Once again, I need to thank AK Arts and Little Boxes Studio for connecting me with Chelsea Farrah and Eric Koptke as well as hosting us for another great shoot. If you are in the dance community, you may know Chelsea and Eric from various competitions they have been in or various workshops they have put on including here in the Bay Area.
As ballroom professionals, Chelsea and Eric obviously have a rather large assortment of photos already, so they were looking for something a bit different. And what would be more different than destroying thousands of dollars worth of one-of-a-kind sponsored gowns than throwing paint at them?!?!?
Yeah, well, they thought it was crazy too, so we didn't do that.
Instead, we tried something less destructive with their own wardrobe, flour. Flour is one of my favorite things to play with on photo shoots, it's very versatile. You can use it in place of smoke machines, to texture the skin, to trace movement, and to create explosive effects that are very challenging to obtain with other techniques. Although you do need to be careful, because some people are sensitive to flour other can build up dust in the lung and it also can explode with aerated.
I had been meaning to take some behind the scenes shots to show how we created this series, but unfortunately I was having too much fun actually doing the shooting. Sorry.
But for the photographers out there, I can tell you a few things I was thinking about when putting this together. First, you want the flour to pop, so a dark background and darker clothing will work best. Second, you want to hit the flour hard with the lights, again to make it pop. I often shoot with the lights 45 degrees off of facing at the camera from behind the models, to get the lights shooting through the floor. In this instance however, I actually have the dancers and lights all facing each other in a line, then use a fill just a bit to camera right. This will help fill in and soften the features of our lady to the left, and not affect our gentleman to the right to give him a harder look.
I also would normally use grids on my strips to prevent light spill on background keeping it dark, especially since the flour tends to collect on it and whiten it over time. However I skipped them this time. I liked the texture the light spill gave us, so I didn't need to apply some kind of texture in post.
Finally, WRT camera and light settings. I'm using Einstiens for the stopping power. The lights are set about 1/8 power and are on action mode to give me sub 1/4000th of a second flash durations, since I want to make sure I can not only freeze their action, but have a very crisp effect with the flour. Since these are not beauty images, I could also bump up the ISO and go with even faster flashes.
In this shot, we loaded up her foot with flour to trace the kick. The trickiest thing, apart from the dancer not slipping on the flour covered floor, is to get enough flour onto the foot/shoe to create a nice solid effect. You can try the same thing while someone throws flour in from the side as well.
Next come tossing it around, it really adds drama to the shots.
You can see the trace left as he throws it up while someone threw it behind him. You can also just throw it at him for fun. :)
Aaron will be more than happy to throw fists full of flour at your head if you would like to come down and work at his studio.
As I mentioned above, the flour can also be a bit more controlled than smoke, allow for a more intimate action shot than could easily be generated by a smoke machine.
Towards the end of the shoot we could load up the dancers with more flour, since we are no longer as worried about keeping the clothing flour free. A combination of flour on the hair, shoulders, and clothing helps create a cloud as they snap into their movements.
You can find out more about this wonderful dancing couple at: