Forgotten Lockett (FL): a fashion label based in Auckland, New Zealand. Everything is designed, made, finished, modeled and shipped by one unstoppable lady: Nicole. Say hello, everybody.
She’s a total inspiration.
FL as you’ll see specialise in alternative fashions. Grungy, bold, vivid, alluring, and it’s all one-off stuff. Real cool and encouraging that there’s people out there blazing their own trail and kicking mountains of ass along the way.
So what’s my job here as the photographer?
- Make the outfits look great
- Make the model look great
- Present both in a way that is eye-catching and on-brand.
Now that I see it written down, that’s pretty much the MO for every shoot but, drilling down into it and researching the brand you get a clearer idea of what is “on-brand” for this particular brand and why the same approach probably wouldn’t work for Armani or Davidoff as what would for FL.
So with that in mind and homework done (by perusing the etsy page, website, IG and other social profiles) there was a bit of a gameplan about the ‘look’. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s way easier to know where you’re going if you have a direction to go in. I think backwards. Start with the end, then figure out what steps to take to get to that point.
The wardrobe was obviously going to be handled by FL. My job is location, lighting, settings, and a little bit of discussion/direction about what I’m thinking would work well and why I’m thinking it – this last point usually comes down to walking around a space you think is cool and looking for 3 or 4 distinctive locations you can use within the overall space. For this shoot in particular, which took place in an old metal workshop, I used the main shop floor for 90% of it, but earmarked 5 locations that would combine well with different outfits.
I took a few test shots, checked where the natural light was coming in, what colours are present in the scene and made some notes.
Given the subject matter and style of outfits bright poppy colours wouldn’t do. I wanted industrial, gritty, scratched up, muted shades of olive and brown and tarnished worktops scarred through decades of use.
I guess this is visualisation. It’s kinda thinking through the job before you begin, get your workflow together, try and imagine where the light(s) should go and what shadows and shapes would that make? Do you need 1 light? 2 or more lights? Now’s the time to figure that out – not when the client walks through the door and you need to spend 20 minutes looking into corners and holding the ‘L frames’ in front of your face scoping out angles.
Key light was an octabox up high. Fill light if required was a softbox, a bare light, sunlight, or a combination of all of the above. I wanted an angular light to provide huge shadows so the main light was a bit more around the subject than I would typically do for a corporate gig or something a bit brighter, it wasn’t quite 90 degrees but you can see by the shadows around the nose that it was a pretty acute angle. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not so good, just move the light until you think it looks cool. You’re the judge here. Trust yourself.
Remember, you can make anything look badass with a light in the right place.
That sentence might encapsulate 10 years of doing this. Funny how it goes sometimes.
And here’s the images:
Editing these shots wasn’t that involved. The model already had great skin, the wwardrobe was taken care of, my lighting was right in camera, so editing was primarily global adjustments in LKR using curves (see below) and white balance to tone it a bit colder and bring some rich density into the midtones. I try and avoid pure black and pure whites in my shots where possible- they’re useless as they contain no detail, just black or white. They’re in there somewhere but it’s totally possible to make things look bright or dark without muddying it up or overexposing everything.
One thing I always do when I think I’m done with a shot is push ctrl+shift+L for auto levels. Do this on a duplicate layer. If you like it, then you’re all set, but if you don’t and you think it changes your colours too much, then set this duplcaite layer to ‘luminosity’ and it will only affect the lightness values and not the colour. This all your hard grading work is left intact but you get the full range from black – white. And I say this only as a “hey, this might help”, I ignore the auto-levels all the time because I’m happy with the look but if you need it, it’s there.
Curves and their curviness.
I mentioned something about using the curves function to change the colours of an image. I stumbled across this accidentally; Canon sensors tend to have quite red shadows which, to me, looks a little too warm. For shoots like this I want cold which is blue, cyan, teal, pale colours. So, open your curves command with ctrl+m, select the red channel from the drop down, grab the very very darkest point (usually bottom left corner) and drag it along the bottom edge towards the right corner. Move it just a little bit until the 0 becomes an 8 or 9. This is tinting the red in the dark regions towards blue, so the shadows will become less red and more blue, and therefore colder looking. Easy right?
For this setup it was my tried-and-tested unbeatable formula for almost any occasion from corporate to portrait to fashion to music to product: big octabox/light source in the back and a softbox around the front at roughly 45 degrees and pretty high. Aim for an f/8 exposure and the background to be JUST blown out into white. If you nuke the back it just overpowers everything and goes crazy, you just want a slight wraparound to the subject and it to look like a white cyc wall in a studio. Easy peasy. Then it’s up to you, and the subject, to understand how it looks and then roll with it. Good models (like Nicole) will change position after every click but it helps to ask the subject to just move their head a little, look around the frame and around the camera after every click. Right down the barrel, over the camera, look to the side, narrow your eyes, adjust your jacket, whatever, just subtle movements can make a big difference to the end product and help this from looking too ‘passporty’.
You can use a white umbrella in the back, a softbox, and any modifier you like ‘out front’ (a beauty dish looks especially cool). It’s a pretty sweet lighting system that you can use on a whole host of subjects and genres.
I think that’s about it. Take-home facts:
One light can change everything.
Do all your experimental editing on a different layer.
Call your grandma.
That’s about it.
Until next time.