Amber shoot – entry for the “How I took it contest”


’s my entry for the How I Took it Competition.  Its just a very slightly modified version of a blog post I’d written from a shoot last week, but I thought it would make a good entry as it includes a couple of slightly different techniques.

Had a great shoot with a model just getting back into the modelling thing, Amber.  She’s a  dancer/performance artist as well so one of the first questions I asked her was, “can you jump?”.  She foolishly said yes, so I got her to grab a book and hop up and down while I tried to capture the shot.  Here’s the end result, after the shot I’ll tell you how we got it done.  The idea behind this image was to mix up two actions that don’t normally go together, jumping and reading, to create a slightly wacky image.  I think this is something I may explore more in upcoming shoots.  If anyone has any good ideas for more juxtaposition shots let me know!








We had quite a low ceiling to work with, so Amber had to keep the jump small.  I tried to capture the motion using normal strobes but of course the sync speed is limited on strobes to 1/250 shutter speed.  This resulted in a blurry mess, so I got out the my Canon 580EX II speedlight, and stuck an umbrella on it, and set the shutter speed to 1/500 ( using high speed sync on the speedlight ).  I used the manual setting on the speedlight and set it to half power.  I used a sto fen diffuser on the speed light as well as an umbrella as I find this really makes the light very soft.  The umbrella was positioned to the right of the model at head height with the speed light pointing slightly downward to feather the light even more.  This worked great and all we had to do was keep Amber jumping until we got the shot.  I shot her on the way up so that the hair wasn’t all over the place.  In the end, its a shot we both really liked.

A quick word on the photoshopping.  The main thing I had to do was to extend out the white seemless background so that the light stands/grimy walls/rusty radiator in the shot are not seen.  To do this I selected an area of white, then clicked Edit/Content Aware Transform and extended the white as much as I could.  I repeat this process for the whole shot.  I then create a new layer, and select the model.  I then select Edit/Cut to remove the model from the upper layer ( after I feather and extend the selection by a couple of pixels ).  Then I use Gaussian Blur to blur the background, add 1-2% of noise ( both of these are done on the upper layer ), and then do Edit/Paste Special/Paste in Place to put the model back in picture.  Then I merge the layers and that’s pretty much it, nicely smoothed out white background.  I have to give credit to Frank Doorhof for one of his video tutotials on Kelby Training for the background smoothing technique.  Its something I use a lot.


Next shot was a portrait.  I did the standard clamshell lighting thing with 2 soft boxes, but I didn’t really love the results, so I removed the softbox modifiers and used the light from the modelling lights ( no strobe lights ) to get the shot below ( ISO was around 1000, which is nothing on a 5d3 ).  I find that if you don’t have continuous lighting you can cheat by using the modelling lights on your strobe, as long as your camera can cope with ISO around 1000 with little noise.







We also shot a few fashion shots, this one below is my favourite.  Many models don’t look great when shot from behind, being a dancer, Amber was very slim and very toned, so she looked absolutely fine with this pose, but its not something that works for everyone.  The soft look of the image comes from lowering the contrast ( and bumping up the saturation a little bit so it doesn’t look too washed out ).  I’m also avoiding any sharpening these days, as the RAWS from the 5d3 are plenty sharp now that Adobe have sorted out their Lightroom RAW conversion.

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