In this post I’ll cover the concept and preparation of the portrait of Clara, a Jazz/Burlesque singer and dancer shot at my home studio.
The styling of the shoot is centred around two looks: on the first look we would prominently feature one of Clara’s dancing dresses, a gorgeous golden colour design which I knew would sparkle and look great on a moody shot. The second look features a beautiful headpiece created by La Gliterati, which gives us a bit of a theatrical touch. I was joined on set by Anna María Rivera doing her usual magic on hair and designing a palette of make-up in neutral and gold tones which would complement the looks.
Because we were working in a small space, I decided to keep the background of the image relatively simple by using one of my hand-painted backdrops, which is surrounded by some dark cloths that would break up the edges. Motivated by the golden tones of the dress I decided to surround the model with some accent lighting coming from large lightbulbs, as I was hoping they would give touches of warm to the face and by reflecting off the dress. Choosing LED lighting was important here, since these give off much less heat and are thus not uncomfortable to be around for extended periods of time. The warm palette is then balanced off by a main light source which is gelled and shifted towards the blue tones, cooling down the shadows.
For my camera, I chose to honour the vintage vibes by using my large format film camera, that you can see below. This is a beautiful vintage piece of gear which requires methodical handling and careful work, but produces huge, truly beautiful negatives, full of tones and detail. My film stock of choice would be Kodak Portra 160 for the colour images, and Ilford FP4 for the black for a stark g0ddess-like black and white shots.
We ended up producing a series of images around the two main looks, alternating between the classic and sometimes even dreamer warm hues of the colour shots, and the strength, simplicity and purity of the black and white images. Using a large format camera also allows careful direction of the eye by sometimes modifying the plane of focus to leave just the upper part of the image in complete sharpness.
Below there’s a tiny sneak-peak video which gives an idea of what it is like to work with this kind of setup: the funny thing is that the image of the subject gets projected onto the ground glass upside-down, and left-to-right, and it needs to be focus adjusted by placing a loupe onto the glass whilst at the same time trying to give coherent directions to the model by flipping every movement in your head.
Hard work, but it pays off!