Bad Taste Barbies

I’ve long wanted to try my hand at music promo photography. In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out how to market myself to bands that may need a music promo photographer, especially since my portfolio in that area is about as limited as you can get – i.e. nonexistant.

So when my pal Crystal “I’ve got this crazy idea” Grenade got in touch and asked me if I’d be up for shooting some promo images for her band Bad Taste Barbies, well, who was I to refuse?

First question: where to shoot? We could have shot on location but with all the costumes involved, it didn’t seem practical. Instead, we settled on doing some studio work, and I found that Arc Photos in Preston rents out its studio for quite a reasonable rate.

Next question: how to shoot.

The band are pretty bright and colourful (as you’ve likely noticed by now) so it seemed that rather than cluttering everything up with lots of sets and colourful backgrounds it would be far, far easier to shoot on white seamless and turn it into an infinity wall (which means, pretty much, that you can’t see a wall and your eye can’t work out how far back the photo goes). Luckily, hours of re-watching Zack Arias’s CreativeLIVE workshop and reading his white seamless tutorial left me feeling reasonably confident that it was something I could handle.

It turned out that the studio’s cyc wall wasn’t a cyc wall at all, so much as it was a large white sheet suspended from a frame and backlit with two Interfit 600 Stellar X heads. With nothing set up, it looked something like this (Zack fans will appreciate the sticks, I’m sure; the other backlight is a bit to the right):

All well and good for shooting 3/4 length, and I’ve shot with this kind of setup before, such as in this image of Katie Green, shot against a Lastolite Hilite background lit with two Lastolite 400w heads:

Trouble is, as soon as you want to shoot full-length you run into problems; the border between the backdrop and the floor becomes startlingly obvious for one thing. For another, the white flooring in the studio was covered with foot and tyre prints. And even if it wasn’t, it was matte, so if I were to shoot full-length on it the band would look like they were floating in space.

Zack gets around the latter problem by putting a sheet of something called tileboard, which has a gloss white finish on one side, down on top of the seamless that he’s shooting on. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything similar in the UK, at least not in the short period between booking the studio and doing the shoot. Some googling found me a thread on the Flickr Cyc & Seamless group forums, where it was suggested that white-faced hardboard from B&Q, whilst being far more matte than Zack’s tileboard, would do the job of providing a reflection pretty well. It turns out to be true.

And so, armed with four 6’x2′ sheets of white-faced hardboard, some Interfit heads and a white sheet, we shot for about three hours. It was an incredible amount of fun and I can’t wait to do it again (any band who wants me to shoot them either in a studio or on location can reach me at mail@grahambinns.com). In the end, I don’t think any one of us could honestly say we didn’t have a blast.

As always, more to come…

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