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Makeup Inspiration Challenges

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Makeup Inspiration Challenges

Over the past two weeks my friend and amazing makeup artist Matt Goodlett, MattGoodlettMakeup.com, has taken part in makeup inspiration challenges issued by another local makeup artist. I've worked with Matt on several occasions and regardless if it's SFX, beauty, or anything else there's never been a time when he hasn't absolutely nailed the look for the photo. So when he asked me to photograph the makeup for these two challenges I quickly accepted as I knew he would kill whatever look he was going for. But even after having worked with him multiple times before and seeing him work on other ideas it's still incredible to see how quickly and skillfully he draws from a source photo and creates something beautiful. 

Mandarin Duck Challenge

Matt did a great write up of this challenge on his site here that I suggest you check out. Photographing this one was fairly straight forward, Matt knew how he wanted the photograph to look and I knew how to get that look. This was more or less a simple clam shell lighting setup with a gridded beauty dish as key and a silver reflector for fill. Using a gridded light with a reflector can be tricky but it does create a beautiful light when done correctly. If I had to do this one again I would probably try an even tighter grid on the beauty dish for an even more directional light. The beautiful Kaylynn Nyree was our model here who I suspect you'll probably see doing big things soon. 

Drawing Restraints Challenge

This challenge, to me, seemed a bit more complicated. No colors, no defined shapes, white background, and a ton of possible interpretations. Going into this shoot I wasn't quite sure what Matt had planned. I thought we might go with a high-key look but after seeing the makeup Matt was doing I knew that wouldn't quite work. So white was out but I also wanted to avoid a pure black background as well. With the makeup as dark as it was I was worried that the model would get lost in so much blackness. Luckily the room we were shooting in provided a solution. Behind the model was white shelving which, when tilting the key light up slightly, is barely discernible but enough so as to help separate the model from the background. 

Lighting this was a bit more complicated as I wanted to, of course, not only highlight the work Matt had done but help bring out it's character. For the face, a 24"x24" softbox provides soft, beautiful light but it's a small source so it quickly gives way to the harsher rim lighting from the 10"x36" stripboxes behind the model. This contrast between the softer and harsher light matches the contrast between the the chaotic nature of the body makeup and the more controlled beauty makeup on the face. Our model, Bec E. Bien, nailed the looks and helped create one of my new favorite photos. 

I love being a part of these challenges and seeing Matt's interpretations of the inspirational photo as well as all the other makeup artists who participate in these challenges. Their approaches to the same subject are all different yet equally creative and well done. Be sure to check out more of Matt Goodlett's work at his website MattGoodlettMakeup.com and pop over to my Conceptual gallery to see more work we've done together.  

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London Colors

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London Colors

Continuing my experimentation with gels, I recently did a shoot with the wonderful London Amore. Still have a lot in store for using gels so stay tuned.

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Making a Scene

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Making a Scene

At the beginning of April I had the opportunity to sit in a three day class by Joe McNally about photography. I'll talk more about that in another post but one of the biggest take aways I had was how to approach lighting a scene. One bad habit I had gotten into was setting up all my lights at the beginning, putting my subject in the frame, and trying to adjust the lights together to create the scene I wanted.  And while this can work in some scenarios it doesn't work well when there's multiple lights, gels, different modifiers, mixed lighting, etc. To put it another way, I was throwing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle onto a table and trying to figure out why they didn't land as a completed puzzle. 

Watching Joe McNally work made me realize that this approach of mine meant I was starting each shoot as an uphill battle. Instead of putting my subject into a lighting setup I needed to build the scene around the subject, one light at at time.  I took this approach to heart, which is why below was the first picture from a shoot after Joe's class:

No lights but the window and I already have the mood and tone of the photo down. Starting here is like having the frame of the jigsaw puzzle already completed. Yes, there's still a lot of work to be done but I already know the scene in which the pieces need to exist. From here, I knew I would need a controlled light on the subject so as to light her properly but not overpower the natural light. Easy, bring in a beauty dish with a 30° grid, gelled with a single cut of CTO. Soft, beautiful light but not spilling everywhere. She also needed to be separated from the background so a gridded strip box with a double cut of CTO was put slightly behind her right shoulder. Then a lamp behind the subject to balance the composition more. The lamp was actually too powerful of a light source so it was turned off and a strobe was shot into it with a double cut of CTO as to make it appear on. 

Last step, getting the pose right and small adjustments to ISO and shutter speed so the natural light was exposed properly.

I love how the photo came out and I don't believe I would have gotten as good of a photo if I continued with my usual approach. But it is important to keep in mind that there are no absolutes in photography. Joe McNally emphasized this several times throughout the three days and it's made me realize that there's not necessarily a right or wrong way or approach. While I did enjoy using a "building" approach to this photo and it was the better approach to create this photo, it doesn't mean its the best approach to every situation. Corporate head shots, for example, usually entails setting up lighting and making tweaks as each person comes through. Ultimately, neither approach is better or worse than the other but rather different tools for different jobs.

