Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fashion and Beauty Shoot with Jenni Gucci

I recently did a shoot with a beautiful young lady that goes by the name Jenni Gucci.  She’s relatively new to modeling having one year of experience but she was an absolute pleasure to work with and very easy to instruct for poses.  Unlike many models new to the business she knows her basics.  For the photogs reading this I’m sure you’re familiar with the good ol' deer in the headlights look so I was very happy to discover Jenni is no deer impersonator. 

Our makeup artist was the very talented Salina of Bella Rouge Makeup,  Since this shoot was put together on somewhat short notice I did not have a hair stylist but Salina was kind enough to assist with hair as well and for someone who doesn’t specialize in hair she did an exceptional job.

I’ve posted a few of the photos below along with an explanation of how I took one of the shots. For any models reading this I’ll point out a couple details of the pose that I believe makes the photo good.  That said keep in mind photography is largely subjective… what some people love others will hate and vice versa.

This is my favorite frame from our shoot.  It is very much a classic beauty style shot.  I used three Alien Bee strobes.  You don’t need $1200 a piece lights to take great photos, especially in a studio where your environment is controlled.

I had one Alien Bee on a boom with a beauty dish mounted directly above the camera angled down between 35 and 45 degrees, this was the main (or key) light.  I had another alien bee on a very short stand beneath the camera in a medium soft box angled up between 35 to 45 degrees to provide some fill.  It’s not that big of a deal but I could have used a shoot through umbrella for fill or another beauty dish with a sock (didn’t have one though) which have made the lower catch light in the eyes round as well.  Alternatively I could have Photoshoped the lower catch light out for the more natural one catch light look.  In this case I felt it looked better with the lower catch light than without.  This combination of over/under lighting provides a very smooth look which is exactly what I wanted for this photo.  Our concept for this photo was to have a soft feeling that exudes beauty and elegance.  Notice how the makeup isn't too heavy; this helps add to the soft feel of the photo.  The third light was on a small stand about 2 feet away from the background with the standard reflector angled up at about a 60 degrees to give the seamless paper some light.  By the way my seamless backdrop for this shot was neutral gray but with the amount of light I put onto it, it’s closer to white in the photo.

The style of lighting you use helps to convey the feeling of the photo.  If I wanted dramatic I would go with hard specular light.  If I wanted mysterious I would go with soft but directional light and lots of shadows.  If I wanted an angelic look one method would be to use a very bright backlight and let it spill into the lens to get some flare.

The pose in the photo above is, in my opinion, very good.  Notice how her shoulders are not vertical but at an angle.  Generally angles are more appealing in photos of people than straight lines.  Also see how the position of the arms and hands lead the viewers’ eyes to Jenni’s face.  Her fingers are not straight but gently curled and not pressing into her face, just lightly touching her face.  You want to avoid putting pressure on the face with your fingers because pressure creates unattractive indents.  Her lips are parted just enough that she can feel the air over them.  All these minor details combined make an excellent photo.
And here’s some more photos from the shoot… enjoy!

In the picture above I used a creative crop (16:9) to make what was at first a decent photo into something much more interesting.

To book us for your beauty and/or fashion photography session visit or email us at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tip from Photography de Rêve for models and their photographers

If you're in the world of modeling or photography of models on an amateur/semi-pro level a topic that is often of discussion and sometimes heavily debated is if models should be allowed to bring an escort with them to shoots.

Here's Photography de Rêve's take on it:

Safety comes first.  If you're a model and going to a shoot with a photographer that you have never worked with before I highly recommend taking an escort.  There are many great photographers who are extremely passionate about their craft and have nothing but respect for the individuals they work with but unfortunately, as with most things in life, there are a handful of people with bad intentions.  That said, safety comes first.

There are some exceptions to the "always bring an escort" rule and here's a few.  If it's a professional (commercial) shoot the idea of bringing an escort is pretty much out the door.  You have reached the level where you are working with a good photographer that has a paying client.  Do you bring your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend with you to your day job?

You're experienced enough or have the right look for a high-end photographer to agree to do a trade or test shoot with you.  If he/she is a high-end photographer that more than likely means they have a good reputation.  If that particular photographer has a no escort policy, and typically they will, check references if you're still uncomfortable.  If you encounter this scenario be happy because you've got talent!

