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TIP on backgrounds

When I started out with model photography I used a lot of seamless backgrounds, and I think most of you do.
However the more I shot the more I grew bored with these backgrounds and I started using the studio walls and more and more and I was drawn to location work. Of course it’s not possible to work on great locations all the time, and let’s be realistic…. the background does have to have something interesting, being it structure, rawness (is that a word?), edginess (love that word, I always use it when I don’t know something else) and…. well you get the general idea, walls can be cool if they are cool.

At one point it dawned to me that if I couldn’t go to locations all the time why not get the locations in our studio, if you go through my portfolio you can actually see that a lot of my work is using models pretty much straight up or in front of walls. In our studio we actually painted all the walls in different themes and looks going from nice and dark to totally distressed with wallpaper hanging down and broken plaster. Sometimes people will actually comment on these walls and ask me when I’m gonna do some fixing up… until I tell them that those are sets and their response is “oh cool, I need that”… actually at that time I already earned my money for the workshop because in my opinion the biggest problem a lot of photographers struggle with is “seeing possibilities”. So if you see an old broken down wall don’t see it as something that has to go but see it as an photo oppertunity.

Our studio is pretty big and there is no wall in the studio that we can’t use as a backdrop, I always am stunned when I visit studios that are HUGE but have all the same color walls, it just doesn’t make sense for me, of course a shooting area for cars has to be one color, but there are also so many other walls, areas etc. that you can use and that are often left untouched, for me the studio is a working space and not an office (heck even my office has different themes, I hate plain walls I guess).

So what if you can’t do your walls like we can?
In essence all walls can be covered with wallpaper right?
So find some interesting wall paper like for example this :
Roosmarijn Maart 29 2016 0331

Roosmarijn Maart 29 2016 0340If you are not allowed to do this on the walls, make “small” (2.50×2.50 mtrs) panels and cover them.
But you can also paint those panels, in this case one of our interns did a tremendous job I think, and as you can see it REALLY spices things up, the image in front of it is already cool but the walls…. well they complete it, and it really also helps to enhance the styling.

Nadine Professional Imaging - 16  March 12, 2016

Indeed all the structure and blues you see is in the wall, we used a little bit of smoke to spice the set up, but the wall in combination with nadine her awesome styling makes the image complete.

But a lot more can be done.
Here are some examples of our walls in action 😀

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Roosmarijn Maart 29 2016 0347 1

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Nadine Februari 27 2016 0020

Now if you don’t have the options for panels, or wallpaper or…. there is always another option.
Lastolite is a brand you probably know right?
They have some amazing foldable backgrounds with great prints, and the fun thing is… they don’t take up any space and they look great in a photoshoot. I always have some with me when I teach on location (just in case).

Here are some samples from the Lastolites.


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Poeka bij FotoKlein December 19 2015 0010

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Now if you think these are too expensive (man you are hard to convince :D)
You can always use a backdrop system and mount some plastic to it and play with that.

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Nadine open dag November 28 2015 30526

Or use some curtains

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So the next time you grab your seamless…. try to do something more creative and start using the walls, areas of your studio etc.
OR….. well you also use seamless of course.

Karina Feb 13 2016 Phase One workshop NY 0064

 

Karina Feb 13 2016 Phase One workshop NY 0067If you want more in depth tips and tricks check out my book “Mastering the model shoot” it’s not just on models but also has extensive parts on styling, your studio etc.
Also check out my instructional videos via this website (see the left menu), and check out my videos on KelbyOne where you can also find one on building your own studio.

Using props… the chair

Often people ask me “what is the perfect prop?”
Well let me start by saying that there is no perfect prop.
However if I had to choose one I would say it’s chair…
Now don’t get the expensive posing chairs you sometimes see in studios and online, in my opinion these are nice but also very overpriced and will limit the way you can shoot for the simple reason they are often not the most attractive chairs.

 

You can not only incorporate them into your set, but you can also make the model pose more dynamically. In other words add a lot of play into the shoot.

 

My favorite way to get chairs is to visit the second hand stores and get the more damaged, ugly, vintage looking chairs they have, the first advantage is that they are often cheap (hey I’m Dutch :)) plus they (in my personal opinion) have way more character than a new one. PLUS.. when you’re done with them… well you just cut them open and you have a second life for the chair.

 

Today some images I took during the test session with Marieke with 2 of our chairs.
Some might be considered NSFW so beware.

Marieke Jansen Oktober 2 2014 (49 of 107)-Edit

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Who needs expensive lights

You know….. sometimes we are so caught up in our work that we forget to think about how things can be different. We as humans are “beasts of habit” meaning that we will figure something out, and if that something works really well for us we will always get back to that. And we photographers… well sorry to say it…. we are also that way.

 

That’s why sometimes it’s so incredibly important to make sure that you do a what I call “hard reset” and don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you guys (and girls) to bang your head against the wall until you pass out and wake up, so please don’t do that. What I do mean is that you should sometimes literally just pull the plug out of your strobes, put everything aside that has anything to do with “studio technique” and get back to the basics. Learn how to “see the light” but most of all “to understand the light”. And there is hardly any better tool to do this than the good old fashioned (and oops indeed it’s old fashioned, we stocked up on some because over here they are not sold anymore in the higher watts) lightbulb.

 

During the glamour workshop I will often grab my lighbulb fixture, it was the most bare bone fixture I could buy, and hang it from a boom stand, tell the students “this is the new setup” and watch how their jaws drop and their expressions go like “the what, the who, are you nuts”….. well yes and no (but you already know that). No really…. a lightbulb when used the right way is one of the most awesome light sources there is. So in this blog post some explanation and images from that simple lightbulb session….

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It doesn’t have to be expensive……

I loved this question and I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with.
A good shot should of course include expensive things, right ?
Well actually not……

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