Alexandra Susko models in Regina Hall at Marywood University on the evening of 12 November 2011.

This was a shoot I had been looking forward to for a long time, but conflicting schedules kept getting in the way, until finally we were able to pull it off. Alli is a dear friend of Mandy and I, who is giving serious thought to trying her hand at modeling. She’s got the look for it and, coupled with the desire, it could take her far. The trick is getting her foot in the door somewhere and the first step towards accomplishing that is, of course, having a portfolio. Ah, it’s good to be friends with a photographer!

We pulled some strings to get back into one of the local universities, in a banquet hall and lobby I’ve used before. They’re a great space, lots of room, high ceilings, and interesting props. And best of all, easily adaptable to pretty much anything we could come up with.

Since this as Alli’s first serious stint in front of the camera, we started off slow and built up from there. It took us a little while to catch our pace, trying several setups that fell flat, or didn’t quite work, before we finally hit on the right energy. Dragging this big old chair out into the middle of the room was Alli’s idea, and she ran with it, spinning a hard, edgy look that I was able to compliment with the lights.

Alexandra Susko models in Regina Hall at Marywood University on the evening of 12 November 2011.

The key light is a 28” softbox coming in from camera left, just out of the shot. It’s fighting against the background light, which was set several feet behind the chair and aimed directly at it, zoomed to 105mm with a ½ CTO gel in place. The results were excellent, although sometimes unexpected, the light morphing around Alli depending on her pose, sometimes washing out the scene, other times causing some major lens flare. It’s a bit of a new look for me, but one that I like, and definitely one that works for her.

With the ambient light failing (and the controls to the banquet room not working), we moved out into the lobby afterwards and shot out there. It’s a move of 10 feet but results in a completely different feel, trading dark wood paneling for polished marble. The final setup was a series of poses, full length and head & shoulders, next to a marble column:

Alexandra Susko models in Regina Hall at Marywood University on the evening of 12 November 2011.

The key light here is the same softbox as before, again to camera left just out of the photo. The background light is opposite it, behind the column and angled at the wall behind Allie. It’s a still a hard light with the same gel and is providing background separation.

What makes this whole series work is Alli’s earrings. It may sound strange, but the best shots of the batch are the ones where the earring shows. The rest of the scene is really fairly monochoromatic: light marble, light blouse, fair skin, everything very warm in color. The blue earrings throw just a hint of bright, cool color into the scene that grabs the eye and pulls everything together.

This last shot was from one of the early setups, and was about the only one that worked from the series. I want to share it anyway because its a setup that I like using when possible. By tucking the model into a corner like this, you gain two elements: first, the model is able to interact with the space, leaning on the walls, arms out, etc. Second, you gain bounce/fill light for more of a wrap-around look.

Alexandra Susko models in Regina Hall at Marywood University on the evening of 12 November 2011.

The key light here is my 43” octobox, which was behind and slightly above me, with the smaller softbox providing fill from the left.

What we definitely figured out was that as a model, Alli responds best to high-energy setups, where she has the room to move and be dynamic in her posing (like sitting in the chair upside down!). Static setups – what you might call more traditional portrait setups – are too confining for her and tend to look duller. She needs an outlet for her own energy, which is a good thing, since it means that we can try more interesting setups and poses in the next shoot. And there’s definitely gonna’ be a next time.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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