Isobel May-Lou. An English Classic


In this post I am going to explain how I came in contact with Isobel; a professional model from England, how the concept of this shot came to be, how we actually captured the image and the post production.

Isobel found me by doing a websearch for photographers.  She liked the diversity of my work and contacted me for a portfolio shoot that would introduce her to the fashion community here in the Pacific Northwest.  She sent me a note using the contact form.  I saw her potential instantly and quickly messaged her back.  We did some planning, and it worked out that she and her partner, Ron, drove three hours from Seattle to Vancouver, WA in snow and freezing rain to get the the shoot.  No excuses, she shows up and keeps her commitments.  Very professional, very communicative, a dream to work with on all fronts.

Our concepts were headshots and fashion.  I was working on getting acquainted with new deep parabolic softboxes with a variable focus rod inside.  As we were done with the beauty looks I saw the neon of the movie theater outside.  It is a vintage theater (Kiggins Theater in Vancouver,WA, it has a neat history if you google it) that is across the street from my studio.  I asked Isobel if she had a very formal dress with her.  She showed me a vintage looking white dress.  Perfect!  I asked her to give me a vintage look with her hair.  In about 20 minutes, with the light fading too fast, we were outside, ready to shoot.

Once outside I had to deal with the following:  How to light the shot, how to keep Isobel warm, composition and fading light.  I chose my D750 over my D800 because of better low light performance.  I chose my 200mm f2.0 lens for the same reason.  I considered my 85 mm 1.4, but I knew the 200 mm would do a better job of separating Isobel from the background without over blurring it.  Also, when thinking of composition and lens selection I think in terms of a triangle.  The lens is at the peak of the triangle, and the other two corners comprise my scene.  An 85mm lens would have a wider triangle than the 200, and I wanted the shot to bring attention to my model while limiting background distractions.  The 200 is my favorite lens for this type of shot.  screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-16-16-pm

I had Isobel walk from my front door of my studio about a 1/4 block down the street to get a good angle on the building and the neon light.  Once I had her positioned, I moved to find my position to get the elements of the scene just right in the background.  My monopod was fully collapsed, I was almost sitting in the snow.  I had her framed just right.  Based on distance to subject and the amount of ambient light I had to work with, I chose f2.8.  I would have preferred f4, but it was just too dark.  I could have gone up to ISO 800, but I really wanted rich color so I took a chance on ISO 400.  As you can see, the shutter speed of 80th of a sec on a 200 is ridiculous.   The combo of the monopod and the VR of the lens lets me get away with making those types of crazy choices.  Isobel is not someone who moves once she strikes a pose, so blur of the model was not an issue.  I used a Bowens beauty dish mounted on a Flashpoint XPLOR 600 set to TTL.   I used a Godox trigger to fire the flash.  I positioned the light camera right for contrast, about 12 feet from Isobel.  With the fading light, I didn’t have time to meter as I normally do.  The Flashpoint was another item I was getting acquainted with, so this was a good opportunity to see how well it could see a scene and give me good lighting.  The results are spectacular so far.

I took about 6 images, looked them over, and called it good.  The winning shot was the very first one.

Based on the strength of the shot, the quality of the model, and the overall importance of this shoot, I chose to send the RAW file over to Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch for editing.  No one is better than Pratik.

The image came back and I sent it to Isobel.  She instantly booked another shoot.  Investments in lighting, lenses and post production paid off just as instantly.  I could have cut corners in several of the steps listed here.  I could have continued to shoot indoors, as the shoot plan indicated.  But I saw an opportunity and went with my gut.  I could have used less expensive gear or lenses, but I know I can get looks with the 200mm 2.0 that I just can’t get any other way.  And I could have gone with my own editing skills.  But I have made all these other investments in cameras, lighting, lenses and everything else.  Why would I cut corners on editing?  A professional retoucher that does nothing but edit will clearly be better than me, a part time retoucher/full time photographer trying to edit when I am tired from a full day of shooting.  Hiring a retoucher gives me a life instead of hours on the computer after I get home.  Better results, less time.  I gotta say hiring a retoucher is one of the best decisions I have made in my business.

Hal Harrison, Rose City Photography (



About rosecityphotography

Hi, I am Hal Harrison. This is the blog of my musings of things involving life and photography. Enjoy!
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