If you looked in my closet you’d probably think “Oh yeah, this guy is a cross-dresser”! Although that would certainly make a more interesting story, the fact is, since my photography is 99.9% of the time a DIY venture (no stylists or hair or make-up), my closets are packed with wardrobe (including a lot of women’s clothes) and props for photo shoots. I do a lot of thrift store shopping and when I come across something that is a great price and I think would look cool for a photo shoot, I buy it and wait for the right concept and model to shoot it. And it’s actually kind of fun if you have an eye for fashion. That’s not to say that models don’t ever bring selections. If a model says they think they may have the right clothes for a shoot, I’ll either meet with them beforehand to look at the selection, or have them send me pics of what they have. Either way, leaving wardrobe to chance on a shoot isn’t an ideal situation for me, so all selections are figured out ahead of time.
I was contacted by an actress – Lynsey Nicole Harris – who wanted to shoot a variety of shots, beauty, editorial, etc. And since she is usually cast in quirky comedy roles, she wanted to shoot something funny as well. So for a beauty shot, I thought I would shoot her in a “Vanity Fair” editorial style. I found this beautiful dress in a thrift store that was originally $225 USD and it was on sale for $30. I thought that dress would work perfect for this shoot. She came over for a fitting and the dress looked great on her! After wondering what kind of shoes we’d use with the dress, I thought it would look pretty to just go barefoot. Then it came to me, we could shoot that beauty shot with a funny twist and combine the beauty and comedy together. Something actress Tina Fey might do.
I did some searching online and found these rubber “hobbit feet” on Amazon. That was it! We’d shoot what first appears to be a beauty shot but then just coming out of the bottom of this beautiful dress would be these hairy, dirty hobbit feet. I crossed my fingers and told her the concept and luckily she loved it! As you’ll see, after the feet came in the mail, they didn’t look anything like the picture on Amazon, so it would take a little tweaking in Photoshop to make them work. Lynsey did her own hair and make-up and she looked lovely.
I used a hand painted canvas backdrop on top of a fake fabric floor that I found on Etsy, to give the photo a bit of a traditional, old masters look. The fabric floor required a lot of steaming to get the wrinkles out because it came folded tightly in an envelope. That was an hour of fun (not) the day before the shoot.
It was a simple two light set up with the main light inside an 86 inch umbrella with a diffusion sock, and a V-flat on the opposite side to bounce light back. The second light was a strip box coming over the backdrop, pointing down to be a hair and shoulder light. I added a fabric grid to the strip box to control the light spill and keep it just on the hair and shoulders.
The main light was a Paul C Buff, White Lightning X1600 strobe, as was the hair light (so two x1600s). The main light was positioned almost completely pointing in front and past Lynsey so the light that was on her was just the very soft edge-light of the umbrella. The V-flat, positioned just out of frame, bounced enough light from the main light to take care of any shadows on her other side.
Both lights were metered at ISO 100, 1/125th at F8. I used the Canon 5D MKIII and the 24-70 F2.8L lens. I triggered the lights with the Paul C Buff Cybersyncs and I wirelessly tether to an iPad using the Camranger for reviewing photos and checking focus. I always meter my lights with either a Minolta or Sekonic light meter and set my white balance before shooting with an Expodisc.
We had fun doing this ridiculous concept.. but that was the point! It definitely has received the “That’s beautiful… wait… what?!?” response we were looking for.
About The Author
Patrick is a professional photographer based in Los Angeles. His work has an emphasis on creative portraits, beauty and fashion. For personal work, he loves shooting landscape, macro and working with vintage and experimental art lenses. Check out his site at www.patrickshipstad.com and follow him on Instagram @patrickshipstad.