Fashion and Water in the California Desert

This fashion editorial style image was shot on a chilly and windy February afternoon. We had an assistant just out of frame with the model’s coat so we could try and keep her warm when we were setting up, changing positions or changing batteries on the Hensel Porty pack. We used all 1200 watt seconds (Joules) of power and was pumping this light into a Broncolor Para 88 focused for maximum distance. Due to wanting to get the model warm, I only shot 50+ images in 20 minutes, having to wait for the pack to recycle to full power and this included having to stop and dispatch a fleet footed assistant to locate and retrieve a freshly charged Li-on battery from the equipment van. One of my assistants “Volunteered” to carry Annabell to and from her perch, such gentlemen I am surround by!

Make up & hair by Steven Bartling from Los Angeles, California.

Gear: Canon 5D MKIII camera, set at 50 ISO & 1/200 second shutter speed and a Canon 14mm “L” lens set at f14. Light is a balance of daylight plus a Broncolor Para 88 using a Hensel Porty 1200WS pack.

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Steamy Fashion in the Cold Night

S-2304-040-F8-Crop-Copyright_Steve_ThorntonThis was shot in downtown Denver, Colorado on a cold (6° F – minus 14.5° C) windy night. I had scouted the area the morning of the shoot to find a steam vent that was not in the middle of an intersection or in the middle of the street. This vent was off to the side of the street in a bicycle lane in a part of town with a low amount of traffic. I also asked Carol to watch my back in case a driver somehow missed seeing the model & me. The “Great Problem” was the wind. I say “Great” because without the wind I would have never been able to have this image with the steam swirling around the model. The “Problem” was most of the shots just did not work due to the steam being blown out of the shot or totally enveloping the model, me or both of us.

The gear:
Canon camera set at 160 ISO, 1/25 second shutter speed with an 85mm f1.8 lens at f2.5.
I used a long shutter speed to allow some of the ambient light to illuminate the background so you could have a sense of depth and place.
I also used 2 Lumedyne packs, one was in a FourSquare “Travel” softbox, placed slightly behind the model on her left side, and the other was a hard light directed from the model’s front left side aimed mostly down onto the coat and not so much on her face. These 2 battery powered strobe packs provided the main light.

Fashion on an old Italian farm

This fashion image was shot just outside of Milan, Italy. It is the second look of 6 looks we shot here. The location is an abandoned farm house that is falling apart. I was very careful where I had the model in this building. The opening in the wall behind her had already started to collapse. You can see some of the bricks behind the model that have fallen. I looked hard at the wooden support beams above where we are for any sign of rotting. From my B&B in Milan to this location is about a 20-30 minute drive and is very close to Milan’s Linate Airport.

We were driving to Linate when Emiliano, my lead assistant in Europe, mentioned that he saw the roof of an old building. So I quickly forgot about going to the airport and went & scouted. The gate was locked but there was not a “Private Property’ sign so we tromped around for a good 15 minutes. On our way back to the car I noticed an older gentleman on a bicycle waiting for us. He ask what were doing and we said we liked the location & wanted to know if we could get permission to shoot here. He told us that there was a woman that came by everyday to feed “her” cats & pigeons, normally around 3:30 to 4:00 pm (15:30 – 16:00). Of course I’m thinking that if she does not feed the cats there will not be very many pigeons left, in fact even with her feeding the cats, I saw the remains of a pigeon. So we thanked him then parted to go to Linate.

A few days later we had time to go & visit the farm & we met the woman there. She was very kind, gracious and granted us permission to shoot there whenever we wanted. She went on to say that parts of the buildings were dangerous so we should be very careful. Her late uncle was the owner and she remembers visiting there many times while she was growing up. She pointed to the remains of a door and told us that her uncle would project movies at night. She went on to say that her uncle loved America and that is why the farm was named “Acquabella Farm”. “Farm” is not an Italian word, fattoria is a word for farm in Italian. See the image below. The “House” part of the farm is still intact and, with a weeks worth of cleaning, would be liveable again.

From when the model showed up at my B&B to start makeup and hair styling to when we were finished shooting and ready to leave took 5.5 hours total. The initial makeup and hair styling took 2 hours, it took about 30 minutes to drive here meaning we shot 6 looks and packed all of our gear in 3 hours. Pretty fast considering, but shows what can be done with the right crew and a great location to work.

