A Few Pointers on Beauty Photography

Ed. Note: For obvious reasons, do not try this at home without using extreme care. I'll say it again: do not try this at home without using extreme care. Seriously, kid. You'll put your eye out. -DH

Photos ©Ludovic Taillandier

By Sara Lando -- Paris-based photographer Ludovic Taillandier (NSFW-ish) specializes in advertising, fashion and beauty. (And occasionally, apparently, novelty electronics.) Today, a look at the making of his futuristic Tronized Beauty series.

Diagram notes:

• A Profoto D4 4800 generator and 3 heads were used to light the scene.
• Key light is the soft box above the model's head. Fill light is coming from a big soft box behind the photographer. Background light is a snoot on a neutral grey background, with a red gel.
• The novelty laser pointer is a the type with interchangeable heads which break the beam into different patterns:

(The lighting varied slightly throughout the series. Shown is the setup for the image directly above the diagram.)

As Ludovic explains, the whole shooting was basically an excuse to play with shiny toys. (Ah, photographers and their lust for gadgets!)

Says Ludovic:
I'm always searching for little tricks to go beyond my knowledge limits. So each time I see something that could create light or interact with it, I'm always ready to try it. This time, I was browsing eBay for little 'toys' I could play with, and I ended up looking at small laser pens, and it hit me: I had to use those for a personal shooting.

When I met Julie, the model, I was fond of her hair. And thought it would play perfectly with a laser beauty series. I knew my talented team would create great hair and makeup to go along with it all.

Afterward, I thought to myself that I had seen Tron not that long before the shooting. Maybe that's where the inspiration came from (hence the title of the series). I just had to play with a laser and see what I could do with it. I always push myself towards directions that defy me.

Working with a team of very talented and experienced people is a keystone with this kind of imagery. Both the "red glamourous makeup" (courtesy Julie Camus) and the voluminous brushed hair (by Jean Baptiste Santens) helped in building an image which is both sophisticated and effortless.

But the special touch was the laser. And getting it perfect took a little experimentation.

"The main problem was to make the laser be on the right light level," Taillandier says, "and in the first test shoots, it was either too dark or too bright. But eventually I found the right balance. I wanted my aperture to be f16 to get everything sharp and I wanted to work at ISO 100, so I lowered the strobes' power and shot at 1/4th of a second".

It's a bit of an unusual shutter speed for beauty shots in a studio environment. But Ludovic was using a monopod, holding his breath and working with models who have the uncanny ability to sit really still. (The latter was also important to prevent the laser from hitting her eyes.) And though he has an extensive background in retouching, Ludovic's goal was to get getting everything in-camera.

Ed. Note 2 (DH): For those of you who are wondering: yes, I did get really pissed off when I saw this technique and realized how awesome it would have been for this assignment. D'oh.


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