Creating the Photograph: Claudia Paul’s “Red on Red”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach how they created an image with their lighting and minimal use of post-production. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching how to light. Want to be featured? Here’s how you can submit.

Photographer Claudia Paul is a German-born, New York-based creative with over ten years of experience shooting editorial and commercial work. Her “Red on Red” concept is something she’s been developing for some time. For a bit of background on Claudia, she works frequently with Non-Profits and utilizes the power of strong imagery to help create positive change in the world. She lends her self-described ‘always personal’ approach to whatever the project might be with the goal of capturing authentic visuals. Claudia also runs a hands-on production company called Doppelganger Motion which focuses mostly on storytelling for small businesses and NGOs across the globe. She also recently joined the board of American Photographic Artists’ New York Chapter and is excited to strengthen the photo community and offer members crucial tools for growth.

The Concept

I’ve been sharing a great little studio in Chelsea for a little more than 6 months now and a huge motivator to invest in it was that I would be able to do more test shoots, experimenting with lighting and so on. It’s been really fun to have a home base and not have to worry about renting a studio for a few hours or by the day. I came across Heini (our model) on Instagram and loved her overall look, style and energy. Since I am primarily a portrait shooter, I always look for more than just perfect beauty. Heini had been interested in shooting with me for a while so I started to build a concept around her look. My goal for the day was not to walk away with a cohesive series, but to experiment with different lighting setups and ideas I had been wanting to shoot for a while. The Red on Red concept has been in my head for a while. I think it’s a bold color to start with and I see Heini as a beautiful and strong female, so I wanted to put her into a power suit rather than a gorgeous dress. I loved the contrast her bleach blonde hair and fair skin created versus the red seamless. Bringing in the white stool gave her some more angles/poses to play with and it added a fun element to the shot. As far as lighting, I have been a big fan of my Westcott Rapid Box Octa XXL lately. I used it at about a 45 degree angle, camera right but feathered it away from the model. I put up 2 white V-flats on the opposite side to bounce light back into her shadow side. This gave me a beautiful soft but still directional light.

Gear Used

  • Canon 5D Mk IV
  • Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art
  • Profoto D1 1000W
  • Westcott Rapid Box Octa XXL (feathered)
  • 2x V-Flats (white side to fill)
  • Exposure: 1/160th – f8 – ISO 100
  • Tethered shooting

The Shoot

Once I had an idea of the different looks I wanted to shoot, I started assembling a crew and creating mood boards to share the vision with them. We had a bit of an emergency the night before the shoot when my original Makeup Artist had to cancel because of a family emergency. The whole team scrambled to find a new MU artist and thankfully we succeeded in the end. It’s not always smooth sailing when doing test shoots since they are mostly unpaid and crew members sometimes get paid work that they have to take or emergencies happen…On the day of the shoot we followed my shot list which I discussed with the Makeup artist and hair stylist to make sure that the order made sense for what we wanted to create. We decided to start with more natural hair and MU and build it up to a more dramatic look towards the end. My stylist was able to source some great outfits and tons of amazing accessories. Even though I had pretty specific looks in mind, I wanted to make sure that the test was a very collaborative process between the whole team and that we would all be happy with the outcome. I had an amazing team and the energy all day was super positive and upbeat.

Post Production

In my day to day work I am comfortable doing most of my own retouching, but I don’t usually do specific fashion/beauty retouching. I wanted to make sure the results would be exactly how I envisioned them so I chose to have my retoucher work on these. She already knows that my aesthetic is fairly minimal when it comes to retouching, so I just gave her a few specific pointers for each image from the shoot. The Red on Red image didn’t need a lot of cleaning up, we added some contrast and punch to the image and retouched the seamless a bit. I also wanted her to match the background red a bit closer to the red of the suit.

Before and After