Lighting Fashion in New York City, Part 1

Well, football season is over (at least for me, anyway), so it’s time to move on to other shoots. This weekend I was up in New York City speaking at an event Friday evening (more on that tomorrow), but while I was up there, I managed to fit in a fashion shoot on Saturday morning at Sandbox Studio in SoHo.

I was lucky enough to work with the same creative team I did for my last shoot up in NYC (link) and the shoot was coordinated by the coolest Fashion Stylist ever—the wonderful Sophia Batson (link). She coordinated and styled all the outfits, and I got to work once again with Sophia’s hand picked hair and make-up artists: Linh Nguyen and Cassandra Renee (they rock!).

With Sophia’s help, we arranged two fantastic models (Megan [Seen above] and Tanja) through a New York City agency, and before you knew it, Brad Moore and I were getting the studio ready for our 10:00 am call time. (Note: in the photo at the top of the page, L to R that’s Susan (helping out on the set); Lihn, Megan, Sophia, and Cassandra).

(Above: Here’s the lighting set-up for the shot up top [production photo by Brad Moore]. That’s a 500 watt Elinchrom BXRI strobe right above her, with a 17″ Beauty Dish attachment on it, with a diffusion sock in front on it to soften the look a bit. Below and in front of her is just a reflector—–the other light isn’t actually turned on—I’m just using it as a makeshift reflector stand. I tried the shot with the bottom strobe turned on, but even powered down as low as it would go, I felt it was too bright, so I turned off the strobe, and instead just laid a silver reflector on top of it like you see here.

There is a second strobe on the floor behind my laptop lighting the white cove background. I’m shooting tethered directly into Lightroom 3. Here’s a link for details on the tripod accessory arm I’m using to hold my ballhead and my laptop. Here’s the link to the laptop stand itself. The tripod they’re mounted on is the new Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa Carbon Fiber tripod (link) and this was my first time trying it out (a full review coming soon). Incredibly well made tripod—sturdy as anything, and 100% made in the USA no less).

(Above: some unretouched frames from that set, shown in Lightroom’s Grid View)

Sandbox Studio also is a daylight studio, so I wanted to opportunity to try some natural daylight stuff while I was there, but you can also limit the light for shooting with strobes which is primarily what we did.

Above: Brad shot the short video tour of the studio with his iPhone (we had Pandora radio playing in the background), which gives you a better look at where we were shooting (plus, it includes a gratuitous shot of me texting before the shoot). Very cool place, really helpful staff (and five different studios available for rent).

(Above: Here’s a beauty-style shot of Tanja [originally from Serbia, and has a thick accent, but raised in Wisconsin. Probably a Packers fan, but she kept it well hidden so I didn’t kick her off the set. Kidding.]. I like this shot because it shows off Cassandra’s beautiful makeup job.

We used the same lighting set-up as the first image, but Brad got a great perspective of the lighting set-up with this production shot, so I wanted to share it with you. The reason the Beauty Dish light looks orange is because what you’re seeing is the Modeling Light only—not the actual flash from the strobe.

(Above: some unretouched frames from that set, shown in Lightroom’s Grid View)

Over the three hours of shooting, we did six “looks” with different outfits, hair, and make-up, and Sophia coordinated everything so all Brad and I had to do was focus on the lighting and the shooting.

I’ll share some of the other looks and production photos tomorrow in Part 2. See you then.

  1. Glad to see you booked Megan, I shot a fashion story, and ad campaign as well as some beauty work with her here in New Mexico before she headed up to NY. One of the sweetest personalities one can ask for and also focuses hard on getting the shot. I’m sure she was a delight to have on your set and anyone can see by your shots that she takes beautiful pictures. It was fun to read this post, good on ya dude.

  2. Hi Scott,

    When you rent a studio like this, what does it come with? Seamless? Lights/stands? Other? How much stuff did you take with you?

    How much time did you reserve the studio for?

    I will be watching for part 2!

    1. Hi Craig:
      It usually comes with tons of Light Stands (C-stands), and at least a few choices of Seamless. Also they come with V-Flats, usually a high-powered fan, and lots of grip type stuff.

      Most studios won’t rent a half-day (at least not in NYC), so you pretty much have to take it for the day.


    2. Hey Craig – It does vary from studio to studio as to what they’ll include in the daily rental rate. As Scott said, we’ve had good luck finding studios that include most of that equipment, but there are places that charge rental fees for grip gear. A lot of studios also have lights and modifiers available to rent, but those are rarely included in the studio rental fee.

