Lights, Camera…Action!

A few weeks ago I attended a lighting class in New York City sponsored by Nikon and Popular Photography magazine. Over the years I gained lots of experience shooting landscape and wildlife images, but had virtually no experience using speedlights or other lighting mechanisms in producing images. The class was led by three world-class photographers whose names I had seen many times in the photo magazines so I expected I would learn something useful, but past that I had no idea what to expect.

It turns out that the class consisted of photographing models from one of the worlds most prestigious modeling agencies, Elite Model Management who provided some of the most beautiful/handsome  women and men in New York City


Like many folks, I suppose, I carried firmly embedded stereotypes on the personalities and lives of Hi-Fashion models. And it turns out some were dead on and others not so much. For the most part the women were all impossibly trim, tall and well….beautiful.

Notice the backlighting on Richelle’s hair which is caused by a speedlight directly in back of her.

Denis and Natasia

This was taken at Roosevelt Island in the middle of the East River with the NYC skyline in the background. Our teachers were very good and amazed us with how much equipment they carried with them on a professional shoot. Each of them had a very large trunk filled with an enormous amount of lighting equipment.


Surprisingly, many of the models were either Russian or from one of the USSR’s former satellite countries. Rasul was born in Tajikistan.


Most of the models have dual career tracks…modeling and trying to break into the acting profession through acting schools and their modeling activities. Two weeks after I photographed Andy, I saw him on Comedy Central’s Daily Show as a fake “regular citizen” in a skit.


Rasul is taking acting classes and was cast in the next Spiderman movie. In the film, which is being released early 2014, he plays one of Peter Parkers classmates. He proudly told me it was a speaking part!


While looking straight up at her, I suppressed my desire to ask Key if she had ever played basketball. Looking very striking, she strolled into the shoot wearing 3″ heels which put her at about 6′ 5″ tall. This was shot in a very trendy club and we asked her to emulate a blues singer ala Sara Vaughn.


The models who had previous experience working with still photographers separated themselves from the others quickly. With portrait photography being a new experience for most of us, we welcomed the subjects who were able to strike an endless number of poses and attitudes without us giving them specific instructions.


The inexperienced models waited for us to provide posing instructions which most of us were incapable of doing in any meaningful way, which led to some really inept and bumbling moments between photographer and subject.


Richelle was among the most accomplished models. She could switch from giggly schoolgirl mode to vampy vixen mode instantaneously with 25 striking poses for each character.  Seeing the fluidity with which good models can move in and out of character was remarkable and I developed a healthy respect for their skills.

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Shrewsbury, MA

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