Black and White Fashion Photography

I'd been wanting to shoot black and white for a long time. But every time I attempted to so, I ended up quickly doing a U-turn and reverting back to colour. For me black and white photography is all about creating contrast and shadows. And until now, I wasn't confident in achieving such a look.

I recently invested in the Profoto Large Deep Silver Umbrella after using it on a shoot that I was assisting on. I love the soft but defined shadows that you can create with it when diffusing with either the diffusion pullover, or a large frame. It's as it's an extremely versatile modifier, which was the main reason I bought it. You can use it outside without the diffusion for a crisp hard light, or you can diffuse it and turn it into a huge softbox that can be really nice for head-shots and commercial work.

Profoto Deep Silver Umbrella

The styling for this shoot was pretty simple. I wanted all black clothing as it would stand out from the white backdrop. So I sent over this mood-board to Gingersnap and Amber sorted it out with what she had in her wardrobe.

Black and White Fashion Mood Board

To start with we tried shooting with a leather jacket over the top of the turtleneck, but it was making Amber look a bit neckless. So we lost it and I'm so glad we did. Minimalism was key to this shoot. For the first time I actually think I got pretty close to the original concept that I had in my head. I only ever planned on using once light source as the shadow of the legs was something that I really wanted to see.

Evie concentrated the shadows on the eye sockets and worked with Amber's natural contours to create a perfect smokey, but soft look. Focusing on her naturally dark eyes helped to emphasise the overall dark aesthetic of the images. We also roughed up Amber's hair for a more relaxed vibe.

It's becoming a bit of a trend, but this is my favourite shoot to date. Every time I'm learning something new and it's extremely satisfying when you're able to create the idea that you had in your head. I think I'll be using this set-up a lot in the coming weeks. And I can't wait to finally get stuck into an editorial.

 

One Light Fashion Photography

Another day of testing! This time with Naomi Lake, who kindly agreed to model and apply makeup to a number of other models throughout the day.

I’m still very new to studio lighting, but I’m starting to find a go to setup that I really enjoy, that also happens to be really simple.

This simple one light setup is one of the most flattering setups that I’ve come across. I like a little contrast in my images to accentuate facial features, but equally I don't want the shadows to be too dark. Reflectors are your best friend in this situation.

One light fashion lighting diagram

All I used to light this set of images was a single strobe with a large white beauty dish (both made by Bowens), and a silver pop up reflector. Both the beauty dish and the reflector were as tight to Naomi as possible, without them creeping into the frame. Keep moving your reflector in and out until you hit the sweet spot on the shadow side. 

Recently I've been pulling my subjects at least 6-8 feet away from the backdrop, which was a plain white one in this case. It’s far enough away not to cast shadows, but close enough to reflect some light, falling to a mid-grey. The circular output from the beauty dish also creates a lovely circular vignette. Both the colour and the vignette help the model pop out from the background, but as subtly as possible.

I've found that grey is also very easy to manipulate in post. In this case I wanted to introduce a little blue into the backdrop to compliment the light blue shirt. So I simply tweaked the white balance until I was happy with the image, ensuring the skin didn’t turn into a funky colour.

Naomi Styled this shoot. We were going for a sensual and relaxed look with the oversized men's shirt, and it worked really well. She looks like the girlfriend who won't give your clothes back!

I really like how this set of images turned out. And it goes to prove that you don't need loads of gear to create good looking images. You could create a similar image with just a speedlight, a softbox and a reflector. The important thing is always floor space, and how you shape the light using reflectors and flags. Ask your local drama studio if they will let you shoot when a studio is either too expensive or just not attainable.

Testing... Testing!

This year I've made it a goal to test as much as is humanly possible. I'm fortunate that Bristol is a vibrant city buzzing with many beautiful people, and numerous modeling agencies to showcase them. Some are well established and others just starting out. So getting testing for them is the perfect way to build up a portfolio.

