It's Profoto Friday! What a kick to be able to share stunning images with you every week!
What I love most about Profoto's archives is the diversity of the artists. Over and over again I'm dazzled by some of the most creative artists in the world. This article/interview with David Bicho is a great example.
A big thanks to Profoto for allowing me to share these posts with SCU's readers. You'll find so much great information in the blog archives as well as new material being shared almost every day!
Those of you who have read our flipbook for portrait photographers are already familiar with David Bicho’s stunning images of a model covered in food ingredients – oil, salt, flour, cocoa and licorice, to name just a few. Still, we think the images are too good to not share with the rest of you. Enjoy, and big ups to David for sharing his work and expertise with us!
“It wasn’t about the food,” says David. “The real reason was that I wanted to shoot one face but with different textures. I’ve always been fascinated with how different a face can look depending on how you light it, and I wanted to explore this phenomenon further by experimenting with different facial textures.”
As with most experiments, David did not know exactly what to expect. For instance, he soon learned that oil and salt do not mix very well. Instead, what was supposed to become a beautiful, crystal texture ended up looking like a skin disease. Ingredients such as flour, cocoa and licorice, on the other hand, turned out even better than he had hoped for.
Obviously applying flour, cocoa or licorice creates very different textures. Still, if we look at the portraits David shot, he evidently managed to maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the entire series.
So how did he do that? The short answer is: with lighting.
“I wanted a large light source for the licorice shot,” says David. “A large light source equals large and beautiful reflections that accentuate the shape of the face. For this reason, I choose to work with a D1 monolight and a Profoto Giant 240 Reflector as main light. The Giant Reflector, which is something of a favorite of mine, is standing camera left, quite close to the model.
“I then had a second D1, equipped with a Softbox 1×6’ RFi, standing camera right behind the model. The softbox was equipped with a blue color gel to create blue reflections and to enhance the green glitter the make-up artist had applied.
“Finally, I had a third D1, equipped with a 10° Grid and blue color gel, as background light. That’s the light that is visible on the left hand side of the background, behind the model’s face.
“In addition to the monolights, I had a large foam core board lying on a table in front of the model. The foam core board was used to lighten up the shadows around the model’s chin, forehead and nose.
“Finally, the black flags were also crucial. The shiny licorice reflected every single light source in the studio, so it was just as important to flag off light as it was to add light. I believe I had eight flags in total: three on each side of the shooting area, and another two right behind the model. You can actually see one flag in the image. You see that large black area on the right hand side of the background? That’s a flag.”
Accidental Licorice Shot
“The second licorice shot wasn’t planned”, says David, “It just happened. The make-up artist had just started to apply the licorice, when I realized how cool it looked and that I had to shoot it. So I just tweaked the setup and pushed the release button.
“Because of this, the set up was quite similar to the other licorice shot. I had a D1 with a Giant Reflector as main light. You can see it reflecting in her eyes. Speaking of which, this image is also a great example of the amazing skin textures you get with the Giant Reflector. That kind of broad highlight detail that you can see all the way from her forehead down to her eyes and further down to her lips – only the Giant Reflector can do that!
“Again, the background was lit with a D1 with 10° Grid. But I didn’t use any color gel this time. Neither did I use any fill light. Another important difference is, of course, that we added certain elements during post production. The gold make-up, the hair and the pigtail, all that was added in Photoshop by my talented assistant Maria.”
Cocoa Shot - shown at top of post
“The first cocoa shot we did was the one where the model is looking straight into the camera,” says David. “The main light is a D1 monolight, equipped with a Softbox 3×4’ RFi. What’s interesting here is the position of the softbox. It’s positioned right in front of the model’s forehead, almost horizontally but slightly tilted towards the camera. In other words, she is sticking the front of her face into the light. That’s why it’s so dark around her face and under her eyebrows and under her lip. Having the softbox so close and at this angle to the model means that you get a light that you might not associate with a softbox. It’s a common misconception that softboxes can only do soft and flat light. But as you see, having the softbox turned away makes it a vertically narrow light source. Hence, the sharper vertical shadows, mixed with the short depth of light due to the close placement. I believe this brought out some strikingly beautiful textures in her face!
“By the way, the fact that the softbox was slightly tilted toward the camera meant that I had to put a black flag right above the camera to prevent the light from hitting the lens,” adds David.
“The catch light in the model’s eyes is also worth mentioning. The upper reflection is, of course, the Softbox 3×4’ RFi. The lower reflections, the white stripes, are created by the same piece of foam core board that I had in the licorice shot, but in this case I’d attached several pieces of black gaffer tape to create the white stripes. The table with the foam core board was also positioned much further away from the model than in the licorice shot. This was necessary to prevent the light from the softbox bouncing on the foam core and unintentionally lightening up the shadows in her face.
“The flour shot just happened,” says David. “I barely changed the setup I’d used for the cocoa shot. The only difference is that I removed the black flag above the camera. That is why there is light leaking into the image in the lower right corner of the image.
“During the flour shoot, I also experimented with blending the flour with cocoa and water. I then used Photoshop to turn the coca red. So the portrait that looks as if the model is bathing in wine, that’s actually flour, cocoa and water.
“To be honest, I’m not very happy with either of the flour shoots,” laughs David. “But I still think that it’s nice to show them. If nothing else for the fact that they remind me of the importance of simply going with the flow from time to time.”
David Bicho is a photographer from Stockholm, Sweden. He shoots pretty much everything – editorial, fashion, lifestyle, portraits and advertisements, you name it. You can see more of his stunning work at his website.
Click here to read the of the flipbook (for which this article was originally written).