Today I’m here with Kyle Cong running through his approach on shooting out on location with strobes and how he finds them!
Hey Kyle! The first thing that struck me about your work was the colour toning and how beautifully focused your compositions were. Your location choices are spot on! Can you tell us about your approach to finding locations?
Sure! I use a combination of a sunrise / sunset app on my phone and google maps to see the surrounding area from above! I’ve actually found a lot of success this way, I can pick out bridges and interesting areas etc.
My average shoot seems to be lasting between 90 minutes and two hours so I use the sun app to help me know exactly where the sun will be during the shoot so I can plan ahead! The interesting thing is I have to shoot different locations in the summer to the winter as the light changes completely!
Are these public locations? Are you finding these by just walking around or do you scout locations prior to the shoots to save time?
Most of the time yeah! I basically never scout in person, it’s all based on Google maps or places I’ve been to before, it’s working well!
Is it the same approach across the fashion and wedding genres or?
Weddings are actually a little different as you do tend to have the “Go To” locations and by that I mean the popular venues etc, so you get to know the great places to shoot before you even get there.
But if it’s a new venue like a clients house or a church etc I often go for a quick scout in advance to see where to shoot before I’m with the clients.
The first thing I’m looking for is window light (even sending an assistant outside the window with a strobe if needs be!). I ask myself things like “How high are the windows?” If it’s a high-tower style then obviously that’s not happening hahaha!
And lighting wise?
I often shoot with 1 light against the sun but if it’s overcast I will shoot with 2 lights instead!
When I’m using 2 light setups I have 65″ deep umbrella by Profoto that I use for the main light and the rim light is either the sun or a 2×3 stripbox with a grid attached to control the spread. I love shooting with umbrellas as they are so easy to setup and pack down.
Do you have a preference with regards to white vs silver?
Yes! I loooove silver! It just has that pinch to it you know?
Haha yeah I know what you mean! With these being public locations, how are you dealing with shooting strobes? Are you lucky and just not getting bothered? Or getting somebody to hold it to avoid the potential insurance hazards etc?
Haha! valid question! For me all I’m going to say is Vancouver…. so = chill. As long as it’s not a commercial shoot you’re not bothered by anyone.
Changing locations all the time are you gelling your lights to match the environment or?
Well, even on the lowest power my lighting is too powerful inside etc, so I use a huge modifier and feather it to make it balance with the environment and one thing I learned as a “cheat” was that; Using a big modifier also kinda helps disguise the temperature of the light difference. Just little :D
I’ve noticed that you have done a shoot in this awesome hangers with planes etc, was that a case of simply asking a museum / hangar to shoot there? Did you have to hire a location like that out?
Ahh yes! Well the backstory to that one is that the MUA I work with have had a working relationship for a long time. She wanted to do a vintage shoot so we started looking for inspiration and we found an air plane which looked killer on Pinterest or something!
We found a museum with some planes and contacted them to ask if we could shoot there, it turned out it only cost us $60 and lasted for the whole year HAHAHA! It was amazing! So we just setup and shot there!
WHAAAT! That’s AWESOME!
Yeah! We have a Harley Davidson museum here too and that one is like $200 for 2 hours, it’s really expensive in comparison! However, the museums don’t really care about the amount of photographers, they just charge by the hour. So we usually team up to cut the cost down!
With regards to the more intricate designs you find yourself shooting, how are these types of shoots coming about for you? Do you approach designers and ask to shoot the clothing lines etc or are some of the models you have just absolutely killing it in the clothing department?
It’s usually a someone knows someone, and the models often know designers where they get in touch and we all work together etc. It’s basically me or someone else on the team knowing the designers and then clothes coming in for the shoots.
Lightroom or CaptureOne?
Lightroom! I love it :D
With colour toning are you more of a preset guy with VSCO etc and tweaking it to your vision or are you working with curves and colour balance etc in Photoshop?
I’m not really into actions that much, 75% of the work is done in camera and then I colour tone in Lightroom. Sometimes I end up using Alien Skin just to get a final look to it because it can look awesome! I like the fact I can change the opacity in AS before putting it out.
I do wish there was a way to edit the BG colour though from black to white in Alien Skin so that I could get a consistent look when I send it to Facebook! Facebook is white and AS uses black so the exposure is often wrong when I move from one place to the other.
That’s a key tip actually! Matching your Photoshop background to the platform you’re sending it to! Any posing tips?
Sure! Waist up shots = DON’T CROP OFF THE HANDS!
And if you want a more candid look get your models to “act” or do something. I do this by getting the models to do something like grabbing a cup of coffee, playing with their hair, walking to or away from me etc. It works really well for “directing posing”. Models are pretty good at acting things out etc.
Kyle! Thanks so much for your time brother, you absolutely ROCK! I know people are going to dig these little nuggets of info in here, I certainly do!