Monday, May 07, 2007

White Cycs and Black Cards

I was shooting last week at a studio in downtown L.A., in Korea Town to be exact. The studio resides on the 2nd floor of a large, old, brick-and-mortar building, probably built in the 30's or 40's. Down below, there's a Korean bookstore and some other Korean establishments.

A lot of music videos are shot at this studio. In it, they have a permanent, 3-wall, U-shaped, infinity cove, cyclorama that was painted white (on the day I was there) and that's where they wanted me to shoot. This cyc was a little unusual as it also had an infinity cove at the top, for all three walls, and a ceiling.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of shooting on white but, if that's what the client wants, that's where I'll be shooting. I had an assistant, Anthony, who schlepped my gear up the long ramp to the studio and set things up. The first girl was already in make-up when I arrived (late, as usual) so I didn't have much time to get my act together.

Charmane was the first model. With my trusty 5D, I captured a couple of hundred images of her but I wasn't too happy with the results. With all that white reflecting everywhere, the contrast seemed too low. Next, the client brought another model out, Dee, and wanted me to shoot some fairly-vanilla, Sapphic, stuff. No problem. But I still wasn't happy with the contrast I was getting on that white cyc.

Then it hit me!

What a dunce I can be! Black foam core! That's what I needed: Some large, black, foam core, cards. I asked the studio manager if they had any black foam core lying around in their grip and electric room and, sure enough, they had a couple of 4x6, beat-up and half-crumpled, black, foam core cards. I set the black cards on either side of the next model, Keani, kind of book-ending her at about 45 degrees in front and on either side, and resumed shooting. Man! What a difference! The black, reflected on the model, suddenly increased the contrast and provided more detail (plus some well-defined shadows) making the pics (at least, in my opinion) much improved.

Next time you're shooting on a white seamless or white muslin, or on a white cyc, introduce some black foam core into the mix and I think you'll be happier with the results.