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Shoot: LaRae Calendar Project

December 13, 2012


Shoot: LaRae Calendar Shoot

LaRae was looking to create a calendar for her boyfriend (lucky guy), and I had the privilege of working with her to do just that. Naturally we were looking for 12 differently themed shots for each month (with some bonuses). After numerous email exchanges we planned a full day shoot, trying to knock out 8 of the 12 months in a single day. There were delays and hiccups, but we were still able to knock out 6 after an exhaustive 11am-8pm day . Reflecting back, I found there were key elements that could be improved in order to make my life a heck of a lot easier next time…

LaRae3Equipment: “When I pull a lens out of my bag, another falls out…”

If you ever had the opportunity to shoot with strobes on location you all know that the best locations always seem to be the farthest spot from the parking lot. And if you combat the perils of mother nature’s windy fury, it seems the more cautious you are the heavier your equipment becomes. Those extra weight bags to keep your softbox from flying away aren’t carrying themselves. Camera bag digging into your shoulders, light stands in both hands, and your strobe head dangling merely by your pinky. You pull your sinking feet out of the sand and  reach your location on the beach…and you realize… Where am I gonna put my stuff down? ..sound familiar?

Now I know most of us wouldn’t sacrifice essential gear and compromise that image in your mind, so the pain and trouble of carrying the gear is all worth it. But putting that essential gear down onto the savage path of sand and water is another thing. I don’t mind putting down the bags onto the sand. And for the most part I work out of my bag. But then those times when I need all 4 wireless triggers, 3 flash heads, the heavy duty battery pack, and the lenses, the bag get tight fast. Ultimately, when I pull a lens out of my bag, another falls out…

Solution? I’m planning on getting myself a lightweight foldable fabric table. Put a strap on it for shoulder slinging, and should be perfect for laying out all components so it’s easily accessible during the shoot. It’ll add additional carrying weight. But when working with so many components, it’ll be worth having a nice working surface. If you have props, makeup, jackets, etc, this will be a perfect place to store all those as well.


Above image light setup: Alienbees800 flash seen in left with Large Alienbees soft box for key light, triggered wirelessly with Cactus V5 trigger. Bottom right out of frame is a speedlite pointed at the subject for fill, also triggered with Cactus V5 trigger.

Balancing Ambient & Flash: “Flash exposure is unaffected by shutterspeed…”

If you have experience with balancing ambient light and flash, you know that the duration of the burst of light from the flash is so short that flash exposure is unaffected by shutterspeed. A very useful fact…which I completely forgot to utilize. Here was my approach to taking the shots above.

I want to create a shot where the flash overpowers the sun, underexposing the ambient light. Oh a tree shade! Perfect. I’ll up my shutter sync speed on my 5DmkII to its max 1/200sec so I cut out the ambient light as much as possible. Up my aperture to underexpose the ambient light. Adjust the power setting on my flash so the subject is exposed properly. Raise the soft box high into the air…

Sounds ok…until I think…

Hmmm I think I want to underexpose the ambient light even more. I want to bring the subject out more. I should increase the shutter speed…oh wait I can’t it’s already maxed. I can increase the Aperture, or decrease the ISO….oh crap now I have to get up, put my camera down, lower the soft box, and manually increase the power setting on the back of my flash head…

Had I kept remembered the key info, my initial train of thought would have made me think…

Oh I should probably initially set my shutter speed at least a full stop below the max sync, at 1/100. So if I want to adjust the ambient light I’ll have the flexibility to go either up or down without having to change the power settings on the flash.

And thus, my previous ordeal would have been reduced to…

Hmm I think I want to underexpose the ambient light even more. Click Click Click (Increase shutter speed up to 1/200). Underexposed the ambient light by 1 full stop, without changing the exposure on the subject. Success.

And thus, my numerous times of interruptions running back and forth could be solved. Shorter time consumption, greater focus, higher efficiency. Next time…

LaRae4Time Time Time: “Tell me to stop shooting…”

This one is a no brainer. I get carried away when I’m shooting. If there’s no one to tell me to stop shooting, I’ll keep going without food or rest. But by the end of the day I feel it. Starved and exhausted, I typically eat and is incapacitated for the rest of the evening with food coma. I need to start setting an alarm on my phone, so I know when I should move on. If there is a specific number of shots that need to be made, I should even set a timer for each shot I make. I’ll have to settle with what I’ve got at that moment, but it’s juggling the agreed upon number of shots vs quality. But considering we’ll never satisfied with quality, the shot you’re “compromising” on, is probably pretty darn good already. Move on. Don’t cut into the precious rest and food time. You, nor your subject will last long if you don’t.

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