Go here to look at a 30 second behind the scenes video.

Go here to look at a before & after image.


Any use for a comp or mock by an advertising agency, design firm or magazine, for internal use only, is always free, just ask me for the image & I will send it to you. Also any educational use is free, please just ask in advance. The exception to free educational use is any form of commercial publishing, printed or electronic.


Shoot & Camera data: Canon 5D MKIII set at 320 ISO, 1/125 second shutter speed with a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens attached set to f8. The only extra photography gear is a Sunbounce Pro sized reflector using a zebra fabric positioned well behind me, about 30′ to 35′ (9 -11 meters) from the model. The reflector is providing just a small POP to the light.

Cowgirl Fashion

This cowgirl flavored fashion editorial image was shot inside a B&B in the Buckhead part of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Wardrobe styling by Vicki Perry with hair & make up by Sav Wood. Originally this was to have been shot the day before, but I was a bit ill so I asked my producer to delay it until the next day.

I still was not 100% (maybe 25%) the next day but the model had traveled 6 hours to shoot the project and I figured that I might as well feel lousy and shoot (something I really love doing) vs. staying at home feeling lousy. So I sucked it up, packed my gear into the Explorer and drove to the location, about 25 miles (40 KM) away. When I arrived I asked the crew to bring my stuff in, normally I help but today I decided I needed the energy to “See” and think.

Shot with a Canon 5D MKIII set at 1/160 second, 320 ISO with a 16-35 mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f2.8 and 16mm hand held.

This was the second look we worked on and was very easy to light. All light is from a Lumedyne battery powered strobe system using a FourSquare softbox and a Lighttools grid, all of which was set just to the left of the photo. Microsync radio trigger system.

Any image is available for comp or mock use at no charge, just ask first.

An unusual fashion accessory shoot in Milan, Italy or: Making a visual statement to help your client get noticed

In Advertising Fashion Photography, helping the customer make money is, for me, a top priority. This particular shoot is about helping a client re-brand themselves. They wanted to have a photo to allow them to be noticed in the clutter of magazine ads with other competitors.

Asking questions of the client will get you a good idea of what they think they want. They likely do not know what they want so it will be up to you to decide how to execute the shot. The client showed me a series of images they liked. One was a shot of a woman with a bag on their head. A bit out of the ordinary but not a real statement that they said they wanted. This is a company I have been shooting for since 2007 and all of their promotions had been nice, well executed images, which is what they wanted. They are now re-branding the company as a very high end handbag line and need to make a real statement to garner attention they need. One of these bags will retail in the 6000 Euro range. (About $8000, it’s made from an ultra high grade Alligator hide.)

So I said how about using a big gruff looking guy shot in a back alley. They liked the concept but had not a clue how to do it. I asked them if anyone they knew might be the guy we wanted. One of them said they might so I asked them to take their iPad & shoot photos. They came back with 96 images of this guy. But before they showed me they said to me, “I don’t think this is the guy we want to use, after taking the photos I have decided he is just not the right person for us.” I insisted on seeing the images & told them that I thought he was perfect. So I asked them to check the weather for Monday, and it looked good. A lot of stores in Italy are closed on Monday including his ice cream shop, yes he makes gelato for a living.

I then gave the client a list of props & wardrobe I wanted them to collect for the shoot. The day of the shoot I asked everyone to meet at the client’s office at 6 pm which was a 5 minute walk from the location I had picked out. I shot one image at the clients property (see the image above) because I liked the wall & I knew I could adjust it in Photoshop to where I wanted it to be. Then we loaded up & went to the main location. One of the images I wanted to shoot was this guy acting like Mr. Mom with a hand bag. So I had asked the client to get at least 2 toddlers, which they got. I asked for 2 because just in case one was not having a “Good” day, the shoot could still go on.
Note: Anytime you need to shoot young children, ALWAYS book more than one. A young child will let everyone know if they are not happy and if you need to shoot an image with a young child & the one child you booked is not happy, you will not get the shot you need & your client will not be happy either.

