LAST MAY, I HAD THE
opportunity to photograph
Courtney Reed—who stars
as Jasmine in Broadway’s
Aladdin—for my ongoing theater portrait
project. I wanted to create something to
show her soft side, while also showing
how fierce and dramatic she is.
I had a basic goal for the shot: to create
a simple portrait with a lot of drama. The
simplicity was actually very difficult, as
each element had to be perfect, from her
hair and makeup to the flow of the black
fabric over her face. I went to Mood, New
York City’s famed fabric shop, to find the
right black fabric, and I sourced a dress
from Nasty Gal. I wanted something with
a dramatic neckline and a form-fitting
silhouette, and it needed to be black to
create the fade-into-background effect
I was aiming for. Michelle from Michelle
Elise Artistry pulled Courtney’s hair back
into a clean bun and kept her makeup
neutral but dramatic, which was exactly
what I wanted.
I lit the scene with a single Profoto D1
and an octabox positioned to the right of
the subject. On the left side of the subject
was a v-flat with the black side facing the
subject. I wanted the light to illuminate
Reed, but not bounce back onto the other
side of her body. The black v-flat kept the
light from spilling out to the other side of
the scene, and I made sure that Reed was
far enough away from the background
that the light didn’t illuminate it.
“Less is more” is my mantra when
it comes to lighting. I’ll often set up a
complex lighting scenario only to remove
one or two lights because it’s simply too
much. I like an overall wash of light with a
dramatic main light on my subject. I love
the interplay of light and shadow.
My overall aesthetic is fairly theatrical,
which is why this theater project has
become such an important part of my
artistic growth. I’m more influenced by
live theater than anything else. The lights,
the performers’ passion, the magic that
happens in the room, the community of
the audience—it’s simply thrilling.
To learn more about the Profoto D1 light, please visit profoto.com.
com, and follow @profotousa on Instagram.
See more from Susan Stripling at susanstripling.com.
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO
AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE
CHOOSE WHERE YOU WANT THE VIEWER’S
eye to first fall on the image and light that first.
Everything else is supplementary.
IF YOU FEEL STUMPED WITH STUDIO
LIGHTING, imagine you are outside. Where
would you want the sun to be, and which
direction would you want the light to fall?
Recreate that with studio lights, one step at a
NO MATTER HOW ACCOMPLISHED YOU
ARE AT YOUR CRAFT, keep practicing.
Shoot personal projects to experiment with
light. Take workshops. Always try something
YOU DON’T NEED A HUGE AMOUNT OF
space to create beautiful portraits. My studio
is very small, and has no windows. Make the
most of the space you’ve got!
WITH RFi 4’
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