Monday, September 21, 2009

Jessica Just: Degrees of Freedom

"Degrees of Freedom" is (to me at least) originally a term used only in statistics (usually N-1) for calculating distributions (confidence intervals, etc.)

Having all that knowledge does absolutely nothing for me in terms of photography and retouching unless I were to read some published research on the technical nature of camera technology. So I have changed the definition of "degrees of freedom" to something more literal and easy-to-understand. These days when I say "degrees of freedom" I am referring to the number of degrees a model can move in a set and still be properly lit by the strobes.

The degrees of freedom a model is allowed will vary with photographers, type of shoot, and the lighting setup. I like giving my models more degrees of freedom for expression and range of motion. I don't want my models to feel limited by the lighting setup as that could potentially limit the type of looks that they are able to create during the set. With that said, the type of work has a lot of influence on whether the model gets to move around or not. For example, if we're doing headshot portraiture, then the photographer will generally ask that the model not move around a whole lot because the lighting becomes very specific and directional and any change in angles will likely throw off the look. Some lights are more finicky than others. I find the hair light very limiting because it still eludes me to set it up properly sometimes, thus limiting my provisions on degrees of freedom.

Then there's what I call "range".

In my shoots, the "kiss of death" is when the model gives me the same look; frame after frame, over and over again, with such imperceptible variation between pictures. I've learned not to shoot models like that anymore because it's frustrating and makes me want to blow my brains out. I like models with range of facial expressions and body movement/positioning. Actors are really good at this because they're used to being in front of the camera and open to emote what they feel without being camera-shy which often leads to the "deer in the headlights" look. Dancers are good too because they're good with their bodies and generally know how they look without being able to see themselves. And of course, working models are good too! Such as the case with Jessica Just, who is signed with

I don't know if I've ever said this before but Jessica is a machine. You just turn her on and she'll give you more looks than a search engine. She's the only model that I've ever shot that has pushed past the speed with which the Nikon D3 can write files onto disk (including the 14 frame RAW buffer). She literally never stops moving and is incredibly fluid with her expressions and body, to the point where every nanosecond is a pose and not merely a transition from one pose to another.

It's the luxury of being able to work with a model of Jessica's caliber that allows me to know what I want from a photoshoot and what I want from the models with whom I work. Each of these shots took me an average of 4 hours do retouch. The ones with more hair covering her face obviously took a lot less time. Putting the four of these pictures together into a photo montage was an inspiration that I got from
Ender Nygen who is totally one of my heroes as a photographer.

As these pictures go up into my flickr photostream, it will set a precedent and possibly even make it seem that I have a "style" of shooting. I will say that I have enjoyed the beauty dish/Ray Flash combination very much as it leads to great contrast of highlights and shadows up against a generally brighter background such as the white walls that I use. I also find that simply using the Ray Flash for fill flash (since it's on-axis lighting) provides great control over exposure. I like it more than I like using a fill card (reflectors) or using other light sources that aren't on-axis. Plus with the Ray Flash you get the neat little halo/silhouette around the model on the background.

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 1/200th, f/8.0, ISO200, focal length varies per picture

Strobist info: Bread and butter setup for me these days. 22" beauty dish in AB800 from camera upper left. Ray Flash ringflash adapter on SB-800 mounted on camera for fill flash. Here's a picture of the setup.

Model/wardrobe: Jessica Just

Makeup: Alyssa Fong

1 comment:

  1. These are beautiful portraits. I love your touch ups!