I recently had the pleasure of shooting some fashion/editorial shots with Mary Catherine. You may remember her as the Miss DC contestant looking in the mirror in my Miss DC write-up. She was a joy to work with, and we talked about going out and get some head shots and fun fashion style pics. I told her that I was shooting the Black Keys at the Verizon center, however I get kicked out after the third song and we could meet up after that. I don’t mind when it gives me time to do stuff like this! All of these photos were shot with available light from street lights, electronic billboards, etc. We didn’t use a flash. Keep reading for more.
Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO:320, Lens: 50mm
Recently I stumbled on this photo, and I found the eyes to be so piercing, that it stuck with me long after I closed the window. I felt like the photo had poked me. I want to poke viewers with my photos in the same way. So I’m trying to figure out how to capture the eyes, and the look they give. I think I need some studio lighting, the ambient’s not going to cut it in this scenario. For most of these shots we were standing under a large video billboard. We’d get our framing set up, and then wait for the mostly white screen to cycle in, and I’d snap away. I was manually exposed for this shot, so when the billboard flipped to darker light, nothing would come out. I like the focus here on the eyes, I like this shot and the bokeh in the background (especially the amber colors), but it doesn’t quite nab me in the same way the green eyed girl does. I still really like this shot. One thing that helps the eyes stand out is shooting at an aperture of f/1.4. The eyes are perfectly in focus, but the rest is slightly off, drawing the viewers’ eyes back where I want them.
Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 320, Lens: 50mm
Speaking of eyes, Mary Catherine has great eyes, but she also has a winning smile, and I love how this photo takes me right back to the moment I snapped it. She knew what she was doing with her perfectly-cultivated pageant smile, but I wanted to try and illicit something a bit natural for a few shots. I tried to catch her off guard with something dumb, and I think I totally got it. I am even luckier that it lined up with the lighting from the billboard.
Shutter: 1/80, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 500, Lens: 70-200mm
This happy accident turned out to be one of my favorite shots too. The only thing is that you can’t see Mary Catherine’s face, and that was the whole point of the shoot. But, it doesn’t hurt to get some fine art while you’re at it. I love that I happened to catch the clarity in her hair. Otherwise it would blend with the blurry surroundings and just be a great timing/poor exposure shot. I also wanted to accentuate the mood of a moment-in-time, give it a street photography flair. So I made it black & white and cropped it square. Never make a photo black & white just to make it artsier… but if it helps the viewer focus on the moment more than the scenery, by all means.
Shutter: 2.5 seconds, Aperture: ƒ/20.0, ISO: 400, Lens: 15mm fisheye
Here is an artsy shot I had in mind before we even got out there. I had to experiment with the settings a bit to match our billboard timing, as well as the timing with the traffic. It was nice to have such ample traffic so we could keep trying until we got something cool. The difficult part with doing timelapse with a still person, is that even the slightest movement can make the subject out of focus, and that can kill the shot. Sometimes it’s intentional, but for this, I wanted Mary Catherine in focus and the movement behind her. That being said, if your shutter is open too long, the human subject will move just enough to blur the shot. If you don’t open the shutter long enough, you won’t get the cool streaks you’re aiming for. It’s a balance. I broke a major rule here, and that’s you never shoot a woman with a fisheye lens. The fisheye will distort in weird and subtle ways, and rarely does it come out the way you envision it. Never would it come out better than you wish it to. I got lucky, and this isn’t horrible. I got the look I wanted for the whole scene, and Mary Catherine looks good, but this would not help out her modeling portfolio as much as the headshots would. I like how there are people out of focus on the peripheral, as well as the light streaks from the bus going through the intersection.
Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 1600, Lens: 50mm
Another little gimmick is the custom bokeh filter. Here I have a heart cut-out in front of the lens, and it changes the shape of all the bokeh in the background. It’s a cool subtle trick you can do to give the image a little personality. I like this gimmick over a fake Insta-filter done on your phone. This shot was actually taken last, as we were getting ready to part ways. I said “wait! I almost forgot my little filter” and I popped off this shot, and this is one of the favorites from my facebook friends. Funny how that happens.
Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 500, Lens: 50
This was another spontaneous shot taken in between planned shots. I love the motion in her hair, and her posture. I caught a good smile and lighting all at the same time too. My buddy Paul was in the opposite crosswalk shooting with a zoom lens, and it was my job to watch the crosswalk counter, to make sure we were safe. A shallow dept of field isn’t quite necessary to make this shot work, but in this case, it sure helps. I don’t want the viewer distracted by the commercial establishment behind her, and this is a great way to bring the focus back to the subject.
Shutter: 1/30, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 500, Lens: 70-200mm
Here’s a similar shot to what Paul was going for. I was about 2-3 car lengths back. I slowed the shutter to get some blur while people moved around her in the crosswalk. It’s an interesting shot, but I can feel the distance from the subject. I much prefer the shots where I’m closer, and more connected with her.
I did want to say that this intersection was incredibly busy, even at this time of night, and while we were shooting (two photogs, one model, one tripod, but no pro-lighting) we were subject to constant remarks and cat calls. Some people stopped and took photos with their phone (maybe they thought she was famous?) But the comments got pretty outrageous. Mary Catherine rolled with the vulgarity and didn’t let it get to her, but I found it to be inconsiderate, as well as distracting. So much so I’ll aim for less crowded locales in the future.
We had a great time with Mary Catherine, and I hope to have more photos of her in the future.