In the few instances I've enforced a no escort policy on non-commercial shoots it has been do to a requirement to limit the number of people on set.  Photographers may need to limit the number of people on set due to various reason such as the location being an upscale private residence, a small location with a sizable crew and model roster, or a large crew and model roster. Imagine if you have 2 or 3 MUAs and hairstylists, 1 or 2 assistants, a videographer, and each of your 5 models brings an escort.  Things can get out of hand pretty quick.  The well thought out shoot that has gone through many hours of pre-production has just turned into utter chaos.  In any instance I enforce a no escort policy there is always at least a MUA present and/or another model.  Never do I enforce a no escort policy when it is a test shoot which would typically be just myself and the model.  When and if I make the big move to LA and have my own high-end studio this could change :)

Why photographers should allow escorts.  Several photographers argue that an escort is a distraction to the model.  At times this is true and that's when you need to ask the escort to either leave or wait in another room.  Fortunately I seldom encounter that issue.  I believe it is beneficial for the model to bring an escort, especially for an amateur model who would otherwise be apprehensive.  If the model is uncomfortable this will be reflected in your imagery and you can pretty much dump all your work in the recycle bin or the never to be displayed file.  Congratulations because you've just got nothing in return for your time other than additional mileage on your shutter.

More tips for models and photogs in regard to escorts and people on set:
  • Always arrange and agree on the presence of an escort prior to the shoot.
  • Never bring someone to the shoot with you that is not expected.  When working with amateur models this includes photographers.  I always disclose ahead of time who will be on location; I.E. Makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist, 1 or 2 assistants.
  • Never have your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend show up in the middle of a shoot unexpected.  This is one of the most unprofessional actions we have encountered with amateur models on multiple occasions.  It is a serious distraction to the shoot.  We are using our time to create amazing photographs, not entertain your friends/spouses.  If you want someone to come as an escort, again, arrange this ahead of time.  If you tell your friend/spouse the location of the shoot for your safety that is fine, and actually recommended, but you should explain to them they cannot show up in the middle of the process.
Remember though, the most important thing is to have fun.  Photography and modeling is an art and those who are passionate about it enjoy creating breath taking images.

And when everything comes together you capture a moment like this.

- Robert Wong

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Recommended Read: The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally

I'm not big on reading fiction or reading books in general but I love a great photography book and The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally is just that, a great photography book.  Several photography books I've looked at are dry, boring reads.  I may as well pick up the manual to my camera and read it cover to cover because it would be just as entertaining.  However, Joe's book, is quite the opposite. This guy and his editors know how to keep it interesting.  Not only do you learn tons of useful information along with several "ah-ha!" moments, but he shares great stories about his photographic escapades.  I'm not a book critic and don't plan on doing tons of book reviews on our blog but the Joe McNally books are top notch.  I would say as a photographer The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries are must haves.  Something I really commend Joe on is he even shares some of his photos that didn't turn out right in his books to use as a teaching tools.

Here are a few photos I shot by applying techniques/tips right from the book.

Single flash on camera (bounced)

Single flash on camera (bounced) with rear curtain sync and slow shutter speed to capture motion.  See the light trail of the flame.  This was shot by spinning the book really quick.  Can't forget the disclaimer on this one: I am not responsible for any damaged books should you try to recreate this shot yourself.

A handsom gentleman (me) shot with single flash off camera, goboed, and gelled 1/4 CTO, -2/3 EV on flash.  What the heck am I talking about?  Read the book... trust me, it's good.  For those of you that need to know now, I'll write a quick and dirty explanation at the end of this blog.  By the way, my sincere apologies but when I shot this last night at 2:00am there was no model around to demo photography techniques so you got me.

Here's the setup I used to shoot the above photo. I also used a McNally tip for the picture below. It was shot at 1/8 sec, no flash, handheld.  How is it not a completely blurred mess?  By using what Joe coins as "Da Grip".  You can kind of see me in the mirror holding the camera in a funky position but it works wonders.

I should mention that Joe's book has a lot of information in reference to Nikon and the Nikon proprietary CLS (creative lighting system) because that's what he shoots.  I started with Canon so I'm shooting Canon gear for now but as you can see I am still applying many of the same techniques he uses with his Nikon gear.  It doesn't matter if you shoot Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, or some other brand.... this stuff will still help you become a better photographer.  The techniques and tips in the book go far beyond what I've demonstrated here so consider this a sneak peek.

