Always Bring a Model Release

I try to be pretty open with this blog. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I screw up royally.

A recent shoot I did for Rosco is a good example of both.


Earlier this year, Rosco contacted me to do for them a shot illustrating some gels of my choice. Naturally, I chose to use gels from the Strobist® Kit that they developed in response to severe pressure being put on the samples program.

(I do not get any income from the Strobist® Kits, it was merely a joint-branded effort repair the damages we had incurred onto the samples program. You can read more about that here.)

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to do a sequence showing that you could alter the colors in a sunset by using a tungsten or window green gel on your flash(es) and dialing in the complimentary white balance shift on your camera.

So I emailed Shelly Guy, a flexibility artist who you may remember having been stuffed inside a locker for a shoot a ways back. She's awesome, and I thought she'd be great for this shot.

We had already pushed the shot once for weather and as our rain date approached, I was a little under the weather myself. I mention this because I was clearly not operating at full mental capacity on the day of the shoot.

So, simple idea: key and fill flashes, soft lights, Shelly in front of sunset. Shoot fast. Swap out gels and white balances to alter the ambient background. I packed three small bags: cameras, grip and light mods.

We got to the location and hiked the gear around to the other side of the lake. Sunset was coming fast and it would be a pretty tightly choreographed process to get all three looks as we worked through the declining ambient.

As we set up for the shot I pulled out my gear — and realized I had left my bag of light mods at the house. We had two speedlights. Two bare speedlights. Sunset was coming fast. There would no time to go back home.

At that point I wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Centennial Lake*. On the inside.

On the outside I took a deep breath and calmly confessed my stupidity to Shelly. I had to, it would do far less damage to the shoot than for her to see me freaking out and trying to hold it all in.

So no mods, light is dropping fast. Think. Think. Think.

Model releases. I've got model releases. Three copies on A4 paper, to be exact. And a two-inch stripe of gaff stuck to the bottom of my camera. Whatever we do, we'll have to do it with that.

First release goes to the on-axis fill. I put the flash on-camera and taped the release to the top of it, letting it drape down in front and rest on my lens. It was not unlike shooting with a LumiQuest Soft Box III on camera, except the fill carried all the way down to the lens axis.

Okay, now the key. In addition to the CC gels, the key carried my normal 1/4 CTO gel for warmth. I taped the remaining two model releases together and draped them over the C-stand-mounted key.

It looked like this:

I gotta tell you, times like this are when having an intuitive understanding of light really comes in handy. The key is not soft, as I had planned. It has just had the edge taken off of it by shooting through the pieces of paper. So the shadows will be hard-ish.

But that is not so critical, as the on-axis(-ish) fill will control just how far the shadows drop. And the other piece of paper on the fill will take the edge off, if only a little.

It's not ideal — and the experience probably took a few years off of my life — but here is how it turned out:

Having dodged a bullet (okay, maybe having been nicked by one) I prepped the photo along with the other WB-swapped versions and sent it to Rosco. They were happy.


I did not tell them about the model releases. Until now. (Hi, Joel!)

A couple of quick notes on the BTS pic above. One, the cobbled-together fill light is still on my camera. Since I am a little further away for this BTS shot (and still in manual) it's a tad dark.

Two, the small piece of white paper on the trunk is to make for an easy white balances in every frame, as we gelled the flashes and changed settings on the camera. It was cloned out in post.

And finally, suffice to say I will never, ever leave the house for a shoot like this without my mod bag again. Nor will I be without a few model release.

Just in case.


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Blogger Unknown said...

I have an iPhone app for model releases, but I doubt that would have solved this problem! ";-)

May 07, 2012 9:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yikes. Nice recovery, hopefully never again.

So you had the Roscoe CC pack but were missing the softbox / beauty dish / whatever you were going to use?

Pretty darn good with a couple of pieces of paper and some gaff.

May 07, 2012 9:38 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

No idea if you use an iPhone but there are several model release apps, that you can change to your own wording.... really simple..... snap a shot of the model, and get them to sign on the screen with their finger.... presto, one model release, pdf format, including headshot and signatures, and since I never leave home without a phone, I never leave home without a model release. The Easy release App is the one that I use, but there are several.

May 07, 2012 9:49 AM  
Blogger Andor said...

Wow - great way you saved the day, congratulations for!

May 07, 2012 10:06 AM  
Blogger Tim Piggott said...

And there was me thinking you were being sued by a model for posting her pictures without permission!! Great to see some awesome low budget work!

May 07, 2012 10:32 AM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Thanks for this post, David. For one, as usual, the lighting instruction/advice inherent in the story is great. But the "OMG EVEN HOBBY IS HUMAN!!" aspect was much appreciated by someone (me!) who loses common nouns every day with each new minute of age :) Oh and do let me know how the ban on forgetting works out in the future [grin]. Love the blog.

May 07, 2012 10:37 AM  
Blogger Heipel said...

PS -- with the jump to mixing big lights (Acuteb2) with my speedlights I'm now taking C stands on location. Mine are of the folding, non removable legs type. Noticing the C stand in your post, question -- are they the non removable leg type and if so, have you found a functionable carrying case/bag for them? Sorry for going off topic.

May 07, 2012 10:46 AM  
Blogger Southern Skies Coffee Roasters said...

When I went through Air Assault school in the Army, missing even one item from my rucksack was grounds for immediate dismissal, so I made sure to use a packing list.

My brain can be like mush (particularly if I haven't had my coffee), but the packing list never forgets.

