Friday, May 22, 2009

For Pretty Girl Shooters, Cameras and Glass Ain't Always Enough

Obviously, this doesn't apply to all genres of photography but, if you're a fashion, glam, or tease shooter, you probably need more than a camera and glass to best photograph the models you hope to immortalize on film or on a sensor. You probably also need lighting equipment (lights and lighting modifiers) and, to make best use of that lighting equipment, grip gear.

Grip gear is a catch-all phrase that includes, amongst many things, quite an array of equipment: Most notably, stands and arms and other grip gear that allows you to attach and place (set) your lighting sources and modifiers where you want them. Many things in the world of grip gear could be replaced with humans, i.e., humans hand-holding your lights and modifiers but, assuming you're not some "A" list uber-shooter, like I'm not, how many people are usually with you when you're photographing pretty girls?

Even if you prefer natural light for all your pretty girl shooting endeavors, you'll probably find that reflectors and bounce boards will enhance your efforts. And how will you most effectively place or set those reflectors and bounce boards short of having assistants perform the tasks? Grip gear, that's how.

For the most part, grip is gear is decidedly low-tech. Leastwise, when compared to your camera, glass, and lights. And because it's low-tech, it's generally less expensive than its high-tech, photographic, distant-cousins. Grip gear ain't always cheap but, compared to the price of a good camera body, lens, or monolight, it provides very helpful gear for a reasonable price.

In addition to lights and modifiers, I carry a fair amount of grip gear in my SUV. (Which doubles as a grip truck.) The gear I carry includes a variety of stands, from normal photo stands to C-stands to gobo arms to sand bags and other things to safely and securely attach and set lights and modifiers. It's all designed to make my job easier (except for the part where I have to schlep that gear into a location) and keep, at a minimum, the number of people it takes for me to competently capture the images I'm hired to shoot. That number, BTW, is usually "3," i.e., me, myself, and I.

Yesterday, I hooked up with a gaffer friend and bartered a well-used Norm's C-stand w/head and arm for a Manfrotto stand w/10' boom arm. It's an older Manfrotto model which means it's heavier and sturdier and the boom arm doesn't telescope. The 10' boom arm sits, via a junior pin, on a (fairly) heavy-duty stand that rises to 6'. There's a baby pin on one end of the boom, a pivoting boom clamp that allows me to set the angle of the boom relative to the stand, a counterweight, and some geared controls at the other end of the boom that allows me to pan or tilt whatever is attached to the business end of the boom. The pic (above) isn't exactly the Manfrotto model I traded for--for one thing, mine doesn't have wheels--but it's close enough to illustrate my new (old) boom.

I'm already thinking about the new lighting options this piece of gear now easily affords me. For grins, I attached my Mola Euro beauty dish and a monolight to the boom just to see how it would handle the weight. No problemo. That made me smile.

The pretty girl at the top, from a recent shoot, goes by the name Princess. I captured this easy-on-the-eyes Princess in a studio on a white cyc with a couple of pieces of furniture placed on it. Used three Profoto Acute heads to illuminate her royal semi-nakedness: The main modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome plus a couple of kickers behind her on each side, modified with small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Princess captured with Canon 5D w/Tamron 24-75, ISO 100, f/8 @ 160. I think I might have driven the sharpening a bit too much after doing my less-than-stellar B&W conversion. Like I wrote in my previous update, I ain't a pro when it comes to image processing. No Gaussian Blur was abused used in the post-production of the image.


Bill Giles said...

From the title, I thought you were going for the psychological aspects of how do I get pretty girls to pose for me. I've got all of the other stuff, but I just don't seem to have the talent to persuade the girls to pose. Oh, well, there is always landscape photography.

jimmyd said...

@Bill Giles,

Well, cash helps. :-)

Bill Giles said...

I think that location helps too. I'm in an area of the country where very few pretty girls want to be shot, at least those who advertise this on the web. My day job doesn't put me in contact with prospective models, so the shoots that I get are few and far between. Not even cash will persuade many of them to come out among the cornfields.

jimmyd said...

@Bill Giles,

Location is definitely a factor. Where there are an abundance of models there exists more opportunities. You might consider attending a weekend workshop like where you'd have an opportunity to shoot a bunch of pretty girls. Other than that, don't know what to suggest.

Bob said...

Hey Jimmy,

Got any BTS shots of how you set up when you use your 7' Photoflex Octodome? I'd be really interested in seeing that or better yet, a blog post.

I've got one but I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong!

All the best!

jimmyd said...


I'll be shooting Tuesday or Wednesday in Tera Patrick's TeraVision studio (not with Tera, unfortunately) and I'll be using the 7' Octodome. I'll try to remember to grab some BTS shots with the seven footer featured, altho will probly be shooting on a standing set that doesn't afford much room to get a really wide angle to capture the lights as well as the model, especially considering how much room the 7' Octo takes. But I'll try.