OK, it was really “Fashion Shoot” Wednesday. Last Wednesday, in between my taping a “Another Day with Jay Maisel” on Tuesday in New York City, and my presentations on Thursday at the Photo Plus Expo. Since I had this day in-between, I set up a fashion shoot as one of the projects for my upcoming book, “Photoshop CS5 Professional Portrait Retouching.”

I’ve been shooting a lot of portraits for the past couple of months, because I wanted all fresh, new images for the book, and even though we have an in-house studio, I’ve always wanted to do a fashion shoot in New York, and do it right—-using a professional fashion stylist to coordinate the look, and finding really great hair and make-up artists, along with New York fashion models who would take the whole shoot up a notch.

I started my search with the fashion stylist, and after looking at dozens of different NYC stylists, I fell in love with the work of Sophia Batson (link). She’s only been in New York a couple of years now, after working in London and Milan, and she was absolutely marvelous to work with and lots of fun on the set (that’s Sophia and I above, with Gemmy, one of our two models for the day mugging behind us on the set). Sophia picked out all the clothes, brought all the accessories, worked with the agency to arrange the models, and basically left me completely free to just focus on the photography. Sophia is truly awesome!!!!

We found a great rental studio called “Two Stops Brighter” (link) that was coincidentally owned by a NAPP member, and it worked out great. He had loads of stands, v-flats, fans, reflectors, so all we had to ship up there were my Elinchrom strobes and a few soft boxes.

Brad and I got to the studio 30-minutes before the call time for the models, hair, and makeup team to arrive to get things set-up, and in no time at all, we were set-up and ready to shoot. It helped that I wanted to keep the lighting very simple, and most of the day, I used just one Elinchrom BRXI studio strobe with either a 53” Midi Octa or an Elinchrom beauty dish. If we used a second light, it was either with a small softbox as a fill from below, or just to light the white seamless background, though we left it off most of the day so we’d get a light gray background instead.

While the models were in hair and make-up, I had some time to kill, so I created a fake set-up to use as the opening slide for my presentation at the Elinchrom booth the following day. Before we set up the white seamless, I moved a bunch of lights into position on the set, leaving a big space in the middle where I wanted to add some text (as seen above). I turned on the modeling lights, then I stood back and took the shot you see above with just the ambient light in the room (I had to set the ISO to 1,600 to get a high enough shutter speed for a sharp hand-held photo. This is a daylight studio, and normally there would be a flood of light coming in, but it was a gray, overcast, rainy day outside). You can see the image, with the text added (using a simple text layout technique I taught in my class at Photoshop World on Designing with Type), by clicking here.

I had sent Sophia sample images of the look I wanted to achieve, and we talked quite a bit before the shoot, so once we were on the set, she took over working with the hair and make-up team (that’s our hair stylist Linh Nguyen on the left, and our Make Up Artist Cassandra Renee on the right), so all I had to worry about was the photography and the lighting. Lihn & Cassandra were incredible—both incredibly talented and very hard working and focused the whole day.

There’s a big advantage to having separate hair and make-up artists, because you can keep the shoot moving quickly all day, because while you’re shooting with one model, the other can be in either hair or make-up, so at least one model is always ready to shoot.

The first model out of make-up was Gemmy, who is shown at the very top of this post, and the image of her you see up there is the exact image I used in my Wacom retouching class at Photo Expo the next day (that’s me during the retouching class above, in Wacom’s booth. Photo by Adam Rohrmann).

In the class, I showed the entire retouch—starting with the raw image out of my camera, to the image you see above. It’s not the final retouch I would do (it’s hard doing a detailed retouch in front of an audience, with a tight time limit), but I still thought it would be cool to share it with you so you guys would get a chance to see what I did in that class.

There is one additional retouch I did to the image you see at the top that I didn’t do in the class, and that was remove a few stray hairs in the front that I told the class would need to be cloned out, but I didn’t want to make them sit through any more of that process than I had already made them sit though.

