Have you ever shown up to a shoot location, and it royally sucked? The light was crappy, the space was small and the decor was orange/brown motel chic? Yup, that happens to all of us – and even in NYC, as it did to me on a recent shoot.
A sweet 30-something grant-writer from Texas flew up to New York for a convention and a boudoir shoot with me. She stayed at the hotel the convention was in, and it looked fairly decent online. Now, if you have been following my blog or reading my book, you know I’m a big fan of shooting to create variety! Sometimes it seems hard to do when the shooting space is, well, limited. BUT, it just takes some extra hustle and creativity (and some must-have items) to create a beautiful set of 35 to 55 shots.
1. Insist on a Dress
This poor shooting location predicament is just one of the reasons why I always insist that my client bring a dress (or two) or other outfit that can be worn outside as one of her wardrobe choices. This way, we can hit the streets! Or the hotel lobby, or the hotel stairway, etc. Anywhere there is good light and an interesting backdrop.
So she put on one of her dresses, we walked outside, picked up a pretzel and shot some sexy fun street shots. She flirted at a hot dog stand, stood amongst traffic in Times Square, sat atop a nearby parked bike… and we had a blast.
2. Bring a black muslin
As I mention in my book, a must-have item in your kit is a black muslin. Affordable, lightweight, portable and invaluable! You can buy one at camera stores for about $150, or save some money and get a 20 dollar tablecloth at Target 🙂 Make sure it’s wrinkle free and the biggest one you can find. Bring gaffer’s tape or A-clamps to set so you can set it up anywhere. Here, we have it taped to the wall right next to a big window for a natural light studio look. Boom! I don’t see ugly wallpaper, do you?
(And of course, you have to add the fan!)
3. Incorporate props
An easy way to create variety and add fun to a shoot is props! I love little signs, and Mrs. L and I had discussed some fun ideas prior to her shoot. Her and her hubs have a tradition of giving fortune cookie messages that are meaningful to them. So we did a whole series with the fortune cookie and this custom message she created. To avoid the distracting ugly decor, we shot it backlit in front of a window. This was a fun series that not only added variety to the session, but also made a great opening for her album!
4. Work those basics!
A set of white sheets and pillows can be found in almost every home and hotel in the world. Thank goodness, because they create a beautiful neutral canvas upon which to play! The only decent light in this room was right up against the windows. The rug was dark and ugly and I wouldn’t want anyone rolling around there naked. At first I thought it might look ridiculous to put the sheets and pillows on the floor, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and I love the results! No one is paying attention to bedding on the floor, when you have a beautiful woman in front of your camera. And it’s not that far-fetched – my bf and I have thrown bedding on the floor (TMI?). The look is beautiful, classic, casual and sexy. Love it!
5. Go the extra mile in the opposite direction
Mrs. L and I already had plenty of variety and gorgeous shots in the camera. Enough to fill a beautiful album with at least 35 photographs. But Mrs. L was still really excited about another dress option she brought – in fact, she rented this dress – plus she had traveled all the way from Texas. So I decided to add an extra 4th set. This quick wardrobe change didn’t take much extra time, and it put this session over the top in terms of variety and client happiness 🙂 We went in search of another little corner of awesomeness and found it in the lobby of a nearby hotel. I love that these shots are totally different then the rest of her shoot – she has a fancy schmancy dress on, hair is styled different, and we’re in a more luxurious setting with moody light.
This is one of my favorites…
Stay tuned for a lot more client sessions and tutorials on the blog!
Next up: the photoshop action recipe I used to create the pic above. You’ll see the SOOC and the exact post-production technique to enhance this beautiful moody lighting.
Have fun and remember to create variety!
ps. you don’t need to have the backdrop of NYC to create variety. Here are four different sets created out of just one tiny boring room with no decor whatsoever! Check out Modern Vintage Pin-up, Hot Summer in the City, Peonies & PJ’s, and Directing Models without Posing.