How I Shot This Levitating Model on Location

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How did I capture this otherworldly image of a model in a red dress levitating over a rugged Icelandic landscape?

You might be able to guess some aspects of the shoot, but there are a couple of surprises that only the keenest eye will spot!

Lighting the shot

You’ll notice that the strongest light is coming from right of camera, but the model’s left side is not too dark. You may also detect that the background is well exposed across both the land and the sky. This is all the result of finding the right balance of natural light and studio flash.

The key light was a Para 88. This modifier was perfect because of its ability to throw collimated light across some considerable distance. This meant I could keep it out of my wide, landscape-capturing shot while still utilising the light it cast.

The fill light was another Para 88 to camera left. To maintain the three-dimensionality of the image, the exposure on this light was set one stop lower. In other words, I made sure the lighting ratio was high enough to achieve the contrast I needed to make the shot work.

Lighting the shot

Why I needed a graduated filter

I was keen to darken the sky slightly and make it as ominous as possible. But I needed to do so without decreasing exposure on the model. That’s why I opted to shoot with a graduated filter while angling the key light up slightly.

Using a graduated filter

In a situation like this, it’s also possible to increase the power on your key light to keep your main subject correctly exposed while the filter darkens the background. This is a great example of why I prefer to rely on my own eye, rather than a light meter.

Using (and losing) the trampoline

As you’ll have spotted in the image above, we used a trampoline to create the impression of ‘ascension’. This required me to shoot on a tripod, both to elevate the camera slightly and to ensure all other elements of the shot remained fixed in place.

Setting up the trampoline

That way, once I’d captured the pose I needed, I was able to remove both model and trampoline from the shot and take another comping shot. I could then rub through this layer in post-production to erase the trampoline from the final image.

The final fashion image

Explore more ‘Fashionscape’

This shoot is part of ‘Fashionscape’, an epic fashion photography series I created on location in Iceland with model Santa Auzina and several members of my team. For more stunning shots like this, be sure to check out the whole series.

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