(Above: Here’s a Grid from the first shoot of the day (click on it for a larger view). These are completely unretouched photos, raw straight out of the camera—-I just made a screen capture of them in Lightroom 3). For the image at the top, I just converted it to black and white after the retouching to finish it off.

Here’s a behind the scenes production shot (photo by Brad Moore), which shows the simple lighting set-up I used. Just a beauty dish up top, and a small 24″ softbox on bottom. Both lights are inexpensive 500 watt Elinchrom BXRI’s. I’m shooting tethered directly into Lightroom 3, and I’m using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at f/11. The strobe on top (the one with the beauty dish attached), is powered down as low as it will go. By the way: the beauty dish attachment runs around $150. Worth every penny.

(Above: I know the totally blown-out skin look is really popular right now, so I shot one group of shots with the washed out look you see above, which I actually thinks looks pretty cool. Even cooler when you convert them to black and white, or just really desaturate them, but the ones you see here are just straight out of the camera. Afterward, I turned the power back down, and shot with a more normal exposure for the grid of images you saw earlier).

OK, onto the rest of the shoot:

We did seven different looks during the day, and I shot three styles for each look; (1) Head Shots, (2) 3/4 and (3) Full Length. The softbox and sometimes even light-stands got in the frame (as seen above), but I knew I could easily clone them out later. I did a two-minute retouch after the production shot below to give you an idea of what they’d look like once that stuff is cloned out.

(Above): Here’s a production shot (by Brad) of the simple lighting set-up used. Just one strobe, off to the left, with a 53″ Midi Octa softbox. My camera’s in Manual Mode, f/11 at 1/125 of a second.

(Above: Literally a two-minute retouch just to show you what the image will look like with the softbox and light stands cloned out. It still needs a lot of work, but you get the idea. Also, to make full length shots look right, with this perspective, you literally have to get way back from your subject and lie on the floor).


(Above: Dani, our 2nd model for the day, had a totally different look. Although we had been shooting full length and 3/4, I had Brad hand me a 24-70mm f.2/8 lens, and I set it wide to 24mm and got down really low on the floor for this much different style. Although you can see the ceiling, and mounts for the seamless, and the V-flats all in the shot, I’m going to leave them in the final images).

(Above: Here’s a few more shots of Dani, with me trying out different lighting and looks. First the headshots, then a full length, then some more 24mm wide angle, low angle shots, and then finally a dramatic silhouette type of shot).

(Above: Here’s the lighting set-up. Two lights–one with a beauty dish up top, and the 2nd down lower lighting her legs for the full length shots. To get lots of balanced light, we put up two V-flats (giant 4′ x 8′ reflector boards you buy from your local sign shop) on either side of her to bounce all that light back onto her for a even distribution of light. You don’t need V-flats to do this–you could use just two really tall white reflectors.

(Above: Here’s one of the totally un-retouched shots, and you can see the lighting gear and V-flats and all in the shot).

(Above: Here’s the three-minute retouch just to get rid of the lighting gear, and some minor retouching to the subject. It obviously needs a lot of work, but at least you can see what it will look like without all the lighting gear).

(Above: here’s another un-retouched grid, straight out of the camera).

(Above: Here’s another production shot. Photo by Brad Moore).

The whole shoot reiterated to me once again how important having a top notch team working with you is to getting these types of looks. The lighting stuff was easy. The photography was easy (Well, except having to shooting lying on the floor a lot, which I wasn’t crazy about), but it’s all the other things that come together to make the shoot.

I want to thank Sophia for all her hard work, and for putting such a great team together in Linh and Cassandra, and Gemmy and Dani, and to Brad Moore and Kathy Siler for helping me coordinate everything on pretty short notice, and thanks to you guys for letting me share the day with you here on the blog.

My Photoshop CS5 Professional Portrait Retouching book will out after the first of the year, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com, or wherever you buy your books online.

P.S. Did I mention that I shot up to South Bend, Indiana to shoot the Notre Dame vs. Tulsa game on Saturday? Check back tomorrow for some shots from the sidelines.