I was recently asked if I would start a blog explaining my processes for constructing photographic shoots, so now as well as posting general articles, you will find in my blog here some more technical posts.
I thought a good shoot to start with for a behind the scenes is one I recently devised in preparation for a shoot this coming January.
One aspect of the shoot is a top down ‘drone’ style shoot with the subject laying on the floor, looking up to camera.
My shooting space is very small, and I work with around 2.5m of height and at the narrowest point, 1.4m width, and within this space I needed to create the illusion of height and significant negative space.
My first consideration was the camera set up. I needed a lens which would be wide enough to capture the subject, given the 2.5m height limitation, and light enough to not hinder the suspension of the camera. I settled for my old kit lens - an 18mm-105m DX lens, but with the full frame camera I was using (Nikon D810), the widest zoom would be an increase in the Field Of View of 1.5, so 27mm aprox. Distortion was minimal, and the kit lens was much lighter than my 24mm-70mm FX lens.
So I had the starting point.
Next, I needed to suspend the camera from the ceiling. I needed it to be adjustable and accessible, as well as secure. I have in my kit an extendible pole with 3/4 inch sockets at each end - suitable for slotting over most standard light stands. I erected two heavy duty light stands at a width exceeding the necessary shooting space, and bridged the pole across them.
I next had to get the camera attached to the horizontal pole in a way where I could adjust it, and where it would hang securely perfectly facing downwards, and with the correct orientation for the shooting space. I tend to over think things initially, and often complicate set ups. I was going to construct a harness for the camera using gaff tape, but then I realised that by utilising the battery grip extension on my camera, I could loop the existing camera strap over the horizontal bar, and the secure it back over the camera. Some gaff tape on the camera secured it from slipping as a precaution. The bonus of this is that the weight of the camera stabilised the set-up, and allowed enough friction on the strap for me to adjust it on the bar without it slipping - thus creating a slide-able, tilt-able harness.
On to the final steps!
I use Camera Control Pro 2 as my tethering software choice, and with a remote trigger on the camera, I was able to fire the shutter remotely, as well as trigger my strobe. I shot at f4 - enough to let in light and not cause shadowing on the one light setup I had, and forgiving enough on the depth of field as I would be shooting remotely and would have to adjust the focus point through my laptop (not as quick and reactive as if I was doing it directly on-camera). I used a large soft box for a soft, even light, angling it as much above where the subject (me in this case (no housemate to torture!)) would be as possible.
The rest of the shoot really was very quick - I set my focus point remotely, and laid on the floor! In photoshop the adjustments I made were primarily just Content Aware Scale to create a greater negative space to the floor, colour graded as I also had halogen light colour contamination from my ceiling lights (which I left on intentionally as ambient fill), and a brutally fast re-touch to tidy things up (greater care will be taken when it's the actual shoot).
The actual shoot will involve props, and a theme, but for the purposes of this explanation, that isn't essential information - plus the shoot is rather secret, so I can't give much away. Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to it, as it will be a lot of fun.
Below is the image I got. A couple of hours of building and head-scratching, and then 10 minutes laying on the floor understanding body angles/limb placement etc so I can better direct my client when it comes to the shoot.
As with all of my shoots, I make sure that my problem solving process is fun. I never get stressed with the challenge of shooting in a style I've not done before. A fresh slate to create an image is a wonderful position to be in, I think. Enjoy your photography, and I would love to hear your stories about experimental camera set-ups and photoshoots.