This was the first look of the day from a recent shoot with model Taylor Mae. We had been dealt a blow to our shoot plan due to weather, and had moved a great deal of the shoot indoors last minute. This was a challenge as I did not have an actual studio available on short notice, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that my living room has fairly high ceilings, and moved my furniture around a bit.
For the first look I decided to keep things really simple as far as the setup goes, in order to really establish a workflow with the model. I had a long 10x20ft solid grey muslin that I quickly clipped to the crown molding in the corner of my living room and let the excess cover the floor. I am rarely a fan of portraits shot against a muslin background, most of them being reminiscent of Sears Portrait Studio circa 1992. Usually I think the best thing to see on a muslin background is fire...
But, that is normally due to placing the model too close to the background, and lighting the background too prominently. I prefer a more subtle approach.
In this case I felt the perfect combination of simple and effective was to use a single studio strobe head with a translucent umbrella. The strobe was camera left centered about a foot above the models eye level, with a large white folding V-Flat camera right for fill. I feathered the strobe in the umbrella slightly past he face, allowing the falloff to let the background go a bit darker. You still catch just enough light on the ripples in the fabric to let you know it's there, but it's not so prominent that it becomes a distraction.
An umbrella is such a simple lighting modifier. I feel like it doesn't get the one it deserves. Even with all the other lighting modifiers I own, I still find myself reaching for a simple shoot through umbrella at some point during just about every studio/indoor shoot.
Most tools are like that... they have more capability in them. It's our job to coax that capability out of them. And ourselves as creators.
Find more of the lovely Taylor Mae - uncensored - including behind the scenes content, on my Patreon page.
Images shot with Canon EOS R with Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art Series Lens