Photoshoot Blog, 12th May, 2017

Alien girl

The purpose of this shoot was to create some promotional imagery for a hush-hush upcoming project I'm working on with a videographer friend. We needed some really striking, exotic makeup closeups shot in water.

We chose model Kyanna Raye van Domselaar for her strong facial features that would carry a bold makeup look, and for her engaging expressions. Makeup artist Suzanah Soffian created a look for us that would go with our neon coloured lighting to create something really otherworldly.

There are two main things I've learned over the months I've been shooting in my water pool at River Road Studios. The first is that one must light separately for the model, and for the water. That means some lights are there just for the model, and some are there just to render the water visible, and to give it the right look. The second is that motion in the water is essential. It breaks up the reflections, but most of all brings the water to life, makes it more "watery". The best way to do it is to have the model move her body through the water, and that's what we've done here.

Glitter is a great way to add more texture to water shoots, especially if it's visually already a bit off-with-the-fairies anyway.

The initial lighting setup I tried here involved a coloured light for the water (from behind), and a neutral light for the model (octobox from in front), but it was looking a bit cheesy and not very magical, mostly because the model was natural toned and the water, which is essentially the background, was coloured. It felt disconnected.

So I scrapped that in favour of a plain strip box from behind, to give crisp, shiny, white reflections in the water, still the neutral octobox from the front, and added a low blue light from the side, just to light up the shadows and make it more surreal, and loved the results from that. Having some colour on the model to mix with the colour in the makeup worked a lot better. So then it was just a case of having Kyanna do some fantastic improvisational movement through the water, and blasted out a heap of great images within minutes.

I think having Kyanna's face semi-submerged gives the image more human connection, as it's quite evocative of how the water would feel.

If you look at the lower right of the image, you can actually see the reflection of the grid on the strip box, which normally would bug me (I usually remove the grids for this setup), but here I've left it in as I feel it gives the image a slightly more "scifi" feel.

The resulting images were actually really strong right off the camera. The editing here is really just three things - some smoothing of skin textures and general cleanup, deepening the blacks for a crisper, punchier image, and cranking up the colours a bit, especially the blues in the shadows and the magenta in the midtones.

More images:

About the author

Jeremy Phillips is a professional photographer based in Perth, Western Australia, specialising in beauty, fashion and dance photography. He manages River Road Studios, a professional studio available for hire, and runs educational workshops and creative activities for aspiring photographers.