It took me a year to get organised for it, but I finally did my tutorial session with Allyeska Photography! Jenny agreed to lend me her studio and show me how things worked as part payment for the website and branding work that I did for her. If it isn’t obvious from my posts here recently, photography is fast becoming a major hobby of mine so it was really awesome to have someone show me some techniques and fancy lighting gear. I roped in two fantastic local cosplayers, Hannah and Megan, who I met in Sydney at a shoot several months ago and away we went.
I’ve never worked in a studio setting or had access to off-camera flashes and umbrellas etc. before, so there was definitely a bit of a learning curve. To begin, Jenny helped me set up the backdrop (a large roll of paper on a backdrop stand – we went with white) and a fairly standard lighting set up with two speedlites with umbrellas, each as high as the ceiling would allow and tilted down towards the subject(s), one on each side at ~45 degrees. We went through the differences with one light or two, different angles, different strengths etc. and eventually settled on a keylight on the right set to 1/2 strength and a fill on the left at 1/4. I ended up fiddling a bit with placement of the flashes throughout the shoot, but the setups were pretty similar through the whole thing.
Aside from lighting, the main thing I really wanted to work on was directing and posing models. Lacking both in confidence and in experience, it’s something I tend to struggle with – I’m getting more confident as I do more shoots, but I still find myself editing photos and wishing I’d noticed and pointed awkwardly placed hands, stray hairs, oddly foreshortened legs and other typical issues! Most of that comes with experience, but Jenny took me through some basic things to keep in mind – and I think I found far less shots that I wished were different from this shoot because of it.
Hannah and Megan were great models to work with – they were really patient at the times Jenny was explaining things to me, had plenty of ideas for poses and brought a really great energy to the shoot in general. Their cosplays (all handmade, of course) were gorgeous – I’m always impressed by the work and level of detail put into these things. I think I’m spoilt with cosplayers – if I had to shoot a ‘normal’ portrait where the person doesn’t just come with a costume, character to play out and experience in front of a camera I’m not sure how well I’d be able to handle it!
These are the main points I came away with:
- Shooting in a studio environment is very different to shooting on locations! So much more control over lighting, and less elements to distract from the cosplayer’s handiwork.
- A studio setup does however cost a bit to put together, needs a good amount of space to work in, and can take some to put up and pull down. Simply not feasible for me at the moment unfortunately.
- If a flash isn’t firing, check: if flashes are on; if flashes have gone into ‘standby’ mode; if everything is on the right frequency; if the little antennae thingy on the transmitter has managed to go down; batteries in everything.
- Turn off flashes whilst they’re not in use, to save battery life.
- Umbrellas give a diffused, flattering light that works for a lot of portrait type shots – without can give a more edgy look, but can also emphasise wrinkles and imperfections.
- My wide angle lens is seriously not appropriate for portraits (I borrowed Jenny’s Canon 17-55mm f2.8 lens for the shoot).
- Showing the models shots taken so far can help for confidence (for both of us!).
- Pay attention to details with posing and foreshortening as you go so there’s less wishing you could change things later.
- For ‘dynamic’ poses, it’s better to get them to actually do the action so it appears more natural.
- Props are heaps of fun! Jenny has a crazy range of costumes and props which we used a bit in the shoot, and it made for some fun ideas.
- Get the right angle for the pose and character – positioning the camera above or below or level with the subject makes a huge difference to how they’ll be perceived.
- Have fun! I probably wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t, heh.
I’m not sure when I’ll have access to cool lighting equipment and the space to actually use them again, but there was definitely plenty in there that I can now apply in the more casual locationy shoots I’m likely to be doing in future. Someday!
Big thanks goes out to Jenny of Allyeska Photography, and Megan and Hanna for being such wonderful models!