      We used our own lighting gear (Elinchrom lights and modifiers) since that was easy enough to ship, then used their grip gear (light stands, v-flats, sandbags, etc) since it was included.

    1. Hi Arnab:
      The Beauty Dish was on or near its lowest power setting. It’s so close to the subject that putting it up any higher would be way too much light.

      I shot the 70-200mm f/2.8 the entire shoot.


  3. Hi Scott!
    Are you using a deflector on that beautydish behind the “sock”? Looks like it in the behind-the-scenes-shot, but i´m not sure.

    Another question, do you use the glascover (Pyrex Dome) on your strobeheads when your out in the field? I got a couple of Ranger A-heads and the other day when i checked in on them in my garage one of the flashtubes was broken. And well they´re not exactly cheap, so i´m thinking of buying that glascover to see if it helps me get my flashtubes more protected.
    I googled it and found out that it isn´t possible to use different accessories with the Pyrex Dome on, to bad.

    1. Hi Patrik:
      We use the round screw-in, silver deflector/reflector that comes with the beauty dish, which is positioned maybe four or five inches directly in front of the strobe. The light hits that round disc and shoots back into the bowl of the dish and then out toward your subject.

      When we ship our strobes, we just put a plastic dome over them, and so far (knock on wood) we haven’t had any broken lamps.


  4. Heya Scott

    Great how you have shown behind the scene shots. Going with Amandalynn; it’s always nice to see the environment that photographers work in.

    Loving the overall look of the shots you have posted. Simple yet effective.

    Waiting on part2 now!! :)

  5. Nice post, Scott! Good to see that you’ve discovered other things to shoot besides football players. These models look much better and I’m sure they smell better! :D Plus I’m sure these models don’t run into you while you’re trying to make the shot!

    I just finished your Photo Recipes Live Part 2, and this seemed like a natural extension of that book/dvd, even down to the beauty dish use.

    Can’t wait for Part 2 of this post!


      1. Not surprised….you did mention she might be a Packers fan. I guess this just confirms it. Hope Brad had plenty of gaffer tape to put the tripod back together.


      2. Yea, I bet that was set up, the model diving into the tripod and breaking it, who ever heard of that. I heard about this photographer at the playoffs who………..:)

  6. I like the image of Tanja with her eyes closed. The light on her face is very nice indeed. I seem to be drawn to the shadow of her collar falling on her neck _above_ the collar. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the light. Thoughts?

  7. Hey Scott,

    Quick question. Whenever I attach a beauty dish to my elinchrom strobe on a boom, the head moves because of the weight of the dish. How did you manage to keep the dish and strobe from slipping? Were you using a special mount on the elinchrom head?

    1. Hi Sam:
      I’ll let Brad answer this one, but I don’t believe we’ve had a problem with this. Our dish is the smaller 17″ model and it’s pretty lightweight (less than a softbox), so I don’t think it’s been an issue, but I’ll ask Brad to respond.


    2. Hey Sam – Like Scott mentioned, ours is the smaller beauty dish, so we generally don’t have that problem when we use it. But I have encountered that with heavier softboxes. I just tighten everything down as tight as I can possibly get it. If that doesn’t work, you might try securing it with gaffers tape where the head attaches to the boom. Just make sure the model isn’t standing underneath until you know everything is secure ;)

      1. Hi Brad/Scott:

        I was wondering if you have managed to find a reasonably priced grid for the Elinchrome Beauty Dishes. I’m pretty sure Elinchrome doesn’t make grids for the beauty dishes. It’s pretty much the only thing stopping me from jumping to a full BXRI kit from my current alienbees. :)


  8. Scott…you said you were only using one strobe to light the cove background. Any issues with the positioning of that? When I have tried it, it seems that I get uneven dispersal of the light and some shadowing. Any tips?

    1. Hey Les – Ditto Scott on using two strobes to light the cove. As far as positioning goes, I point the lights to the opposite side of the background (so the left strobe is pointed to the right side and vice versa), which helps the lighting to be even. When we wanted a gray background, if it wasn’t a dark enough gray with the lights on the lowest setting, I would move them further away from the cove until we had what we wanted. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Scott,
    Any chance you/Brad can include the settings on both your strobe and camera (f-stop/shutter speed/iso)? I have a similar setup with a 500 Bxri but think the light is still too hot – so I’m curious how you were able to limit it at this close distance.