Technical mumbo jumbo explained quick and dirty.

Single flash off camera: First off I got the flash off camera by using an off camera shoe cord.  For canon this is the OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord 3.  It allows you to get the flash off camera but still maintains complete communication with the camera so you can use all that fancy stuff known as E-TTL (Canon's light metering system).  The Nikon equivalent is i-TTL.

Goboed:  I have a gobo on each side of the flash.  Gobo is a term coined by film makers that means goes between optics or goes before optics.  In layman's terms it helps to control where your light goes.  Why did I gobo the flash?  So I could concentrate the light on just me and the book and not light up the entire room.  The cabinet beside me is less than a foot away from the flash but you can see the flash didn't light it up.

Gelled 1/4 CTO: Without going into too much detail gels are used to help balance (or match) the color of your flash to the color of the ambient light or for special effects.  If you look in the background of the picture I have a lamp (the ambient light) that, had I not used a 1/4 CTO gel, would have been even more orange/yellowish.  CTO means color temperature orange and they come in different opacity of orange typically 1/4, 1/2, and full.  If you use 1/2 you'll make the light from your flash more orange, and even more so with full. Unless you have an expensive piece of gear known as a color meter this is a judgment call you'll need to make based on how orange/yellow the ambient light is.  The human eye is an amazing tool.  I probably could have used 1/2 CTO for the photo we're discussing which would have made the ambient light in the room less yellow but it's a matter of preference.

-2/3 EV: In short this tells the camera to dial down the power of the flash.  Why did I do this?  Because the camera's light metering system sees this scene as very dark and I'm standing very close to the flash.  To keep the flash from trying to light up the entire room and making me look like I'm a character out of NBC's Heros series I lowered the power on the flash to make the photo more appealing.... well, as appealing as a photo of me can be.

That's all for now...

- Robert Wong

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making product photos for eBay, Craigslist, etc. on the cheap.

So you want to sell stuff on eBay, Craigslist, or some other online community/auction site but you don't have a fancy schmancy digital camera to take photos and know nothing about product photography?  No problem because you can still make halfway decent product photos that don't look like total blah if you have a cell phone with a camera in it or just an inexpensive point and shoot camera.  Blah is a technical term by the way. So let's turn these uninspiring blah shots into something a little more appealing. 

Blah shot number 1 taken straight on of a watch on a desk.

Blah shot number 2 taken of a car model on a desk (yes, I'm a car nut and collect car models)

There is a quick and easy way to make these shots just a tad more professional.  By the way, all the photos for this post were taken with my Blackberry Storm.  Why?  To prove a point... it's a complete crap camera but yet I still made usable photos with it.  They're not the sharpest and the white balance* is off  but the point is you can create halfway decent product photos without even owning a real camera.  It's killing me not to correct the problems with these photos but I'm leaving them as shot just for this blog.

*In layman's terms white balance means the colors of the picture are interpreted by the camera properly so the stuff that's white in your photo comes out white when you see it on the screen.  In the photos below I used white paper as the background but notice it's not really that white.  That's what it means when someone says the white balance is off.*

So how do we turn those uninspiring photos into these?

Slightly more professional looking shot of a watch.  If I had a watch holder I could have done even better.

Far more interesting shots of the Hummer Concept model.

So how'd I do it?  Easy...

I used an 11"x17" sheet of white paper for my background and two 8.5"x11" white sheets of paper to reflect some more light onto the objects I was taking photos of.  The two white sheets of paper help to fill in some of the shadows and illuminate the object just a little bit more.  Sure we can get into some fancy light setups but remember, we're doing this on the cheap.  These were taken in an office with my overhead light on so a desk lamp would serve the same purpose.  Here's the setup....
Like I said, I love cars. Anyway as you can see the 11"x17" sheet of paper forms a base to put the object on and a background behind the object.  In photography this would be referred to as a white seamless backdrop.  You could use a bed sheet or piece of cloth as well but I prefer the paper because as the name implies, it has no seams, no wrinkles, it's just a plain background that doesn't distract from the subject of the photo.  If you have a larger object to photograph you can get one of those flexible poster boards.  Also notice the light overhead that's illuminating the whole setup.
I slightly creased the 8.5"x11" sheets of paper to make them stand up better.  It's all about improvisation here so I used paper cups as stands.  Again these sheets of paper are used to help reflect (or bounce) some light back at your subject.  In this case my subject is the Hummer concept model.

