Recently I was asked to photograph a lot of garment for Swedish fashion designer and brand FrÃ¤ulein von Hast, she was planning to start a web shop and needed photos of every skirt, blouse, jacket and dress she had available.
For every item she needed at least three, but more often four different angles so the customers can view the front, back and sides of the skirt or jacket they might be interested in.
This is how I set the light, planned the day and shot 325 photos.
As I mentioned earlier, the reason for this photo shoot was to produce photos for her web shop, every item must be photographed from three different angles. The model must be on the exact same spot (almost) in every picture and the background needed to be white or very light grey.
We had neither time or money to do extensive retouching on every photo, five minutes of Photoshop on 325 photos adds up to almost a whole week. So we planned the work flow to consist of only the studio part and rely on Lightroom to do the post processing for us.
Every photo had the same adjustments applied, and as soon as we very happy with the results from a few test photos, one click on the “Export”-button was enough.
To be sure that the settings I applied in Lightroom would work on every item, I took some samples from very white dresses, very black dresses and some colourful ones. Together with test shots and a grey card, the white balance stayed the same in every photo.
The studio lighting setup
I didn’t feel the need for a completely white background, as long as every photo has the same light background tone and shadows. Personally, I think that a light grey background works better in displaying everything from white to black than a blown out white one.
Four lights and some light modifiers
My idea with the studio lighting was to set a light that was big enough to cover the model and her clothing, without making the images seem too flat. Adding a little contrast and shadows makes it easier to understand how the garments will fit without hiding too much detail.
The key/main light is actually two flash heads with different light modifiers. The Profoto Softbox Octa (5 foot/150 cm) from camera right creates a soft light for the whole scene, including the background.
The Profoto White Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) camera right also, but a little higher up, adds a bit of contrast and shadows.
I tried this setup earlier and liked the results, you can see it here together with some examples; Lighting setup for fashion dad & daughter
To avoid making the model’s right side too dark, I used the third light (Profoto Compact 300) as fill, the easiest way in my small photo studio was to point it toward a corner of the room and let the white walls act as a V-card or book end.
On the Profoto Compact I used a standard reflector and placed a black piece of cardboard to shield the camera and lens from flare. By adjusting the height of the light it is easy to control the direction the fill light comes from, but the main point is just to add a little more light in the room. For more control over the the fill, some sort of light modifier is probably better, as well as pointing it toward the model, not the other way.
To create some sort of separation from the light grey background, I used the last of the four flash heads from behind in a Strip Softbox (1’x6’/30×180 cm) together with a soft grid to control the light beam and spill a little.
Pointed toward the back of the model, slightly upwards a bit to avoid creating a light pattern on the floor, the effect is maybe most visible in her face. In the photos where she is turned left or right, it helps by adding a strip of light.
My photo studio is very small as you might see in the photos, and wanting to define her body and clothing with a darker edge camera left I had to reduce the reflections from the white wall.
The easiest solution was to place two stands and a roll of black background paper to create a black wall, like a big black flag.
I think I could have made the effect stronger by placing the black background closer to her, but this worked fine and I wanted her to have some space to move.
The photo above is very close to how the final images came out. I made the background a little lighter and removed some vignetting to create a more even light grey tone all over.
As I write this, the web shop is not quite ready to open, so I don’t know if they have removed the small piece of duct tape at her feet.
What I have learned
Most of the photo shoot went really smooth. Working with a professional model is very nice for a change, most of my work as a photographer consists of taking pictures of people that has ordinary jobs. Not as models. So having a professional saves a lot of time, and makes everything easier (than having a friend model, for example).
Changing clothes takes time. Even with a professional model and a fashion designer, the biggest part of the day I think was spent getting out of or into new clothes. Adding another dresser (?) and another model would have let me work twice as fast.
Delete delete delete. Easiest way to speed up the post processing part (apart from getting the light right) is to reduce the number of files that you have to transfer to the computer and then import to Lightroom. Deleting the bad ones directly in the camera saves a lot of time.
- Nikon D700
- Nikon 24-70mm/2.8
- 5 st SanDisk Extreme IV CF 4 GB memory card
- Pocket Wizard radio transmitter
- Manfrotto camera stand
- White paper background
- Assorted light stands
- Black background paper
- 2 st Profoto Compact 300
- 1 st Profoto Compact 600R
- 1 st Profoto AcuteB 600R + flash head
- 1 st Profoto White Softlight Reflector (beauty dish)
- 1 st Profoto Softbox Octa (5 foot/150 cm)
- 1 st Profoto Strip Softbox (1×6/30×180 cm + soft grid)
- Duct tape
I used Lightroom 2.7 for the post processing part (Lightroom 3 was not yet installed when I did this job). Capture NX2 can sometimes produce wonderful results, but when dealing with a large amount of files it slows down to a crawl and becomes unusable.
The main thing I did in Lightroom was to set the white balance for all photos, add a little contrast and sharpening, not much more.
For some more photos, have a look in my portfolio
Don’t hesitate to ask if there is something I missed.