Today we asked UK based fashion photographer Rossella Vanon to break up one of her photos for you. She goes through inspiration and motivation, setup, make up & props, lighting and post-processing.
Motivation & Inspiration
This image is part of a fashion editorial that was shot for the March 2014 issue of Nylon Mexico magazine.
The idea I had was to shoot something very feminine and based on a pastel wardrobe, that is a strong fashion trend for Spring/Summer 2014. The editor liked the brief and after some general feedback on favorite fashion brands to choose from, she left us with all the freedom to create what we liked.
I don’t normally sketch before shoots, but I do put together collections of images that are supposed to reflect the overall mood of the project, and some more specific ones that will serve as visual references for hair, makeup styles and sometimes even poses. I had organized these pictures together and sent them to the makeup artist Lara Himpelmann and hair stylist Show Fujimoto a day or two before the shoot, so they could start visualizing the story, come up with more ideas and solutions and bring the necessary equipment on the day.
Setup, Location, makeup, props & models
This story was shot at my home studio. The deadline for the final images from this project was in the middle of the winter, so we knew the wet weather wouldn’t have allowed a successful day at an outdoor location.
The model had been carefully chosen and selected by me amongst many other girls in the days prior to the shoot. When the London-based modelling agency Storm showed me Henna’s portfolio, amongst many other models that matched the requirements, I fell in love with her face and features straightaway. I knew then that I was feeling inspired by her images and I wanted to shoot her. Luckily her look also suited the project very well (light hair, light skin, tall, beautiful and very well proportioned).
Henna arrived at the studio at 8.30 in the morning and started getting her hair and make up done by my talented team of hair stylist Show and makeup artist Lara.
We decided to opt for hair and make up styles that were soft, feminine and ‘fresh’, to both match with the main concept and be in line with the status of the magazine we were shooting for.
In the meantime me and my talented stylist Lauren Eva browsed through the many beautiful garments she had brought to select our 10 favourite outfits and put them in shooting order, with the purpose of also matching the makeup and hair style changes that were going to take place on the day.
In this particular image we used one of the outfits that Henna wasn’t wearing almost as a prop. The garment had an embellished corset with clearn and rainbow colour stones, and with the precious help of my assistant Natasha Xavier we used it to reflect the sunlight coming through the window and create fairylights-like highlights and reflections onto the model and background.
In the image the last shot of the day, we went a bit more creative as we had already shot all the material we needed for the story and could spend a bit of time experimenting. We used drier coloured flowers as props that my hair stylist and makeup artist together placed on the model’s face and hair.
My aim in lighting was to make the shoot look as soft, delicate and feminine as possible. To achieve this result I decided to opt for a soft lighting set up using both the natural light available in my studio (coming in through big windows) and two studio lights with big diffusers and on a relatively low power.
This allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/160s to avoid any motion blur (the model was requested to move around a lot on set during the shoot) and open my aperture to around 4F to make the most out of the natural light and eventually blur distractions in the background behind the model.
I was keeping a certain distance from the subject throughout the shoot, so I was never risking blurring either her or the clothing due to the wide aperture.
The set with the light grey background was built opposite and facing the windows in my studio.
The windows were partially covered with white fabric or paper wherever the sun was shining through too harshly and hitting the set creating unwanted highlights on the model or the background. This allowed an even more diffused soft light on the subject before any other artificial light was even added.
At this point the light was overall beautiful and soft, but not strong enough to allow me to shoot with a low ISO of 100 (for best quality) and a quick shutter speed of 1/160s (to avoid motion blur).
I also knew that on such a winter day the sunlight would have disappeared completely at a certain time and certainly gone diminishing by the minute past 2 or 3 in the afternoon. So I decided to back up the natural light by adding two studio lights and use soft tools to emulate the beautiful soft light the sun was already giving, but at a power I could choose and modify through the day to compensate the diminishing sun light.
One of the two studio lights had a large Octabox on. It was placed pointing down towards the model from higher than her eye level and about 45 degrees towards her side. This positioning meant this artificial light also added a more three dimensional effect to the overall lighting on set, as it created more highlights on the right hand side of the model and less on the left, as opposed to the natural light from the windows that looked more flat coming directly from the front.
The other studio light was equipped with a medium size Softbox and pointed towards a white wall on the left hand side of the model. This light was used at a very minimum power and pointed away from the subject to make the result even more subtle and soft. The light that managed to bounce back onto the model from the wall was much more delicate and lower in power that I could have expected if coming straight from the strobe.
This light was mainly used towards the end of the day when then sunlight coming through the windows was barely there or completely gone.
Once the final 9 images from the series were selected they were imported and edited in Photoshop CS6.
The post processing for this image involved mostly working on the skin to make it look smoother, more even and overall more pleasant to the eye.
This result was achieved through the use of the Dodge and Burn technique (through the use of Curves) applied to carefully selected areas.
The skin was slightly desaturated to avoid the reds in it to clash with the soft, pastel tones of the images and therefore take some attention off the pastel theme of the story.
The shots were later slightly enhanced by a delicate boost in contrast and an increase in brightness in areas such as hair, cheekbones, lips, arms and legs, to enhance the highlights already created by the strobes, and therefore give more definition to both face and body.
- Photography: Rossella Vanon
- Styling: Lauren Eva
- Model: Henna @Storm
- Hair: Show Fujimoto
- Makeup: Lara Himpelmann
- Photography Assistance & Bts Photos: Natasha Xavier
- Retouching: Rossella Vanon
About The Author
Rossella Vanon is an award-winning fashion and beauty photographer currently living in London, UK. You can see her full portfolio on her website, and follow her awesome work at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. Rosella also gives photography workshops.