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The Idea

In 2014 I did a shoot for a young musician photographing her in a rowing boat on river, which went really well. Pretty soon after that I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if instead of a boat on a water, you have a bed on water?”. That conceptual idea then began evolving in my head over time to an idea of a young lady waking up from her dream but still in the dream. I wanted that challenge and knew if it could pull it off, it would look pretty cool.

Last year I made a commitment to myself that once a month I would do one personal shoot a month for me. Not for a client, but for me; with no pressure to keep a client happy or an opportunity to try an idea I wouldn’t have been given with a client… It’s also a great way to try out new gear like you would do on a test shoot maybe.

This is so important for any photographer to do because if like me, you’re a working photographer, sometimes you can get stuck doing a bunch of jobs you’re not fully happy with or too scared to try something new. So once a month I do a free shoot and do something I can experiment with to use as a proud piece of portfolio.

Planning & Creating The Project

This ‘Lake Shoot’ marked my second personal shoot and something I had wanted to do for a while. The logistics to make this shoot a reality was to find an appropriate lake, bed, and model. The model was someone I had previously worked with before on a couple music video shoots so I knew Macie really well. Having a great rapport with your model, especially if they’re really young is so important. I made sure Macie was fully aware of what would be happening and kept her laughing through the day. I choose to use a young girl with a teddy bear to make the scene have more of a pure, naive innocence feel. I wouldn’t have had the same effect if it were a grown man in the bed. There was nothing awkward at all working with Macie or any client if you’re sure to build a rapport with your client, no matter what age they are.

To keep things really simple with the lighting, I only wanted to use one light and one soft box. As its obviously outdoors, I couldn’t plug in my studio strobes and didn’t have the luxury of a Bowens kit or Elenchrom Ranger so I had to make do with my £40 YongNuo flash gun and bought the Lastolite Hot Rode Octa softbox which is a pretty big softbox designed for flashguns. I also bought a battery pack, which, to my surprise, could fit into the flashgun so I could shoot at full power all day without constantly swapping batteries. We had no worries with the power at all! The only downside to this very cheap flash was not having a high-speed sync mode. This meant I couldn’t photograph anything faster than 200th second because of the flash sync speed.

The first setup was on the bridge. I wanted to compress the background as much as possible so I used my 70-200mm lens to push the background closer to me but still frame Macie as a wide angle. This allowed me to also have a shallower depth of field. This also allowed my VAL to get as close as he could without appearing the frame. The closer he could get, the better the quality of light. My VAL, Liam, was able to stretch over and position down onto the subject acting as a clarified boom arm without the worry of your boom arm falling over. Its important as I’ve already said to have a great raport with your subject. Like most young children, they take direction much better if you show them first. On the bridge I wanted to capture Macie in mid walk pretending she’s tip toeing along the edge so I did the action with Macie for one, show her how I want her to walk and two, its amusing for both of us and gets her more relaxed.

My approach when posing young children is very simple. This wasn’t fashion shoot with a young adult. You have to be aware of your subject. For Macie, we kept things very simple and mainly captured Macie in mid actions walking, yawning, playing your hair, playing with the end of the dress etc These little actions make Macie more natural because most of the poses are Macie doing something and keeps their mind on fidgeting. That’s a key word for me on any shoot to keep the model moving and not get too stiff.

The ‘money shot’ was Macie in the bed, on the lake though. Everything was setting up for this which was the vision I had in my head for almost a year and couldn’t wait to make it a reality. The bed was a blow up bed, which was double in height than most blow up beds to make sure it didn’t sink. Then blew it up using an air pump plugged into the cigarette lighter of the car. Laim (VAL) was a vital part of my day. I will very rarely shoot outdoors without an assistant because it takes a worry away from me and can focus on the shoot. It also allows me to get my light in positions, which could be difficult with just a stand… especially if you need to get your light next to a bed on a river.

Credit to poor Liam for doing this but without him I wouldn’t have achieved the shots I got. There was no doubt I needed my assistant to be in the water to get as close to the bed as possible for the best quality of light possible. There would have been no way my flashgun would have travelled that far enough to reach the model.

Project Results

I walked away with a set of some really cool pictures but more importantly, I had fun experimenting with this idea and laughed through the day with new and old friends. That’s what its all about at the end of the day. We all got into photography because it was fun. Even as a working photographer, its still fun. It’s easy to get caught and say yes to any job offered to you, but sometimes that’s not always a good thing. If I don’t think Ill enjoy the job, the client might be hard work or I simply cant put my heart into a job, I wont do it, and politely decline. Its got to be fun but its got to challenging too. You’re not always going to get those jobs so make them for yourself like I do once a month to keep my love for the craft going.

Personal work is the most honest and truthful reflection of your own style.