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Shoot Set Up and Styling

Lesson 14 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

14. Shoot Set Up and Styling


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Shoot Set Up and Styling

So the model has arrived, And I'm very excited to see her. You look fantastic. Thank you. Before I continue, this is Christina, our makeup artist who's done a beautiful job today. And this is our model, Lexi. So Lexi's arrived and before we get on with shooting I just want to go over a few things that I noticed before we continue even further. So, I always do this. I always take a moment before a shoot to just have a good look at the model, get a final run through, and see if there's any few little bits and details that I can tighten up before we actually shoot. Yeah. Pratik, I'm sure you noticed a couple of things as well. Of course, to save us both time. Yeah. The first thing I notice is that, since we're working with wigs, a big issue that typically happens is you get the hairs that are coming down on the face. We want to make sure that all the fly-aways that you can take care of now, is taken care of so you spend less time in Photoshop. Wouldn't you agree? Yes. I comple...

tely and utterly agree. So, usually I touch up hairs and if I miss any hairs, Pratik touches them up further. So I know what it's like to have stray hairs in photographs and its not fun at all so if you can sort that out before the shoot, better. Another thing as well was the eyebrows. Yeah. So the eyebrows are clashing, wouldn't you say? Because they're brown but the lipstick is red, the hair is red, and it doesn't make sense visually if someone's a redhead, they would have red eyebrows. That's right, yeah. So there are a couple options. We could draw them in, but hopefully we don't have to go that route. Is there any other options that you have? Yes, I do. (laughs) So, I was thinking that we could use gold leaf. So I've actually brought some gold leaf with me, and I wanted to incorporate them in the makeup somehow anyway. And we were talking about this at some point weren't we? Yeah. So Christina didn't put it on just yet. I wanted to see the model and then get an idea of exactly where I wanted to place it. And I think I wanna place it on her eyebrows and that's just because I think the gold leaf will add another level of, you know, makeup, craft, and a bit more of a story-telling, character-building element to her, to... To you, Lexi. (laughs) So yeah, I'm going to add some gold leaf on the eyebrows which I think will work really really well. Apart from that, you kind of look great. You look fantastic. There's a few little things and tweaks that I'd probably make with the hair and, again, I'll just communicate that with you now. And we'll just sort that out before the shoot. But essentially the point I really want to make is that before you take a photo, if you can take just that little bit of time to tidy up the picture, it just saves you so much time later in post. That's really the key here. So we're gonna tighten you up a little bit more and then you're ready to shoot. So I actually picked up these flowers from Whole Foods just yesterday because I saw them and I was really drawn to how pretty they are. Super beautiful. They have reds, yellows, oranges in them which I think complement the dress, beautifully. I'm thinking about what the final photo's going to look like, and I think that having the red, the yellow, and the orange, all contrasting in very warm tones in real life will translate just really beautifully when I work out this photo in Photoshop. So I picked these because, obviously, they were beautiful but they were too big and too chunky for her, to be alone in her hair. So I thought these yellow flowers would go really nicely with that to add a bit of delicacy as well. This looks fantastic, I love the framing of this 'cause the flowers are coming up which is really nice. I love this, which I can also bring on this side if I need it to. That's lovely. Pratik, What do you notice? Okay, so as a retoucher, there's always things that we wanna focus on. And number one, is that any distraction in the frame that we can remove now... Like I see some dead leaves. So do I. We can pull those off. Yeah. And, aside from that, there's a little tag in the back behind her, which is not very visible. Is it going to show up in the frame? Do you know, it might show up in the frame, but we can just get rid of it in Photoshop. I don't think we're allowed to be chopping tags in this park. (laughs) Right. So we can't take off some things, but the things that we can take off, it's easy to do. So what about the gap here? That's big, so I'm gonna fill it. Yeah, because I like a sense of balance and right now, I feel like that's a little bit too open. Yeah. So what I'll probably do is just fill in a bit more so that this natural progression just works really nicely in the composition. But, again, I'll just decide that when I'm editiing. Perfect. But what I will do, as we shoot, is make sure that I capture the empty place so that I have room to play with ideas. So we're not just freaking out later in case we need to pull something together. No, no. I think that's the best way to do it. Okay. Um, colorwise, I think it works perfectly for what I had in mind, yeah. You've got the reds. And I'm going to add a yellow flower in your hands just to connect you...yeah, overall as a vision. Okay! Perfect. She looks like a flower, come to life, doesn't she? Yeah, she does. It's coming together really well. Yeah, really well. Alright, so I'm really happy with that. Can you lift your head up for one second, I want to see where the light is on you. Okay, so if you face me, look at me. And now look up. Okay, and now look that way. That's lovely. Ah. Yeah. Do you see that? Right, yeah. Did you see the way the light changed? Yeah, change the face at an angle. Yeah, so I'm looking at the light and the shadow and the shadow really gives away where the light source is. So right now, when you face your head to me, there's nothing on her, there's no catch-light in her eyes. But if you lift and turn that way, a little bit lower. There. And eyes