Same setup for the watch although I moved the 8.5"x11" sheets of paper in closer because the watch is smaller.

The last "trick" takes a little bit of practice.  Try to find an angle to photograph your object at that looks interesting.  Compare my blah shots to my "better" shots and you'll see what I mean.  Generally straight on shots are boring but photography is all about breaking rules and sometimes straight on shots are necessary.  Just experiment with it by taking the photos from different angles.  Put the camera (or camera phone) close to the object, tilt the camera so it's not completely level, try to get more than one side of your object in the photo.
Finally if you want to do something more advanced but still inexpensive try replacing the two 8.5"x11" sheets of paper with two desk lamps or two cheap work lights from your favorite hardware store.  Not the 500watt halogen ones, just the cheap clamp on ones that cost around $8.00 each.   There's no right or wrong way to do it... experiment and see what looks good.

Need professional product shots?  Contact us at or visit

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Photography de Reve blog explained

I figured since this is a new blog I should probably explain what it's about.  I love photography... plain and simple.  I'm blessed to have friends and family that share my passion and wish to see me succeed in my ventures.  Photography de Reve was formed through the efforts of my friends, family, and me and this is our blog.  I'll post random stuff that's typically related to photography but occasionally may be a completely unrelated topic that I just found of interest.  For the most part you'll find blogs about our shoots, our specials and promotions, and what Photography de Reve is up to.  By the way, Photography de Reve should be spelled Photography de Rêve (with the accent) but I noticed our wonderful new blog wasn't showing up in search engines so I purposely left the accent off the "ê" in this post.  That way our fans can find us when they go to (insert your favorite search engine name here) and search for "Photography de Reve".

Since this is a photography blog I should include a picture with every post (a rule I've already broken).  I'm a car enthusiast as well as a photographer so here's a cool natural light photo I took at an import car show in Alameda, CA.

Did you know we're available to photograph cars as well as people?  If you're in love with your car book us for a shoot by visiting or emailing us at

A Day At The Beach

Hot summer day?  Time to go to the beach... and do a photo shoot!  That's exactly what we did on what turned out to be one of the hottest days we've had so far this summer.  Albeit with our micro-climates, even on a mercury boiling day, the girls were cold at the beach as you can see above. Anyway, traffic was horrendous so it took about 2 hours to drive 60 miles but once we got there we found a beautiful semi-secluded spot that was fortunately not crowded.  After our adventure in San Francisco Bay Area traffic and lugging around 300lbs of photography gear (thanks Rick and Chris!) a quarter mile down the beach it was time to take some photos.  What better than spending a day at the beach with three lovely ladies.  As a side note Rick and Chris are two of my business partners and friends that assist me in my photographic endeavors.  Additionally Chris videos all of our photo shoots.  When the video is edited from this shoot I'll post it here.

 Genevieve Chanelle (above) in one of my favorite shots of the day.  My goal for the day was to create images with a fashion feel to them and this one, in my opinion, definitely hit that mark. We met Genevieve a little over a year ago and instantly knew she was ridiculously photogenic and would be very popular.  Since then Genevieve has joined PM Girls and whenever we attend an event with her we can't go more than 10 feet before getting stopped by her fans.

Miss Meryll (above) in another one of my favorite shots from the day.  Love shooting with Meryll... she hardly ever stops smiling :)  If you ever get a chance to meet Meryll in person you'll learn that she has an infectious personality and is a blast to work with.

Working with someone like Felicia Wang (left) makes photography almost effortless.  She's a real pro at what she does and a pleasure to work with
Below are the rest of my favorite shots from the day. Enjoy!
Like our work?  Contact us today to book your shoot.  Visit our site at or email us at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Almost a rock star...

.... if almost means shooting production stills for a rap music video. I was given the opportunity to be the still photographer for the "Ask Yo Baby Mama" music video by J. Dandrige featuring Matt Blaque and Kafani.  To avoid interrupting the filming almost all of these photos were shot without flash and high ISO... not bad for bad lighting.

This guy is nuts but he's just cool.  Children, don't play with fire!
Yea, I'm jealous.  That's a Red movie camera aka THE video camera of your dreams.
Kafani doing his thing
Rollin in the Escalade
...And the Camaro... 

The director and crew (left) and Kafani (right)
J. Dandridge, Matt Blaque, and Kafaini (Left to Right)

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