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Matt Goodlett reached out to me last month and asked if I would be interested in shooting a body painting he was doing for a documentary. The idea he explained was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and his poem The Raven. Never passing up an opportunity to work with Matt, I quickly agreed with nervousness about the shoot. Even with his explanation I had trouble visualizing the outcome which made figuring out the lighting difficult. Lighting a body painting, like many other types of portraits, is all about brining out the best in the subject. Here's a few things I keep in mind when lighting a body painting.

  1. The body painting is just as much, if not more, the subject than the person wearing it. Lighting should compliment the painting, e.g. not put details in shadows, like it compliments the person
  2. Consider the mood. The lighting should work with the theme. In this instance, a gloomy Edgar Allan Poe body painting is probably going to look better low-key rather than hi-key
  3. The lighting should not be noticeable. The lighting should enhance, coincide, compliment, but never distract from the subject(s).

With that in mind, I created the portrait below. Matt and team did amazing work and I'm happy to have worked with so many talented people!

Makeup Artist: Matt Goodlett. MattGoodlettMakeup.com
Head Piece: Jane Danielson, Velvet Rose Vintage
Model: RN
Assistant: Tia Marie

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Sekonic Double Duty

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Sekonic Double Duty

I'm not a fan of downtown between jobs so I try to stay as busy as possible. Inevitable there's still times when I'm caught up on everything, all my e-mails and responses have been sent, all photos have been edited and delivered, and there's just nothing business related to do. It's rare, but it happens. I try to fill these times with creative or personal shoots but things come up so that's not always possible. So last week when I had a day of down time I decided to work on product photography. 

The set-up 

The set-up 

Although I have no real intentions of getting into product photography, it is good practice on lighting. Light placement, ratios, spill, power, and fall off are just as, if not more so, important on products then they are people. So the considerations made to ensure the product is lit exactly how you want are easily extrapolated to lighting a person. It's also a great way to learn how a new modifier or piece of kit works, how you can apply it to get the results you want, and then having that information to inform shoots later on.  There are differences, of course, between the two genres but my approach is not to have a deliverable to a client. Rather, its more of a way to practice with lighting that only takes up my time instead of that of a subjects as well. Plus my Sekonic l-308 complains less than most live subjects even when pulling double duty as a tool and a subject.

The results

The results

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Halloween 2016 - Team Demon Fabulous

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Halloween 2016 - Team Demon Fabulous

I wanted to do a Halloween themed shoot this year so I reached out to to the wonderful make up artist Matt Goodlett. I've worked with him before on several shoots and wanted to get his opinion on an idea I had. It wasn't so much an idea as it was a question of what would a team of makeup artists do if given free reign on a Halloween theme. Matt suggested the makeup team from Devils Attic, a local haunted house, Team Demon Fabulous. The amazing team came up with four distinct looks that I couldn't be happier with. 

In order (Model; Makeup Artist):
Victoria Nolley, Mary Proctor
Katya Estes; Matt Goodlett
Kat Rist; Lauren Bradley
Rebecca; Kelsey Pombo Eisenhut

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Pelican 1510 Case

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Pelican 1510 Case

I'm a sucker for bags, backpacks, and cases so I was the perfect target for Amazon last year when they ran on sale on Pelican cases. These cases are marketed as watertight, crushproof, and dustproof and I'm inclined to believe them without testing it myself. I went with the 1510 case which is a mid-sized case made to fit within FAA carry on regulations. Ironically, I've only flown twice in my 30 years so I'm not sure why it became so important that it fit within these regulations but I suppose I'm covered for future flights. I've used this case extensively over the year and I'm always surprised by the amount of gear I'm able to pack into it. This time around I was packing for photographing an event at a local restaurant. I knew the location but was unsure of the amount of room I would have to set up in and if outlets would be available. I still had two Alien Bees and another light stand in the car if needed but everything I ended up using fit within the case.

What should I bring? Everything? Everything!

What should I bring? Everything? Everything!

Before I unpack this, I will admit that I constantly overpack for every shoot. I'm of the mentality that it's better to have it and not need it then it is to need it and not have it. I also tend to pack redundancies for nearly every item that I think I'll need. If I'll need one speed light, I'll pack two and an extra set of batteries for each. 3860 shots per battery? I'll bring two! My blower and cleaning pen always find their way into every bag I pack and have been necessary on a shoot or two. I trust my gear and it hasn't failed me yet but I still see no reason to leave anything to chance. 

Probably should get a second Pelican case to be safe

Probably should get a second Pelican case to be safe

Unpacking shows the amount of gear I was able to pack in this case and I probably could have fit a prime lens in if I had really needed to. While I used maybe a quarter of the gear in the picture I would still bring along the same gear on a similar shoot. For me, this is as close to a perfect case as I may be able to get. If I had to make one complaint about this, it's that the case is a bit heavy. But it's a decent trade off with the level of protection the case offers, not to mention it does have luggage wheels if I need to pull it rather than carry it. 

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A Shoot with Kitty (NSFW)

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A Shoot with Kitty (NSFW)

One of the most fun parts of photography is working with new people and ideas. This is my first time working with Kitty but I reached out to her with an idea to play with mixed color lighting. Along with that we tried out double exposures in camera which taught me the importance of buying proper triggers for strobes. It was a great shoot so enjoy the photos below:

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