Creating the Photograph is an original series where we interview photographers about a photo that they shot and how it was achieved. The results are some knowledge passed on to you. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.
For years now, I’ve loved doing pinup style beauty work. Blame my ex-girlfriend–it started when she brought me to a little hole in the wall in the East Village and we saw a Burlesque show together. It was cool, and better yet I amazingly knew many women who were into it and love dressing that way, too. It’s empowering–and good portraiture I’ve always felt makes someone look and feel great about themselves. That’s what I’ve been teaching on this site for years in our tutorials. So when I asked Natalie if I could photograph her for a couple of Zeiss lens reviews I was working on, she said yes.
And so I picked up my iPad, loaded up Pinterest, and started looking for inspiration and ideas.
I’ve had this Pinterest board for a while (years actually) where I carefully curate pinup ideas that I want to shoot if I ever get the time and find someone with the right wardrobe. Natalie has a luxury in Brooklyn: a backyard. It’s big and great for relaxing at the end of summer. So I did what every photographer does: I got inspired by a location.
We had been shooting for most of the afternoon and knew that the light was going to start to get dim. And this is when I wanted to create the image that you see above.
Trust me, it wasn’t simple.
- Canon 6D
- Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus
- Adorama Flashpoint Zoom Lion Radio flash and transmitter
- Phottix Luna Octabank
When we were getting ready, Natalie was doing her makeup and getting her dress perfect while I found candles to add extra points of light that add interest to the scene. I knew I wanted to put Natalie on the picnic table, so I had to clear that off. Since the sun was going down, I had to shoot at a slower shutter speed.
The above image was a test shot–it’s nice and there is good light on Natalie, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
Eventually, Natalie’s dog Luigi, who was in the backyard and wanted to hang out, jumped onto the table and relaxed. I moved him and substituted the negative space on the table with the candles. Above is another test shot and you can very clearly see the Octabank on the right side.
One of the toughest things to do was ensure that Natalie was in focus. Using a Zeiss lens with the outer focusing points and expecting to get something clearly in focus is tough to do sometimes. That and I’ve been switching lenses a lot and couldn’t clean the contacts. There were some mishaps, so I eventually resorted to using the center focusing point and very carefully recomposing my shot. That ended up working.
The light changed from mid-golden hour, late golden hour to twilight, which offered lots of variation throughout the shoot. At one point I even dialed in the ISO levels and nerfed the flash output to get more from the ambient light.
The final image was shot at ISO 400 1/50th sec at f2.8 and required a deep breath to stabilize myself and a prayer.
Very little retouching was done to this image using the Lightroom Retouching Toolkit. If anything, it was mostly brushing Natalie’s skin with the China Doll brush.
What I typically do much more of is some very minor basic adjustments. As many of you know who have been readers of the site for a while, I prefer to work with individual color levels–especially when it comes to editing skin. I also do the basic adjustments last and have a video explaining why.
Here, you can see the specific color adjustments I did. I really wanted to bring out the greens in the trees, yellow/orange lamps but had to find a balance to ensure that it didn’t make Natalie’s skin look too off since Lightroom registers the skin tones as orange/yellow. Interestingly, it registered her dress as black and aqua–so those needed to be adjusted accordingly to be more true to life.