After shooting with the kids I sent them home and set up in a blind alley. The light is all hard light with the exception on some of the shots when I needed some fill light I used a FourSquare lightweight “travel” softbox with a Lumedyne pack & head. Otherwise I used Lumedyne packs & heads with reflectors, one of which also had a grid spot attached. The main light was setup overhead using a Manfrotto boom. Instead of hauling the heavy counterweight that comes with the boom kit (10 pounds – 4.5 KG), I wrapped the Lumedyne battery powered pack’s strap around the counterweight end of the boom & it worked great. NOTE: The Lumedyne 200 WS pack with the large battery weighs 6.5 pounds (3 KG) so it is not an exact replacement but close enough for this use.

I also had another hard light set up to be used as a background light. This way I could control how much of the BG would show in the image. If I did not use this background light the image would look like it was shot in a studio on black seamless paper.

One of the really great things about shooting on location at night is you get to control the light’s quality, intensity, direction and effect on the scene. After you are in the photography business a long time you will have the ability to “See” what the final image can look like before you shoot the first frame.
Again, the ability to pre-visualize a lighting setup will allow you to change the light quickly to match your vision. This only comes after years of trial & error on your part while on your road to learning light. Because I can do this so quickly this entire project took 2 hours 45 minutes to shoot.

Remember: Just because a light is not the main light, it has importance… otherwise I would not use it. I am a big believer in a one light setup, but this is not the only way to light, just the fastest & easiest
Below you can see how I illuminated the shot above.

Go here to look at this same article with larger photos.

Max in the Cow Barn


This image was shot near Zingst, Germany, which is on the Baltic Sea. I was in Zingst because I had been invited to once again teach 3 fashion photography workshops during one of the largest photo festivals in Germany.

I arrived in Zingst about 10:30 p.m. on Friday and checked into the hotel. On Saturday morning, a day off for me, Emiliano, who is my lead assistant in Europe, and I drove around scouting the areas close to town looking for cool places to shoot. I shot at this same location last year because of all the texture it offers and I wanted to make sure it was still standing and look for other areas to shoot.

Immediately after each of the workshops I would have my crew load the gear into the vans & we would drive to one of the locations outside the town.

This location is inside an old DDR (East Germany) dairy barn, where twice a day they would milk 28,000 dairy cows. As you might imagine this facility is HUGE. The roofs of about half of this massive facility have already collapsed due to neglect. The hay storage barn looks to me to be about 50,000 – 60,000 square feet and some 50-60+ feet high. The length of the milking barn is over a quarter mile long and some 450-500 feet wide.

The light you see in the above finished image is mostly from a Lumedyne strobe inside a FourSquare “Travel” softbox, which is directed onto Max, the model. The FourSquare also has a grid on the front of it.

We finally left Zingst at 5:30 p.m. and I needed to be back by 7:00 p.m. for one of my sponsor’s events. In the 90 minutes available, the drive there & back used almost 20 minutes. So I had to find the exact spot I wanted to shoot, determine what lighting I needed, the crew then set up the gear. I then had to tune up the light & controls, set the balance between strobe & daylight, set it best for Max in the first location, in the National Forest, and shoot. This took total of 25 minutes. My crew then packed up, reloaded the vans & drove to the dairy barn where we repeated the process for this image.

Go here to see behind the scenes images and a larger image.

Fashion in Bel Air

This image was shot in Bel Air, California about 10-20 minutes after sunset & I’m using the modeling lights from 2 Lumedyne battery powered strobe systems for additional lighting. One head is in a FourSquare 30″x30″ travel softbox, which is pressed up against the opened car door with the window rolled down and the other head is directly in front of the car aimed at the model. I’m shooting with the new Canon 5D MKIII set on 2500 ISO, 1/40 second shutter speed, using a 16-35 Canon zoom lens set at 16mm & f2.8.

This new Canon camera body has a great auto focus system that actually works about 95% of the time, a HUGE improvment over the 5D MKI & MKII.

The jacket, an Alan Michael USA creation, is made from leather with fish skin trim which sounds really strange but is really an interesting combination.

Fashion Details

This is a detail shot of an Alan Michael leather garment. To me all of Alan’s garments are more art pieces than “Just” another item of apparel. This image was shot in Alan’s award winning showroom in Denver Colorado.

I was shooting several items for Alan’s new website and I just had to shoot this close up to show the luscious details.

From the quality hides, to finding special buttons to weaving tie strings out to leather to the trimming all wraps up in a special item that people who are familiar with Alan’s work know who designed it.