Playing in the basement


A pose with attitude–Lesly was lit by a softbox on the right and a reflector to fill on the left. The hair light directly behind her head had a 20° grid to narrow the beam of the light. The hardest part of was staying in Lesly’s shadow. Any extraneous light from the hair light hitting the lens completely obliterates the image. On her part, Lesly, a very good sport, was kneeling on a bench to help her maintain her balance since this pose was hard to hold.

lesly2I equate photography skills similar to those of a musician’s.

So let’s say I’m classically trained, but I’ve been booked to play Top 40 popular music or Jazz.

Don’t roll those eyes!

Musicians, like artists,  have bills too.

Most classically trained musicians should have no problems doing the gig especially if they have the sheet music.

But it’s the improvisational part that might take a bit of doing because they’re not used to being given such free rein.

Similarly, most newspaper photographers who shot transparency or slide film learned to be technically proficient.

White Background

–We draped a white sheet over the grey to give us a different more airy feel. We also tried the shot with Lesly and her hair down.

Fancy speak for lighting and exposing well because of the unforgiving latitude of slide film.

It’s the so-called edgy look and experimentation, if you will, that I have had very little chance to try.
There were few fashion assignments when I worked at the paper.

When those came along, everyone wanted to shoot those. I wonder why?

I met up with makeup artist Arcy Garcia and budding model Lesly Garcia at my favorite coffeehouse Back to the Grind.

We used the basement which is used mostly for storage and an occasional pool game.

The Plan

The idea here was simply to come up with as many “looks” for Lesly in 2 hours.

Purple–The next look Purple was easy enough to do with my grey backdrop. I merely had to add a purple gel on the backlight. The main light this time was a softbox directly over Lesly. Arcy helped by holding a reflector very close to Lesly’s face.

This was the first time I :

  • shot in this basement
  • worked with makeup artist Arcy
  • photographed budding model Lesly Garcia

Problems? They were all minor issues compared to the 102°F temperature outside.


Canon 40D with 100 mm f2.8 macro lens
3 800 Ws White Lightning flash heads
Sivered umbrellas, Softbox, Grid Spot and grey and white backdrop


Aura of mystery–Lesly behind curtains originally shot in color was converted to black and white. The main light was a 800Ws White Lightning flash shot into an silvered umbrella about 3 feet away from Lesly. There was another 800Ws flash with a blue gel aimed at the backdrop. I “borrowed” the curtain from a display on the wall.

lesly_pinkwallOur finale was just a change in makeup against an existing pink wall.

I used 3 lights.

Main light on the left in a softbox, full size reflector on the left.

I had one light with a grid spot aimed on the pink wall behind Lesly and another light on the left behind Lesly to light her hair on the left.

If I had a little more time, I would have tried some outdoors.

But I doubt we would have lasted 5 minutes.

Many, many thanks to Arcy & Lesly Garcia. Hope you guys had a blast.

I know I did. If I did more of my homework, I would have called before the shoot to talk some things through.

My buddy Ted Kulesa was a big help with his behind-the-scene pictures to show each setup. Ted, you’re the best.


Sisters–Arcy, (standing) made her little sister Lesly look great during the photoshot. Great teamwork guys! Let’s do this again soon.

Photographers and basements

Over the years, I’ve been known to spend time in basements.

Most photographers of my generation can attest to this.

Darkrooms inevitably wind up in basements because they are easy to make light tight.

The photo department where I worked had a studio in the basement as well.

Next time…

So before I forget, here’s 6 lessons I learned from this shoot.

2 thoughts on “Playing in the basement”

  1. As usual you’re being too kind Shane. This “Glamor” genre is something I’m new at.

    It’s sort of like shooting Food. You have to have a stylist in some ways. Either that or you have to conceptualize before you shoot.

    I have lots of room for improvement on my end. The behind the scenes pictures are actually a memory aid.

  2. Another great post. I think that the use of the borrowed curtains was a brilliant idea and one of the best photos in my opinion.

    The behind the scene’s pictures really added alot to the post.

    Thanks for sharing, Shane

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