I can always count on my friend and long time collaborator/model Plastic Martyr, to come up with something interesting to shoot. Like some of the other great gender blending artists of the 70’s and 80’s (David Bowie, Boy George, Grace Jones, etc), he once again presented me with a fun, glam style to capture. He does all his own hair, make-up and styling and it’s a real gift to a photographer to have their model show up with their act together who looked like they had a team of stylists behind them. Nope, just me and Plastic Martyr taking an hour on a Tuesday afternoon in my living room to kick this out.
For this photo I knew I wanted it to be a beauty shot with an edge. To get that, I decided to use a four light set up. A beauty dish with a grid spot, two strip lights on the sides and a background light pointed into the black paper backdrop. The beauty dish has a diffusion sock over it, plus I taped a square piece of ‘tuff frost’ diffusion to the center of the sock to minimize a center hot spot, then I added a grid over the sock to minimize the spread of light and to keep spill off the background paper which I was lighting separately. I also used my trusty piece of white foam core, just at waist level, to bounce a bit of light where the beauty dish started to fall off. The beauty was dish on a boom arm directly above my camera and was centered about his chest, so the center of the light was not directly on his face. The two strip lights did a bit of double duty in that I placed them a little higher than usual to act as both a bit of hair light as well as rim lights to give some highlights on his cheeks, shoulders and arms. Getting the balance of the rim lights set to the main light was important because I wanted to show definition and dimension of his face and body, but I didn’t want any blown out spectral highlights. I didn’t use a ratio “formula” for this…lets just say I started with a 1 to 1 to the key light then backed it off from there. I just seasoned to taste…your key light to rim light ratios will vary depending on your model’s skin tone, hair color, and whatever light modifiers you might have.
I liked the idea of a darker background to make his pale skin and the fan head dress pop, but I wanted to tie in a color to the background to something in Plastic’s styling. The colors in his arm sleeves and the purple/black lips tied in nicely to a purple gel on a 40 degree grid spot pointed at the background. The grid spot on the back light (which was about waist level just in back of him) created a nice, in-camera vignette. The gel threw a nice round purple light then feathered into the black paper at the edge of the spot. I think the back light was set about about a 1 to 1 ratio to the beauty dish.
I shot this at ISO 100, F4.0, 125 shutter speed on a Canon 5D and a 70-200 2.8L lens at 85MM. I love that lens for it’s compression and very complimentary focal length for portrait work.
The only real retouching was smoothing the skin with Imagenomic’s Portraiture 2 along with a cross processing filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 3 that gave his skin a slightly whiter tone. That filter was backed off to about 40% because I just wanted a hint of whiter skin. Because he’s “Plastic Martyr”, I could go a little heavier on the skin softening to get an almost porcelain skin. But I chalk a lot of it up to his amazing make-up skills to help me get the majority of that look at the lens. I like to make two passes with the Portraiture 2 plug-in. One targeting lighter skin tones and on another layer, another pass targeting darker tones. Those come up on individual layers with everything but the effect masked out. I can then blend them separately and have a lot more control over the effect rather than just playing with one layer of the effect across the whole skin surface. I did zero exposure or level adjustment and I custom white balanced beforehand with an Expodisc on the lens, pointed at the main light. I metered the shot with a Minolta IV meter.
Canon 70-200 2.8L lens
Minolta IV light meter
3 White-Lightening x1600 strobes
1 White-Lightening x800 strobe (back light)
2 White-Lightening folding strip boxes
1 grid spot and diffusion sock for the beauty dish
6″x6″ piece of tuff frost diffusion paper
1 40 degree grid spot and purple gel for the back light
3×4 white foam core board
a bunch of stands and sand bags
1 Plastic Martyr