UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


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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