    1. Hi Chris: I shot in Manual mode all day: 1/125 of a second at f/11 for the beauty dish shots (I just checked to be sure). The power on the BXRI was as low as it would go.

      Hope that helps. :)


    2. Yep, cranking up the f-stop and lowering your ISO is your best bet for controlling the hotness of the lights without moving them further away. There are also BXRi 250 and Style RX 300 strobes that have lower outputs if you find you have a regular need for less light.

  10. Very cool Scott, now I may suck at sports photography (tried shooting some motor cross practice runs this weekend, think I got one in focus) but I do ok at fashion and beauty. Maybe I’m twisted but I just rather shoot models than big scary guys in spandex ;)

  11. That RRS RVC-33 really is a great tripod. I was debating that or a Gitzo until last Photoshop World when I found them on the Expo floor. Seeing both products side by side pushed me over the edge to get the RRS tripod. It’s not cheap, but neither is anything else in photography (outside of Larry’s blog).

      1. O….M…..G……
        Why does Matt keep that issue of Photoshop User magazine under the desk on PSU TV that he always shows? What other shenanigans are going on at Kelby Media? We might have to have an I-Team investigation on the local news! :D


  12. really? Football season is over for you? I seriously thought you’d be there at the Superbowl screaming at Aaron about monopods and snappin’ away! (the monopod experience was one of my fav blogs of yours…glad you lived!)

  13. Scott –

    In your books I always got the impression that you were a pro DNG type of guy. Yet it seems every time I see a screen shot from lightroom, I’m always seeing the .NEF. Is this because of shooting tethered? Are they later converted to DNG?

  14. Scott,

    Loving this series of images Scott.
    The crispness of the white clothing and the makeup work wonderfully with your photography to make a stunning collection of photographs; thanks for sharing.

    Looking forward to seeing the follow up post.

    1. Hi Sarah:
      We do aim one or two strobes at the background wall, even though it’s solid white. If you don’t light it, it looks dark gray. If you keep the power down low, it goes to light gray. Turn the power way up, and you get a solid white background. :)


  15. Great shots ! The work on the hair and make-up is amazing ! The lighting is flawless, I love it ! :D

    Any hint on the pricing of this studio ? A lot of pictures and nice stuff on the website but no pricing list… :(

      1. That was really a great answer..Maybe if you could get your fat head out of the clouds and realize that there are people in this world that would like to know these things so maybe it could be a goal to shoot for. Not all of us have unlimited bank accounts or backers to finance our every move. But we are human beings that would just like some honest answers even if we have shallow pockets.

      2. Gee, Jim, why all the anger? If I had known my remark would get you so upset, I would have put two smileys after my comment. BTW, I didn’t ask, because I can’t afford it either.

        Have a great day! :D :D

        –John “Fat Head” Swarce

    1. Hi Simon:
      Studios in Manhattan are more expensive than in most cities (or course everything is more expensive in Manhattan. We went to park our rental car to grab a sandwich, and they wanted $45 for an hour of parking. Needless to say, I didn’t park there).

      You usually pay between $800 and $1,200 per 10-hour day for studio rental in New York, but you also can pay A LOT more (it’s usually based on the square footage of the rental space). Our budgets are really tight for shoots like this, but I imagine for some of the shoots that happen in New York daily, these prices would be laughably low.

      Hope that helps. :)


    2. To Simon:
      One more thing: I hate it when studios don’t publish their rates, because usually I figure if they don’t publish a rate, they’re way out of my league. That might not be the case, but we’ll never know, because we generally don’t call them.

      Also, if you’re real flexible and can do your rental at off-hours, or wait until someone cancels at the last minute, in which case you have to be ready to do with just a few hours notice, sometimes you can really save a bundle.


      1. Thanks Scott !

        John was right, I can’t afford this kind of luxury… And I thought the big 350 $ studio in downtown Montreal I dream of was expensive… Jeez !

  16. Scott,

    Just a quick question, I use a very similar setup for my shots, any particular reason you used a silver reflector as opposed to a white one?

    I’ve been using the profoto dish without a sock on it, and I don’t like it for the beauty shots, though I don’t have a sock to put over the current dish, would you recommend it?

    Cheers and thanks for sharing!
    Christopher String

  17. Scott, I have always wanted to know how the white wall that is pictured above is created. It goes from the ceiling, to the back to the floor all in a seamless bend. Is it sheet rock, Formica, or something else? I am tired if the paper rolls in my studio and would like to make one.

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