and artificial ones) found in the room and the Indras became the next challenge. Two sources were used: one outside the house streaming in, while the other acts a highlight / backlight indoors. 

Before placing in the strobes anywhere, you have to observe how natural light is falling into the location. You have to match to factors: direction and texture. The job of the strobe is to approximate how natural light behaves and thus just boosting the current lighting scenario. It is isn't meant to replace natural light, but complement it. 

As for the fan shot, an Indra was placed outside of the window covered with a thin white cloth to further diffuse the effect. The 2nd Indra had a white umbrella attachment, aimed to the wall. This further diffuses the light at the same time, giving off the natural ambient bounce of the room, which was warm. 

When it came down the post-processing, I only did color grading. Several layers of it, masking out sections I didn't want affected by the other. I also touched up the color balance settings, toying around with highlights and shadows more than the midtones. 

An important takeaway from this shoot: location, location, location. How light falls and reflects in each location is unique, but the way it behaves is constant. It's just a matter of harnessing it at the right time. 


Canon Creativity Classes: SM Manila

I was invited by the good folks at Canon Marketing Philippines to give a talk on one of my favorite topics (other than cosplay) -- pin-up. I'm such a sucker for shooting things vintage, and I was more than happy to share whatever I've experimented on with curious folk that day. 

Side Note: I've made several posts on shooting pin-up, so please feel free to check out my archives for them.

It's not a major Canon event, as the size of the venue didn't allow for a big group of people, but I like this way. Gives you a more intimate affair with Canon users and you get to interact with them personally. 

There was also an on-the-spot contest, having our lovely models Reyna and Sidney standing in as our "pin-up" girls for that afternoon. 

Thanks so much to all those who attended and sat out hearing me ramble. Hahaha! See you guys in the next Canon Creativity Classes sessions! 


Model Portfolio: Nika (c/o Intimate Manila)

Another collaboration with the great folks at Intimate Manila.com, this time with the lovely Nika Madrid in front of the lens. 

I took on the basic three-point formation and turned it around its head. This formation basically has a key, fill and backlight (highlight). Now, what if we rotate the positions of the lights, essentially altering their roles?

Source: Wikipedia
This is my modified setup, rotating their positions and functions.
I would still have one key light, but I drop the fill and gain two (2) backlights in the process. This gives me that rim lighting on both sides of the model. The key light is then positioned by personal preference depending on how much shadow you want on the model. To get some light back, I positioned a reflector on the opposite flank of the key light. If you notice on some images, the key light and reflector are switched around, but the effect is technically the same. 

I also wanted a softer highlight, so I changed the typical reflectors on those backlights and replaced them with strip soft boxes so I could control the fallout of the light. This also made the highlights softer and smoother in transition.

My main light was my trusty Photek Softlighter II (a diffused double bounce umbrella / brolly box) flanked either left or right of Nika depending on which part of the room we were shooting in. 

As for my camera settings, I wanted to capture the ambient lighting of the room so I bumped up to 400 ISO and shot with a 2.8 opening. This meant having to power down the lights to their bare settings. Even that resulted in partial over exposures with some of the takes. But such a big opening made it possible to capture the light bulbs that would normally be dark if I just go about my regular settings of F8.0 or 11. 

Given the hotel rooms were also large, it was quite fun playing with depth. The stuff toy tigers were a cute addition to the set.


I didn't realize the curtain was that thin. My mini stripbox was seen through the red much to my frustration. 

Production Credits:

  • Make-up: Charlie Manapat
  • Styling: Hannah Kim
  • Produced by Vince Golangco (When In Manila / Intimate Manila)
  • Special Thanks to Victoria Court Pasig


Centerfold: The Phottix Workshops

Between shoots and a wedding to attend, I found myself in Robinson's Magnolia for a talk on pin-up photography c/o Phottix last Sunday afternoon. Talks like these despite having a public setting is better given in a more casual tone. Hence I never really prepare some sort of "presentation" to the audience. Most, if not all the stuff is spontaneous. Hehehe. 

Since this portion is all about getting a hands-on experience with the Indra 500s, you might as well give them the chance than bore the crowd with the usual talk. 

I was more like an events host with information tidbits than a lecturer. When it came to the actual shoot demo... I was quickly forgotten in the crowd. Our lovely models took center stage. Hahahaa... at the end of the day, it was a fun experience getting to share some insights on how we did our pin-up photography work. 

Our special guest model for the afternoon happens to be Beauty Gonzales -- ex-PBB housemate and FHM model. Too bad I wasn't able to stay for the entire duration of the event since I had to dash to a wedding right after. 

Good to see friends and fellow shooters in the industry as well. Hope to see you guys on the next Phottix lighting event workshop!


Model Portfolio: Sheila Snow (c/o Intimate Manila)

Thanks to friends at IntimateManila.com, I had the chance to work with the lovely Sheila Snow for an afternoon at the Penthouse Studio. Worked around with some strobes using the Phottix Indra. 

The first shot was lit with a no-brainer setup of a beauty dish connected to an Indra placed on the camera left flank. It was just on a regular light stand -- nothing fancy. As for the 2nd shot on the right, this was a combination of ambient light coming from the make-up table, boosted with an Indra and stripbox. There's a tall piece of styrofoam reflector on the camera left to act as reflector. 

As for these next four (4) images, I only worked on natural light. If you want intentional flare in your image, the lens you are using matters. Prime lenses give off a stronger flare compared to zooms. A common favorite is the el cheapo nifty fifty (50mm). It has a hipster artsy vibe that no L-lens could actually replicate. L-lenses were designed to lessen the lens flare effect since it is technically a light aberration. I used several styroboards reflecting the backlight so I could get details on Sheila. I didn't care for much about background light measurement either, and expecting it to be over exposed anyway. What's important here is the measurement on the model. The background would just follow. 

Working with available light all boils down to time. It's very crucial when you plan your shoot since the sun shifts, and how the light refracts around the area is dependent on this. You also have to deal with color temperature -- as the light goes into the afternoon, the warmer the light it gets.  

There is a this burnout on her lower back, which could've been solved with a gobo, but I didn't have the luxury of space in the bathroom, nor the man power.

Light in this corridor is only good during morning until noon. Later than that, you wouldn't get much of it coming through the passageway. So this was assisted with the Indras again. Now, my main goal here is to replicate natural light, and not replace it with strobes. I'm still relying my overall measurements based on what my camera tells me, but I have an allowance for a slightly under exposed measurement, assuming the Indras would fill up that remaining gap in the lighting. 

This is particularly noticeable in the left full body shot. The shadows produced by her legs and feet is sharper than what natural light would usually produce in this area. The two right images (they're just the same, I did a B/W treatment on the other) had an interesting setup. It's practically identical to the full body shot, but if you would notice the shadows on Sheila are inverted. In the half body shot, she has moved to the other side of the door frame avoiding most of the natural light (and strobe). To solve this, I placed a silver reflector on the camera left to bounce that light back to her. The result was something softer, but I lost about half a stop in the process.

This was in the other bathroom with pinkish tiles. Same principle, just a reversed light source. 

The last two (2) images is your regular back-lit reversal using a styroboard. 

Awesome thanks to Vince Golangco of Intimate Manila for setting this up for me with Sheila. Hope to work with more of their lovely featured ladies soon.

You can find more of Sheila on her FB and IG pages: iamsheilasnow.