to me. Okay, I'm happy. So that's basically how I craft a shoot. (laughs) Are you really happy? I'm happy. Good. She was lovely. That model was really easy to work with and she took direction really well. And that helps as well, when you have a model who takes direction well. So, often I don't actually shoot with agency girls or girls that are necissarily experienced, and that's okay as well, because what it does is make me work harder to learn how to communicate effectively and just give directions. Because, you know, at the end of the day... We were talking about this, weren't we? Where, if you, the photograph is... It shouldn't always have to be about the model's job to look good. She can't see what you see. And if you direct her better, if you direct her really well, you can really pull something out of a girl and that really sets you apart from another photographer as well. And that's just your ability to communicate, isn't it? It is. And it's always important to do a set up like this. It is. Because you get a full vision of how its coming, if you need to make any tweaks, run to the store, get something, whatever it is. Yeah, yeah. Has there ever been a scene that you've seen, that, when you get there and you do your set up like this, it just doesn't work? Yes. There was. It was a snowy scene. Oh, yeah. Yeah. You were there, weren't you, for that shoot. Right. (laughs) Yeah, it was a snowy scene. We saw the location earlier in the morning when I went to pick the model up. And I was like "Oh my goodness. We're going to shoot there." 'Cause it was a frosty morning, the ground was white, everything was sparkling, the whole meadow was empty, the sun hadn't come out yet, so it was all foggy and mysterious and magical. It was actually the time to shoot. But I was like "we'll come back, we'll come back it will stay like this," 'cause it was winter. And we went home, got ready, came back. Of course, the sun had started to peak out by this point. The frost was melting, so suddenly there wasn't white anymore, it was like patches of bright green... But we made it work. We did. Yeah. Photoshop saved the day. We turned the green into white, clone-stamped all the people who were walking their dogs out. (laughing) And, even thought the light wasn't ideal, because I hardly ever shoot with direct sunlight, the sun, at that point, because it was still very low in the horizon, had a really beautiful effect on how it played across her face and her dress and everything else. So that picture turned out to be incredibly striking. Right. So it was a... Yeah, it's okay. You work with what you have and if it doesn't... If it changes in between, you just work with it. So before you go on to our next segment, which is going to be doing our test shots and test shoots, does anybody have any questions from the audience? Yeah. Bella, do you ever find yourself compositing your models into locations that you shot at another time, for instance? No. (laughs) But I'm happy you asked me that 'cause a lot of photographers do. Like Renee, Renee does that. And she does-- Renee Robyn, our friend. Renee. Yeah, Renee Robyn. She's another photographer who actually has a class, here on CreativeLive. But she does that. She composites shoots that she does in a studio with location shoots that she takes while she travels. Um, I don't have that skillset. Right, it's a whole different eye, I think. It is. It's a different eye, and a different vision. I am very, like, if it's in front of me, I can play off what's in front of me and elements in front of me. Whereas she's like fore-thinking. Yeah. Which is great, because Kate does that very well. So if you haven't seen Kate Whitman's work, you need to check it out. It's great. Yes, that's right. So Kate does that really well, as well. 'Cause you've shot in studio and put it on location and made it look seamless. I often find that I get so caught up into the lighting, and the set and all the details in the props, that I can't move on to the fine-tuning of the gesture and the pose and am also often working with non-professional models. Do you have any tips as to how you kind of help coach the model, or how you kind of work together with them to get that last, kind of "ding!" that really makes them shine? Yeah. And you're actually going to see that now in the test shots. 'cause that's really where you do all that. You're finalizing and finessing it in the test shots. Any ideas you have come out then. So that's when I would really let the girl loose a little bit, and get her to, like, move her body, I would, I have some poses I have in mind anyway, and that's useful as well. So if you struggle with preparing for that part of it definitely make sure that you've done some research, maybe, into poses you like, and you can bring them along with you on the actual photoshoot, and be like "Hey, can you do something like this?" And that's how a lot of that fine-tuning comes up. And if you find that there's some elements you might miss, make a list. Mm. Pinterest board it. (chuckles) Yeah. And then show them. Or emulate it yourself, that'd be great. (laughs) Stand in front of her. But, no, literally. Make a list. Bring the list with you, and then tick it off as you go. 'Cause sometimes, when you're at the photoshoot your brain is going at fifth-gear, you know, you're running out of time, everything feels like "we're here, we're here," everything, you know. Too much. Having a list in front of you centers you and grounds you a little bit as well, into really fine-tuning that photo. 'Cause it's time you spend fine-tuning before you take the photo, and as you take the photo, will save you a lot of time later in post-production. And it'll give you a better quality image as well. And when we go through the test shoot video and the shoot video next, what I really loved about this shoot, specifically, more than anything she's done, is the model that we work with, she was having a really difficult time doing those expressions and poses that she was trying to go for. So you can really see her trying to coach her through it. And what we started with and what we ended up with was completely different.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work