Update: I’ve just released a video course that shows you exactly how I setup, light, and edit for this high end beauty portrait look. Check the video series out here.
Three years ago if you had told me I’d be photographing professional models on a set in LA I’m not sure I would have believed it. I’ve found that a career in the creative fields is always unpredictable and I’m okay with that. It keeps thing interesting. Shooting skin care and beauty is not something I’ve really ever done before. But I’ve learned that stepping outside your comfort zone and learning new things is what keeps photography fresh and exciting. These types of shoots stretch my abilities and I’m almost always feel like I’m a better photographer afterwords.
This assignment called for expertise and skill-sets different than what we have access to here in Idaho. The project was to generate video and photography assets to help launch a new line of skin care products. We needed a high end property with a nice bathroom and several female models representing a variety of ethnicities. Again, hard to find professional models, let alone ethnically diverse ones in Idaho. We do have some nice properties but most are not the right style for this shoot.
The budget for this shoot allowed for a high end production. We knew we wanted a team of professionals that had a track record and could get us world class imagery. During the planing phase of this shoot we reached out to a couple of production companies in LA and finally landed on a company called Ezra Productions. Ezra helped us pull together all the essential pieces for a shoot like this. They helped with the casting process, ensuring model contracts and usage terms were defined. They also helped us select a property that fit our needs, a luxury home near the coast. (Tip: Airbnb can be a great resource for finding properties to use as a location. Just make sure you are upfront with the owner and they are okay with how you intend to use their property.
Ezra also helped line us up with a great DP, art director, and hair and makeup stylist. Up to this point in my career, most of what we’ve done has been a one or two man crew. It was great to be able to utilized talented and specialized professionals to tend the each and every detail. When everyone is working together well, it opens up time to really focus on making sure we are getting not only what we need, but the best work possible. This is luxury I don’t often have on smaller assignments.
With most of the details worked out, our Idaho based crew loaded up and flew to LA.
I was packing quite a bit of gear on this shoot. My focus on this assignment was to get some beauty shots of our models along with secondary lifestyle and candid style shots during the video shoot. I also thought there may be an opportunity to get some product shots on the beach so I decided to pack my Kessler Crane Motorized Slider System.
For the beauty shots I packed the following gear:
- Canon 5DS
- Canon 70-200 2.8
- 3 PocketWizard Wireless flash Triggers
- 2 Alien Bees B400 Strobes
- 22-inch White Beauty Dish
- 32″ x 40″ foldable softbox
For the product shots I packed:
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon 100mm Macro
- Canon 16-35 2.8
- Kessler Crane Stealth Slider
- Kessler Second Shooter Plus
For good measure I also packed in my camera bag the amazingly portable and easy to fly DJI Mavic drone. You can read more about this drone here, but suffice it to say it’s an amazing piece of gear, really fun to fly, and small enough to always have with you.
During our preparations for this shoot, I provided Ezra with a script and shot list to help them build a schedule and determine how many production days we would need to complete the shoot. We ended up scheduling three production days with 3 main sets and 2 lifestyle sets, all at this Airbnb property.
For this setup the crew shot each model against a white seamless paper backdrop. Because we were shooting video, they had to rig continuous lighting (not strobes) for capturing the video. I was impressed with our DP. He worked quickly to tweak and adjust the lights and then put in the extra effort to adjust the smaller details until it was perfect. He was shooting on a RED camera in their RAW format so we knew we had plenty of data to make adjustments in post if needed, but he still did everything he could to get the best image in-camera.
After the video crew completed shooting a model on the seamless, they would pull their continuous lighting out of the way and I would bring in my strobes and shoot still shots with a similar look to what they had just shot in motion. I’ll be doing a tutorial soon on how I lit these shots, but it was very simple clamshell lighting if you know what that is.
Our script called for demonstrating how to use this skin care product with each of the models. There is a morning and nighttime routine and we wanted to show a different bathroom set and light scheme for each. For the morning scene, we used the brighter, whiter bathroom at this property. The space was cramped, but out DP did a great job of rigging lights in the tight space.
For the night scene, we used the other bathroom in the house and shot after the sun had gone down. Notice the light placed outside the window casting light on the tree to give some dimension to the shot.
On the third production day we setup and shot two different lifestyle scenes. The first was a brunch type setting on the deck and the other was out around a fire pit with smores. Again, props go to the DP and crew for setting up these scenes quickly to make use of the available daylight and remaining time.
A shoot like this is a lot of work and it’s definitely a team effort to make everything come together. Now the post production process begins. I’ll update this post with the end result when it’s complete.