Rainbow Stripes

by Ilko Allexandroff

This photograph is a part of a project I am working on with my friends who are hair stylists. The project is called "Profile Series" — we take photographs of profiles with some really interesting, alternative hairstyling and makeup. We're trying to make them unique.
 
 
Canon EOS 5D MarkII  .  Canon EF 135mm f/2LUSM  .  135mmmm
 
 
We decided our next image needed to be colorful: something that really popped! We bought some straws from the convenience store close to the hair salon where we were shooting. It actually took us about 3 hours to finish the straw hair and makeup. While one of my friends was creating our model's straw hair, the other was painting her face. While we were shooting, they still had to work on her hair and face paint — the straws moved around a lot, exposing her real hair to the camera every so often.

"The key light was a beauty dish. Not only was it my first time using a beauty dish, but it also was a DIY beauty dish constructed by a friend of mine out of an actual bowl."

The background was a 4-foot (1.3 meter) wide white backdrop, but shooting her on white wasn't what we wanted to do, so I thought that we should play with some gels for the background. The key light was a beauty dish. Not only was it my first time using a beauty dish, but it also was a DIY beauty dish constructed by a friend of mine out of an actual bowl. Despite the fact that it was a DIY dish, it still is an awesome piece of light modifier — proof that you can create something good and useful without spending a lot of money. I was also using a ring flash as fill flash behind her head, but it didn't play a significant role in most of the shots.

The background was lit by a gelled flash. In the photo featured here I used a blue gel (CTB), while for other shots on the same day I used an even gradient of 2 colors. In the end, I decided that the blue one was ideal. The background was pure white paper. Since I wanted to turn it into a darker color, I positioned the model about 10 or so feet (3 or 4 meters) away from it, and I turned the room lights off to avoid any unwanted light affecting the backdrop. I had some difficulties focusing, so I asked my friend to light the model with a flashlight, which quickly solved the problem. 

"Recently all my PocketWizard hot shoes broke, so I've been using them only as receivers; I purchased a Phottix Atlas transceiver to trigger them."

The shoot itself only lasted about 20 minutes, so I had to tweak the lights and find the ratio between them pretty fast. Needless to say, all my flashes were in Manual mode. I attached a Phottix Atlas Trigger to my camera body, which fired both the beauty dish main light and the ring flash since they both had a PocketWizard Plus II remote flash trigger attached to them. The backdrop flash was triggered optically, meaning by optical slave mode — it fires when its light sensor detects the flash from other flashes. Recently all my PocketWizard hot shoes broke, so I've been using them only as receivers; I purchased a Phottix Atlas transceiver to trigger them. I was using my Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 L USM lens.


Lighting setup.



Preparations part 1.
 


Preparations part 2.
 
 
POST PROCESSING
There isn't much post-processing behind this shot. I try to capture everything in the camera. 

1) Here I just converted the RAW file using Adobe Camera Raw, and then I tweaked the Blacks and Exposure a bit.

2) Afterward, I exported the photo to Photoshop and retouched a couple of places where you could still see her real hair, and I smoothed out a few areas on her face too.
 
TIPS
1) Patience — yes, it takes time to create something beautiful.

2) Light — understanding how to use light is one of the most important things for me.

3) Details — search for the small details on your subject. Don't shoot only the whole subject. Also try shooting half of the face, maybe just an eye or only the lips. Be creative: let your inner artist surface!

4) Of course, before you let yourself go wild, make sure to grab at least a few safe shots.
 
BIOGRAPHY
I am from Bulgaria, but I live in Kobe, Japan. I started taking photographs by chance about 3 years ago, and it has become the love of my life ever since. I love playing with light and setting up interesting setups. When I upload a photo, I include some really detailed information about how I lit my set; it makes me very happy if my instructions happen to be useful to other people. It’s a real challenge for me to create interesting lighting setups, and I experiment with them often.

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