Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nobody's Perfect... Right?

Wrong. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you've been lied to your entire life. You see, all those times people told you "Nobody's perfect" as an excuse for whatever they failed to do... well, it was exactly that; an excuse. I say this because I now know perfection exists in the world. Her name is Mladenka. :)

Of course the picture was retouched but the entire experience of shooting Mladenka was simply phenomenal. She was a consummate pro, giving me stellar looks every few seconds and really knowing her body position and facial expressions. The entire shoot lasted just about 5 hours and we shot over 1,200 frames. That's a lot of frames. Hell that's a personal best for any one shoot. I think the Nikon D3 has a shutter life of only 150,000 actuations and my camera has already has 20,000 actuations. That's like 20,000 miles on the odometer LOL!

Anyway, I can't say enough good things about Mladenka. She's obviously gorgeous but at the same time completely professional, down-to-earth, easy to work with, patient and most importantly gives me a high percentage of
usable frames. I think at the end of the day, what it really comes down to is this, "How many frames are useable?" which is to say, "How many frames are actually worthy of post-processing?" One of the first things I do when I finish a shoot is to trim/delete all the frames that can't be used. These include frames where I'm testing the exposure, strobes misfire, poor composition (something in the background), accidental camera adjustment (exposure, focus, white balance), the model blinks, the model gives me an unusable look, etc. Sure most of the deleted frames are my fault to begin with but if the model provides me with great looks at a high batting average, then there are a lot less frames to delete! In fact, Mladenka gave me so many good looks that I had to be ultra careful about shooting on a roll (where I don't glance at the back of the camera) because if I don't nail the exposure, composition, etc. then 30+ frames go by and they're all bad because I missed something critical. Basically she put a lot of pressure on me to be at my best today but I think I delivered.

Looking back at the shoot, it was also unique that I "went with the flow". Usually I like to have all the ideas and lighting setups pre-planned but today, I wanted to just "let loose" and "see what would happen". Lately my favorite line has become, "I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen when we do this but..." The reason for this is because I need to push myself to do something different. I've talked about this before in
a previous post where everyone on every shoot ought to try something that's outside his/her comfort zone to push him/herself to grow. Lately I've felt like I was stagnating which is why I've been pushing myself to retouch differently (softer and more glamour-like) than before. So today while we did a lot of the tried-and-true/bread-and-butter lighting setups, we also shot outside my comfort zone. For our final set, we incorporated my baby-grand piano in the set which is something that I've been unwilling to do in previous shoots. I simply can't think of many sets more challenging than trying to light a glossy black piano tight while trying to control spill against a corner with white walls. However if this were a strobist exam, I feel like I passed or at least got a B+ because there will always be some lighting genius on flickr that invents some incredibly creative lighting technique for the situation.

So for now just sit back and enjoy the picture. There will be many more to come. Stay tuned!

Strobist info: Main light is an AB800 in a 22" beauty dish with 20 degree gridspot coming from upper camera left. 2 AB800's as kickers/rim lights left and right about shoulder high with barndoors. 1 SB-800 hanging overhead in a Lumiquest SB-III (camera upper front between Mladenka and the background). Lastly an SB-800 with a red gel between the background and Mladenka on a stand shooting directly into a black background. Pretty much my typical bread and butter setup :)

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 1/200th, f/10, 62mm, ISO200, triggered by Gadget Infinity (Cactus) V4 with a 98% success rate.

Processing: Lr2 and PS CS3

Model: Mladenka Grgic

Makeup: Mladenka Grgic

© charles yeh 2009

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