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Stella, the model, reached out to me several years ago about a photo project she had in mind and asked if I could help her bring it to life. We had an amazing shoot and now, though I moved away, whenever I am back in town I try to see if we can connect again for a photo shoot.

I happened to be visiting the town again and reached out to her in March to see if she had any ideas in mind, as she is creative herself! She said she had been envisioning an ethereal shoot, fairytale-like out in the woods or a meadow. From there, we found a nearby location and had about an hour to make a shoot happen.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

Typically, I give more direction to models/clients however Stella is such an incredible talent! I asked the model to gently frame her face with her hands. Since she was quite experienced, she did it flawlessly.

What did you say?

“Frame your face delicately with your hands.”

How did you compose your image?

Walking through a park, we came across a twisted mess of branches that seemed to naturally have a center point and place to frame a subject. I directed Stella where to stand so the branches intersected above her head.

How and what did you focus on?

I always want to make sure that I nail focus on the subject’s eyes. I focused on her iris (while her eyes were open) and maintained the same focus point as she moved through various poses with her hands and expressions. She was consistent in her placement however so I did not need to refocus during this sequence.

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How did you use the light in your image?

I used daylight only for this shot. The sun was behind the model, but she as standing in even shade due to the branches and trees behind her. I always try to find even lighting when shooting subjects.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Camera

Canon 5D Mark IV

Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro

Filter

None

Other

None

Shutter Speed

1/4,000

Aperture

f/2.8

ISO

800

White Balance

Auto

How did you edit your image & what did you use?

I like to edit true to color with a little added richness and depth. I use a custom preset that I’ve tinkered over the years, but my plan is to sell and develop a line of presets in the future! After I get the tones, white balance, and exposure to my liking in Lightroom, then I pull the images into Photoshop. In Photoshop I use a frequency separation action to smooth skin that I downloaded from a tutorial on Phlearn. I love keeping the natural texture of a model’s skin so frequency separation is a great way to smooth out imperfections while keeping the image looking natural. My final step is to use light and dark exposure brushes to highlight and contour the subject’s face.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

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What challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge was shooting in a semi-urban area with a multi-use trail and even some houses nearby while trying to maintain some semblance of a real woodsy or forest feel.

How did you solve them?

The trick was to just keep exploring and moving around the area. We found this spot right at the very end and we could have easily overlooked it if we didn’t keep our eyes open.

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

My advice is to really explore the area that you are shooting! This shot, my favorite from the session, was actually one of the very last pictures I took. We kept walking through the park looking for interesting backdrops and this spot was found actually when we were walking back to our cars! I thought that the branches looked interesting and asked if she would mind stopping for a few more pictures.

Leah Flores Designs and Photography

Shooting since

2009

Current Home

United States of America

Website

Instagram

Leah Flores is a photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. She grew up in the mountains, forests, and valleys of the Western United States, and her work is heavily inspired by the landscapes of her childhood. Her work has been featured in Vogue, ELLE, and more. Works in Portland, Seattle, Boise, and San Francisco.

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