How to create a winter picture in a hot studio

January 30, 2014   6491 views

photography, conversion gels, snow, lighting studio setup

The idea for this image came to me at the beginning of winter. I wanted to make an interesting photograph, in which the model would portray winter: cold, prickly, sometimes cruel, but so beautiful. Having already worked a lot with this model and knowing she had a great ability to act for the camera I decided to add in three things which would help me to complete my idea properly: an unusual make-up style, cold conversion filters and fake snow.

The first component was perfectly realized by makeup artist Valery Kutsan. I should mention that the makeup for the previous photo we shot with this model, a warm toned picture, was very brutal with a lot of black eye shadow. When preparing afterwards for the winter picture we immediately decided that we would not remove this dramatic makeup but instead use it as a kind of basis for all subsequent "layers". Therefore the white eye shadow, mascara on the eyelashes and bright, almost white lipstick with light toning on the face didn't turn her into an albino, but instead gave me an even more dramatic and aggressive makeup effect.

Then my work began and I decided to apply the following lighting setup: apart from the neutral key light I fitted all of my light sources with cold conversion filters 201 (FULL CT BLUE). I used these to create a "cold" atmosphere around the model.

As a key light I used the beauty dish with a honeycomb grid. I used the grid as firstly I wanted to make a small gradient at the edges of the lighting spot, and secondly as the picture was being created in a small studio I didn't want this key light to spill onto the background. As I've written previously in my articles on portrait photography I always try not to illuminate the background with my key light, preferring instead to use an additional background light. But sometimes when you take pictures in a small studio and cannot have a large distance between the model and background you have to use a honeycomb grid to avoid spill from the key light reaching the background.

After that, I put a silver reflector below the models face and directed onto it another lighting unit with standard reflector fitted with a honeycomb grid and covered with a cold 201 (FULL CT BLUE) filter. Using this technique the very narrow spot of light produced by the gridded light works only on the silver reflector's surface and allows you to control it. This silver reflector acts here as a fill light and produces cold, blue shadows colored by the filter used on this lighting unit.

Next, the background lighting. I remembered about using snow in the picture and decided I didn't want a flat looking background but instead one that would look a little spotty and dappled. The idea behind this is that together with the snow it would add volume to the picture. Small patches of bright snow imposed on large spots of light on the background gives the illusion of a large amount of snow around the model, as if a blizzard shrouds the picture. For such a style of lighting flags with holes would work, these are very easy to make from a black foil, but I decided to use the already proven way - a reflection from a piece of glossy foil. Changing the hardness of the light, we can adjust the size and shape of the lighting spots on the background. I also used on this background light a cold conversion filter 201 (FULL CT BLUE).

To "connect" these two spaces (model and background), I put two softboxes behind the model, one on each side of her, which were again covered with cold 201 filters. These gave a great highlight line on each side of her face and helped highlight her hair, but most importantly they gave a cold tint to the snow as you can see in the picture.

Then two assistants stood on both sides of the frame and on my command threw a portion of fake snow, creating a little snowstorm around the model. They tried to scatter this snow from a distance, so that the snow looked voluminous. Most of the snow falls behind the depth of field and with barely noticeable cold spots on the background creates good volume for the picture.

To finish the picture great posing from the model artfully brought to life my idea of showing cold, snowy and so beautiful winter.

photography, conversion gels, snow, lighting studio setup

Image data:
Camera : Hasselblad H3DII
Lens : Hasselblad f4 210mm
Aperture : f/5.6
Exposure: 1/ 250 second
ISO: 100