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Egyptian Shoot – Behind the scenes and how it was done

I’ve had a lot of questions from other photographers about how I shot the egyptian shots I recently posted so I thought I’d do a more detailed blog on the hows and whys of the shoot and how we got to the point I had images like this coming out of the camera without any photoshop work yet.

First and formost is the team of people I worked with. If JChans, an amazing young designer and artist, had not done some an incredible job on the makeup and costume design no camera would have made it better. Add to that Jeffery Forlorns ability to work with the concept to tie everything on the far side of the lens together.

As for how it was done on the back side of the lens it really came down to a few things. Having the right tools and knowing how they would work when used in certain ways.

The shoot was held at the designers house and not in the studio. My studio is on the third floor and no elevator and while the sarcophagus only had gold paint instead of metal it still weighed enough nobody wanted to try and muscle it up those stairs.

So first of all I had to decide what to bring, and it had to be small enough I could carry it back up to the studio afterward without a heart attack. 🙂

Backgrounds. The background is the back side of the floor end of a 12×24 Canterbury background I recently purchased at Amvona.

Once the background was setup I had some time to play with lighting as the last of the makeup was applied.

For lights I brought two options to try out. A studio strobe and a pair of Canon speedlites along with a canon ST-E2 wireless controller to fire them off camera.

First up was the single studio strobe, and AB800 shot into a 6′ umbrella.
I knew this would be less likely to be as effective from my test shots and the first shot confirmed it.

Now one thing you’ll notice right away is this image lacks the warmth of the others, nice thing about the current Canon cameras and flash units is when talking together they can set the white balance at the moment of exposure to match the variables of the flash. Of course white balance can be tweaked easily and still without photoshop.

So know we’re much better and only a slight exposure tweak away from being as nicely exposed as the others, but there’s still the issue of it looks like a model in front of a prop in front of a muslin background.

This shot was at F6.3 and 1/160th of a second. At F6.3 there’s just too much still in sharp focus.

I knew with different lighting I could take much better advantage of my newest lens, the Canon 85mm F1.2 L. In the few weeks I’ve had this lens it’s become my absolute favorite.

So I taped one of the speedlights on top of the AB800 so it would fire into the umbrella and moved the other to point at the sarcophagus, and used some gaffers tape to make an impromptu snoot to focus the light from this flash on the gold face of the sarcophagus.

With those two lights setup I used the ST-E2 in high speed synch mode to ratio the flash units so to about a 4:1 ratio so the light hitting the umbrella would have much more juice going to it.

This allowed me to shoot around 1/200 and 1/250 (too fast to synch with the studio strobes normally) at a aperture setting of F2. Now it’s that F2 that allow the face to be nice and sharp while the sarcophagus, less than a foot behind him, falls into a lovely soft focus and the muslin background becomes an brown splash of color and not fabric.

While the tools often are limited to your budget (or your rapidly shrinking credit) knowing how to use those tools in a given situation is just a matter of practice. In the digital age it’s so much easier for a photographer to learn how things react and what results they give than when I was learning on my old film cameras back in day.
Change those settings, play with the exposure. Look at the results and try something different and study those new results. Eventually it will become second nature and you’ll find yourself zeroing in on the creative look you want for the shots instead of just the “my that’s a well exposed” shot that the basic settings might give you.

2 comments
  • And that’s exactly why you’re my favorite 🙂

    Did you snap some shots while I was working too? If so, could you send them to me?

  • Shannon Von Eschen

    You’re amazing. I can’t comprehend it. =)