Thursday, May 31, 2018

A "Breakfast at Tiffany's" portrait session

A couple of months ago, I had one of my favorite clients contact me and ask if I could do pre-mitzvah portraits of their daughter Esti. This is something I do often, but this one had a couple of twists. For one thing, my client, whom I have worked with before, was now living in London for a couple of years. We needed to work around both of our schedules to get the photos done in CA on one of their visits back home. And since Esti loves Audrey Hepburn, she wanted her mitzvah theme to be "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  Keeping with that theme, Esti wanted her portraits to transport her back in time and take on the Audrey look.

We set a date that would work for both of us and then her mother put the plan in place. She arranged for Esti to have her hair and makeup done earlier on that day in April. While they were doing all that, I was doing some research. I have not seen the movie, but made sure to watch numerous scenes on YouTube, and pulled up images of Audrey Hepburn from back in that era.

I then went to work setting up a makeshift studio in my living room.


I started with the white side of the Lastolite reversable backdrop. This was connected to the Lastolite Magnetic Background support (which is one of my favorite photo products ever, since it makes setting up a backdrop SO easy). I used three different Canon 600EX-RT flashes for this shoot. One on either side of my subject for main lights and one which was firing onto the white backdrop.


The main lights were shooting into umbrellas that were mounted onto my Manfrotto light stands.


The third Canon 600 EX-RT was gelled using the MagMod MagGel holder. I inserted the blue gel and pointed the flash at the white backdrop. I then adjusted the exposure of the camera and flash power so that the end result would be a light blue.


Before Esti and her mother arrived, I printed out some of Audrey Hepburn's poses that I had found on the Internet. I figured that this would be a helpful guide for Esti to mimic certain Audrey poses.

Since nobody was home at the time, I went next door to my neighbor and asked if he would sit in for me. Using him as my subject allowed me to adjust each of the flash units to get the correct exposure for Esti.

I used my Canon 1D X Mark II camera with the Canon 70-200mm lens for all the photos.

Then it was go time!


Esti showed up with the perfect hair and makeup and in a classic black dress and gloves. She totally fit the part. At first I just had her mimic some of the poses that I found on the Internet.


She is a confident and fun kid who was totally in her element here.


At one point, I did try changing the gel colors, but ended up liking the blue best, and decided to stay with that for the remainder of the shoot.



I did vary the amount of flash on the background to try different brightness behind her.





Once I had a bunch of different poses from Esti, we decided to add some props to the mix. I had given my wife a dozen roses a couple of days before this, and we decided to "borrow" one for Esti.


Esti and her mother had brought a Tiffany's bag and box with them, so we used those as well.


About a year ago, my wife purchased an old suitcase at an estate sale. She brought it home and I said "why the heck did you buy that thing?" She said that someday it could be used as a prop, and darn it, she was right once again!


When retouching the images, I sent a bunch of black and white versions to her mom. And just for the fun of it, I also decided to do some selective color editing.  They loved this one and wanted me to do a couple more.


In our living room, we have the old phone from the house I grew up in. It still has the label with my old San Francisco phone number in the middle. We handed this old relic to Esti and had her play with that for a couple of shots.


We also have some really old cameras here at the house and felt that this could be fun too.


It was Esti's idea to do a "selfie pose" with the old camera. We all laughed at that!


After we were done with all the other poses, we put the old suitcase on a stool to raise it up. I then asked Esti to lean onto it. She was smart enough to lay the gloves in front of her. I asked her not to look at me, but to look up towards my main light source. And this is my favorite photo from the 45 minute session. 



Her relatives and friends loved seeing these photos at her Bat Mitzvah last weekend. Not only did we capture photos for her big day, but photos that she and her family will cherish forever. Oh, and we had a blast doing it!

Did I ever mention that I love my job? :)


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