Photo Studio Techniques: Being Creative with Accessories
Being creative with accessories and backgrounds in your studio, can make your raise the level of professionalism in your photography.
One Man’s Garbage…
Next to light, styling is one of the most important things in a photo shoot. Don’t you love it when a model appears on set with some creative outfits? It makes our lives as photographers so much easier. The biggest complaint I hear, though, is that all that clothing is so incredibly expensive, with some dresses running into the thousands of dollars.
When you’re just a little bit more creative, however, it can be so much cheaper. Take this shot, for example. The model is wearing a dress that’s nothing fancy; in fact, the whole dress was created in about half an hour. The material? Plastic garbage bags. The total cost of the dress was zero and all the bags could be reused after the shoot. The shot was taken with a Canon Speedlite 430EX II with the Rogue FlashBender Grid.
For the next shot, Nadine dressed in packing paper that would later be used to wrap her Christmas gifts. It’s funny when a model comes in with a bag of Christmas paper instead of clothes, and then asks you to wait for an hour or so because she has to prepare her dress. But I was stunned when she walked on set!
This time, I used an Elinchrom BXRi 500 flash with a standard reflector and grid to light the model. An Elinchrom Octa 1.90 for fill flash opened up some of the shadow areas on the opposite side of the model (metered approximately 3.5 stops below the main light).
But it’s not always clothes that make a shoot interesting. Some shops or companies sell stuff that nobody wants, and they’re eager to see the images we create with their “junk.” In the shots that follow we used a window that we bought for about $10—with the option to return it.
These shots were lit with one reflector and grid, but I changed positions to get two totally different images. That’s a trick that will give you a lot more variety from your shoots (and props): Don’t use one angle. Move around your model and set to create as many different angles as you can. You’ll quickly realize that this will give you at least two or three more interesting images.
Simple accessories can make stunning images and create something a bit more special. For the shot above, I again used the Canon Speedlite 430EX II and Rogue FlashBender. The model was standing close to the wall, and the FlashBender controlled the light spill so that nothing was hitting the wall. The wall itself was lit by another Canon 430EX II to create some extra depth in the image. The addition of the hat really completes the image for me.
As an accessory, masks are a bit more exotic, but you can easily find them. Here, we used a mask that the model had purchased when she was in Venice. As you can see, what would normally be a standard portrait is now elevated to something that I’d proudly put in my portfolio. For this shot, I used an Elinchrom reflector with grid.
Finally, we have some more expensive options, but I’d like to point out that this really shouldn’t be expensive. Some companies rent out dresses; however, if you go in with your portfolio, you can often work out a deal where, in exchange for images, they’ll loan you dresses. It’s a great deal: You get free dresses and the company gets some nice images they can use.
Don’t be too strict with these agreements. These dresses can make your portfolio stand out from your competition, and that’s where you earn your money. So, treat these companies with respect and always deliver more than promised. In return, they’ll probably also give you more than promised.
A theater group that the model knows loaned us the dress in this shot. These groups often have many dresses and other clothing just hanging in a closet and don’t mind if you borrow them for a photo shoot. (Tip: Always handle the clothing and props you borrow with care, and return them without any defects. Also, you might make a small donation to the group, or offer to shoot their next performance for free.) For this shot, I used one strip light aimed at the model from the right side (image side), and one Elinchrom Octa 1.50 as fill light from the left side.
Now, we’ve shown you some ways where you can lift your work to a higher level with almost no money and a little bit of creativity. Be sure to try new ways to bring out your creativity, and remember that even the biggest fashion designers start out with materials you can find anywhere.
See more of Frank’s work on his personal website. Check out this cool tutorial by Lesa Synder for adding digital makeup to your model in Photoshop.