After emailing a few of these agencies I was delighted to get a yes back. Most agencies are willing to help new photographers out as long as you have a few good shots to show them. Everyone has to start somewhere remember! So don't be afraid to contact agencies big or small. I was too timid for so long and there was absolutely no reason to be!

Although this is only my first test for an agency, my ethos at this current time is to keep shoots simple. Usually agencies are looking for natural head shots that can attract both commercial and editorial clients. Massively provocative or edgy editorial images are often not of much use to them, as they want their boys and girls to be as commercially versatile as possible. Take a look at some of the biggest agencies and their girls books and you'll see what I mean.

I'm lucky that Alice is so damn gorgeous, lovely to talk to and had a lot of confidence about her. It can often be a challenge with inexperienced models to get numerous shots that aren't all too samey and the models confidence is key to this. Sometimes poses keep appearing and facial expressions are exactly alike, but this wasn't an issue on this shoot!

Surround yourself with people who are far more talented than yourself and your work will shine! I think Tarantino said something along those lines once. As well as Alice being amazing, my good friend Evie Smith is a crazy talented makeup artist, and one of the best I've worked with. It was also a pleasant surprise when Naomi Lake (another fab MUA) turned up with Evie as she had an idea to test out later on. You're only as good as the team around you, which is something I've learnt on various film and photo shoots over the past few years. On a few of the latter shots Naomi gave Alice some really good direction on posing that both of us appreciated massively. I was starting to become a tad lost, and it really saved the shots. So take on board what others suggest, drop any ego and you'll be a better photographer for it.

For the lighting I used one light only. A Bowens 500 watt strobe with an 80cm Octabox, boomed overhead at about a 45 dregree angle. And as close to Alice as possible for a really soft light. I also placed a silver reflector panel to her right just to add a bit of fill to make sure the shadows weren't falling into complete darkness. Personally I think that using one light is a really good way to get to grips with studio photography. Test shoot's like this don't require intricate setups. It's all about making the model look as dazzling as possible. In hindsight I wish I'd added a small hair light just to add a bit of shine to the hair and maybe a gentle backlight to lift Alice out from the backdrop.

Towards the end of the shoot we swapped things up just a little. Naomi wanted to create a slightly more edgy image. The lighting setup hardly changed, but I swapped out the softbox for my beauty dish to see if there was any real difference in light quality. Honestly to my eye it didn't really make a difference in this scenario. A £120 beauty dish vs a £30 softbox. Can you really tell the difference? So don't let kit get in the way of anything! I've been guilty of that far too often.

Overall I'm really happy with these images. And I can't wait to move on to the next one!

That's it for now. Hope someone reads this! And if anybody did please feel free to leave feedback. I'm planning on writing more of these type of blogs throughout the year, so it would be great to know if this is at all interesting to people.

Mike Wright x

Instagram

Alice Hoskyns: @alicehoskyns

Evie Smith: @evies_makeup

Naomi Lake: @naomilakemua

Danielle Celeste - Stay a While

This music video was simply shot. We had a very tight time frame in which to shoot the video, so after having a discussion with Danielle we both agreed that it would be best to produce a "mock live session" style video.

This allowed us to get a wide coverage of smooth pretty looking shots with a single camera.


Lighting this way allowed us to capture a relatively soft image whilst creating a nice amount of contrast between the mid tones and the shadows as we did not throw a huge amount of light onto the scene.

I'm a big fan of contrasty lighting, and especially love the look that you get when you combine blues and oranges. It's almost a natural colour that you see at dawn or dusk, and when applying it to an interior scene, it creates a very dreamy effect. Perfect for the tone and pace of the song.

We shot the video on the Panasonic GH4 and kept the lighting setup pretty basic. The natural light pouring through the stained glass window really helped us out.

  • Key Light - Two faced 400w work light. Orange Gel. Diffusion
  • Fill Light - Two faced 400w work light. Heavily diffused with a mix of orange and blue gels.
  • Kicker - 500w open faced Lowel Omni Flood.
  • Back Light - Natural light coming through the stain glass window.