May 07, 2012 11:08 AM  
Blogger Fabio Bosco said...

Constraints force you to be creative. Great example of this here. Well done David!

May 07, 2012 12:21 PM  
Blogger Ian Pack said...

David, I carry some Rosco #3030 Grid Cloth, #3006 Tough Spun, #3082 1/2 Straw Grid Cloth and #3072 1/2 Blue Grid Cloth with my gels and lights as they fold up small enough to get me out of brown and sticky situations. The 1/2 Straw & Blue Grid Cloth is great as a modifier/correction for soft boxes! At the very least I carry #3030 Grid Cloth in most of my bags, like you, I've learned the hard way.

May 07, 2012 1:47 PM  
Blogger Eric Duminil said...

Will we have to wait for the Rosco website to display the different sky colors?

May 07, 2012 1:48 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

- Hi David!

We can't wait to put this photo to work over here at Rosco.

May 07, 2012 2:34 PM  
Blogger Zach Sanderson said...

I'm guessing the "*" is to denote the appropriate reference to A Christmas Story?

May 07, 2012 2:36 PM  
Blogger Dream Boy Martin Kimeldorf said...

Someday you David H may get to be as old as me. When that comes, hacking a c-stand around the lake will not be an option. Forgetfulness still will be your friend. But at least I can do a similar shot in my small green screen strobist studio where all my mods are located. I only have to remember to show up. I challenge you, David H, to send me a picture of s lake backdrop image, and a second image of the model with the same pose in front of a green or white screen. (Green preferred). I'll then try to create a similar imiage as your shot and send it back for your critique or acceptance…or both….I challenge you to think out side the location shooting box.

May 07, 2012 3:18 PM  
Blogger Amandalynn said...

Total MacGyver moment.

May 07, 2012 5:55 PM  
Blogger DigicII said...

While you MacGyver the flash modifiers, we know necessity is the mother of invention.. and you would have found away to light this even if it required using underwear or cigarette smoke...

Rather it is the planned elements that I learned from here; a piece of white paper in the shot for post: Brilliant idea.

Thanks as always for the great insights.

May 07, 2012 7:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Nutter said...

The mark of a true professional...something goes wrong, or you forgot crucial gear, or whatever...maintain composure and still come away with something more than just OK. That is a model for everyone to follow.

May 07, 2012 8:11 PM  
Blogger junyo said...

Great. Now my wife will read this and give me grief anytime I want to buy any light modifiers. "David Hobby can do a shoot with three pieces of paper, why do you need a new PLM?"

LOL. Good stuff.

May 07, 2012 8:57 PM  
OpenID elabua said...

Hiya David, thanks for this illuminating story!

Can we see all 3 iterations of WB??

May 07, 2012 11:31 PM  
Blogger jhelms said...

You use A4 paper?

May 08, 2012 1:37 AM  
Blogger Kwame said...

Strobist: Guerilla Style. Funny thing is that for me, it's at moments like this, that I really start internalizing the lessons about the nature of light.

May 08, 2012 5:04 AM  
Blogger Feureau Appleseed said...

Speaking of model releases, can you recommend a good generic model release form we could use?

Would be greatly appreciated.


May 08, 2012 5:04 AM  
Blogger Shane said...

Thanks for The Christmas Story reference. Made my day.

May 08, 2012 1:51 PM  
Blogger Nisse said...

And this, dear people, is why we come back week after week and read his blog. For his skill in lighting. I vote to rename Mr. Hobby to Strobe Macgyver.

Thanks Man!

May 08, 2012 2:15 PM  
Blogger Richard Mallory Allnutt said...

Nice save! I remember having a similar crisis when I forgot the soft boxes for my strobes. Thankfully I was able to borrow a white sheet, but I was sweating bullets there for a while!

May 08, 2012 2:49 PM  
Blogger Morne Condon said...

Small white square in each frame for white balance - to be cloned out later. Thanks David, always a little gem of pure practical genius that results in a "why didn't I think of that" reaction. Best part of the whoe post!

May 08, 2012 6:24 PM  
Blogger Roar Engen said...

David, did you remember to have the model sign the light modifier after the shoot?

May 09, 2012 7:30 AM  
Blogger brainstorm3 said...

On assignment to re-color the sun
'Ol Dave left behind mods for his 'guns'
After cursing inside
He soon re-found his stride
And with paper and tape got 'er done!

May 09, 2012 12:18 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I know the P-word (Photoshop) is ugly in Strobistville, but it beats the F-word on the rare occasion when we F-up. It's a really cool program; check it out sometime. ;)

Great improv though, must admit. I've shot through a grocery bag or two when bitten by the stupid bug. Not pretty, but hey, what doesn't kill you defines you.

May 10, 2012 8:36 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Nothing wrong with Photoshop. It's a tool. But like any tool it has its best uses and its not-so-great uses.

Whenever I start thinking of it as a crutch, I know I am veering into the latter category.

But to deny it as a useful tool (as many dogmatic, mostly older photos do) is just dumb.

May 10, 2012 10:55 AM  
Blogger jakob aebischer said...

Im glad you had at least your gels with you;-). The rest, very McGyver!

May 11, 2012 4:13 PM  
Blogger Christy Harper said...

Thanks for the tips :) I do need some ideas and your is cool

May 28, 2012 3:57 AM  
Blogger TreasureSeeker said...

Ok, without this mess-up, I might have missed reading about Rosco. And having now read all the stories about Rosco, I want the Strobist collection.

Good job Rosco and Strobist!

June 05, 2012 6:47 PM  

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