Abi’s Photoshoot

I spent last Saturday in the studio again, helping out a friend and learning about lighting. This time the photoshoot was for Abi, a talented dressmaker who needed photographs of her work for her portfolio and to use on her website and business cards, etc.

The outfits to be photographed were two dresses and some Victorian underwear. The lighting was less dramatic than the last shoot, which gave me a chance to learn a bit more. I didn’t spend as much time taking photographs this time, however, but hopefully it’s still possible to get an idea of the set up from the ones I did take.

A. The Black Dress

The first dress was actually the most difficult. It was a black, late Victorian outfit with lots of fine detail (all in black) that needed to be captured.

The black dress, under ambient light

The black dress, under ambient light

Two light sources were used. A Lencarta studio light acted as the main light source. This was fitted with a large, rectangular softbox to diffuse the light and had an ‘eggbox’ grid placed over the front to stop the light from spreading. It was placed very close to the model, so the light would be softer. A secondary light source from two speedlights placed behind an umbrella provided a soft off-axis fill light. This angled lighting provided extra detail to the shadows, which gave definition to the dress while still being soft enough to be flattering for the model’s face. A white background was used, but this appeared dark-grey as the light from the flashes barely reached it.

Lighting set up for the black dress

Lighting set up for the black dress

B. Victorian Underwear

The second outfit was the period underwear worn under the first dress. This was easier in terms of lighting (soft), but more challenging in terms of composition to create interesting poses that would show off the back of the corset effectively.

Victorian underwear, showing large softbox with grid

Victorian underwear, showing large softbox with grid

The studio light with the large softbox was used again, but the grid was removed later on to soften the light. A speedlight inside a smaller softbox was positioned further back on the opposite side to provide some edge lighting. The off-axis fill light from the two speedlights behind an umbrella was also used again.

Lighting set up for the Victorian underwear

Lighting set up for the Victorian underwear

C. Velvet Dress

The final outfit was a steampunk inspired velvet dress

Again, the large softbox was used for the main light source and this time two speedlights were each placed behind smaller softboxes to provide rim and fill light. At some point during the previous outfit, we changed to a black background, which gave a more intimate feel and made the outfits stand out better.

Lighting set up for the velvet dress

Lighting set up for the velvet dress

During the course of the day I was taught how to operate a light meter. The advantages of this over the built in camera meant we could measure the effect of a single light and adjust the strength as required. Using the light meter meant we were shooting in manual, giving us (well, the photographer anyway) full control over the aperture and ISO (shutter speed is normally determined by the camera’s sync rate). In this case, we were shooting at f/8, the sweet spot of the lenses used, to get everything as sharp as possible.

During this shoot, I learned more about creating different types of light and how this affects the model and the look of the final image. I hope to apply some of what I’ve learned on a smaller scale sometime in the near future with some still life.

With many thanks to the photographers at Quattrofoto.

EDIT: Quattrofoto have now put up their own blog post, with an official description of the lighting and some final images from the shoot.



  1. Interesting and well-explained. Great for you to have that opportunity.

  2. bmhana · · Reply

    Wonderful opportunity, Lucy!
    The experience should stand you in good stead for later in the course!

  3. […] and I have worked together on a few photo shoots in the past – that makes it sound much more professional than it really is – I’ve […]

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