Model Portfolio: Nicole

Nicole has always been on my bucket list of models to work with. After our shoot for FHM Magazine 8 years ago, it was only then when the stars aligned themselves again, and I have her in front of the lens. 

Reunion shoots are the best kind for me. It rekindles old friendships, and that's where I draw the inspiration to work with them. 

This was shot in "Raffy's Last Resort" (as I fondly call his place), at the 2nd floor of their main house. We don't get to go up there on a regular basis, so I take the chance every time we can. The last time was for Jinri's calendar several months back. The challenge in this scenario is maximizing the space without losing the inspiration. More often than not, when you've shot in a location several times in a row, you get a bout with location fatigue. Your brain gets tired of seeing the place, and automatically go for spots you have used previously. 

As they quote it in Criminal Minds, it's all about "looking at the scene with fresh eyes."

This particular layout was hard to imagine at first. The light was coming from a wide window with a screen, but covered with lots of foliage outside. There's not much sun peeking through and any cloud cover immediately drops the available light coming in. What I did here is compensate with strobes, but simulating how the room would be naturally lit. 

My main light was a brolly box aimed to the wall corner wall. This diffuses the effect, at the same time picks up the tinge color of the room. The ceiling had an old green lamp, which coincidentally is a signature look for an Asian cinema feel, but it was already too weak to be picked up by the camera. I had to place a gelled strobe firing on the opposite side, to boost the green light effect from the lamp without having an overpowered effect on it. My last light is a highlight hitting the chair, just missing off her shoulder.

But again, I'm not relying on the strobes alone. I'm actually picking quite alot of the ambient light. All the strobes were powered down to their minimum. As for my camera settings, I upped the ISO to 800 and aperture to 2.8. 

The color grading is a punchier version of the Asian film look I usually do. I upped saturation on the reds and magentas, but had to kill a bit on the yellows. I also overlaid a green tinge on the entire image, and dropped the opacity below 20%. The backside of had a hanging green lamp from the ceiling, giving off that vintage Chinese feel. 

This set was more on the natural light, and I just used the modeling bulb from one of the strobes to light up the corridor behind the stairs.

I did her headshots against a brown wall in Raffy's patio in front of their house. This is pretty much straight up and chose that spot since the light was diffused and soft. I did my usual color grading for effect. Not sure if this really hits the spot, but I've always loved experimenting with various color grading effects. 


Model Portfolio: Isabel

It's more of the one-light setups for me again with Isabel. 

I experimented on a mixed lighting scenario for her. We did some strobework, and boosted ambient lighting as you see in the sets that follow.

I wanted to give an extra vintage spin on the typical head shot, but the challenge came when I just used one light for this. Then I remembered those old-school black / white glamour photos and I thought of replicating the same effect. The left shot on the other hand is your typical head shot sans any color grading. 

The next two sets are rather basic, much like how alot of fashion images are lit. They're not really complicated to begin with, yet what makes them stand out is maximizing a minimalist setting. What you are selling are the clothes, and the model is the "accessory." 

The last two images of this one-light-against-wall setup is another experiment in replicating vintage editorial work. Simple poses matched with lighting and a touch of color grading for the "old" magazine feel -- like the ones you've left in the attic after several years. 

The last four (4) images is taken from the same set. The lights in the make-up table at the studio were pretty strong, and I thought of using this as a backdrop for a contrived "behind-the-scenes" shot. I used a strobe placed camera right behind Isabel giving that highlight on her shoulder, at the same time using its bounce to work as my main light. This kind of lighting gives a drama in an image, accenting the highlights. Based from experience though, this only works in on-location scenes, and not in straight up studio shot. I use this technique alot in Men's Health shoots. 

The last image though was a happy accident. It was a test shot where the flash didn't fire at all. In hindsight, I personally found it better than the actual shots for the layout. 

Production Credits:
  • Make-up: Jet Babas
  • Styling: Hannah Kim
  • Model: Isabel Blaesi


Geekology 2.0: Techniques in Cosplay Photography

I've been giving my talks on cosplay photography (thanks to Canon and Phottix) for quite some time, and as a way for me to keep record on what I have been repeating for the past 2-3 years, I thought of writing a 2nd installment to Geekology 101. Instead of your regular picture show-and-tell book, this dives to more theory and technical lighting as compared to the first. 

The new book would come in a dual inverse cover featuring two of my favorite muses, Alodia and Marian. Pages are split between Theory (Alodia) and Workflow (Marian). 

A sneak-peak into one of the setups:

As per my publisher's suggestion to attach "Techniques in Cosplay Photography" to Geekology 2.0, it turned out to be a good build in hindsight just to separate the contents of the two books from the get-go. 

DPP9: March 21, 2015 @ Bonifacio High Street

The book is now available in National Book Store. 

We're launching the book this coming March 21, 2015 during DPP9 Anniversary in Bonifacio High Street. I'm giving a technical lighting demo c/o Phottix at 3PM, and book signing happens at 430PM. Click on the link to sign up!

See you guys there!


Model Portfolio: Gabe

The awesome part with working in Penthouse Studio is the availability of various lighting scenarios inside and outside the actual shooting area. The sun was out so I took this chance to experiment on various lighting conditions with sunlight. 

The first image (two, if you count both color treatments) was done underneath a short roof ledge, giving an even light. It also helped that clouds gave a brief soft light for me to work with. It's like having a huge softbox in the sky. No artificial lighting at least in my experience can replicate this sort of look. Timing is key when you're after this look.

Opposite that is a red wall near the building stair case. For this scenario, we waited for strong sunlight to get that hard shadow against background. A reflector was optional (left image) if you want some bounce back.

We simply went back to the same wall afterwards, but had 2 styroboard reflectors underneath for a beauty shot.

Now this is something I got to pick up from fellow photographer Dix. Since Penthouse is his home studio, he has experimented with various iterations of natural light shots. His use of direct window light for a beauty shot is quite interesting. We placed a board-up behind Gabe and covered it with a matte black cloth. Styroboards are also optional for this effect, but it might leave the model with limited poses. I did two renders in colored and black and white for variety. 


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.