In early October I was fortunate enough to go behind the scenes on a shoot New York City based people and portraiture photographer Felix Kunze was doing for Little Gloriana, a family owned company that makes clothing for girls and their dolls with the owners, mother/daughter team Ana Valera and Gloriana Bonillo-Valera on the shoot as well.
The shoot was to take place in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn at Oliphant Studio, a backdrop rental and custom backdrop fabrication studio. I arrived at 8am and walked in to take a look at the set, and see the layout of the studio. The studio is roomy with one main shooting area, an office for clients to relax in and another section for the stylists to set up and the models and their mothers and fathers to wait comfortably.
Felix and his team had been in the day before to do a pre-light and things were mostly set up in the shooting area. The initial setup when I walked in was an Elinchrom Octabank as a fill light on a Manfrotto boom arm, high and overhead as a fill. Then a Rotalux deep octabank on the main light and a large Lastolite umbrella with diffusion over the front, softened even more by a Lastolite frame with a diffusion panel on it as fill from the side. The Lastolite frames are great for this kind of shoot because they are very light and easy to move while also being very stable and sturdy. All of this was rigged up with Avenger C-Stands in various heights. The camera was setup on a Manfrotto 058B triaut tripod, a very stable tripod which is an excellent choice when there are a lot of people around. On the tripod he had a Manfrotto 327RC2 ball head, the 327RC2 has a pistol grip that makes it very fast to change the camera position with a quick squeeze, and equally quick to lock it in place by simply letting go of the grip. The Apple Macbooklaptop computer was supported by a Manfrotto 190 tripod with a mounting plate.
Every shoot is made better when you have good people around to help. This becomes even more critical when working with a client on a shoot if this scale. With multiple shots to accomplish, many models and a fairly tight schedule a strong team is crucial, because everything needs to go smoothly and quickly. Felix had assembled a very strong team, with two assistants,a production assistant as well as hair and makeup stylists, child wranglers and the very capable studio staff all ready to help make the best possible photographs. Shortly after arriving, Felix started directing his crew to fine-tune the set. They added foam core v-flats to the right side of the set, with the black side facing the set to add a little contrast to the lighting by absorbing some of the light from that side.The Rotalux deep octabank key light was moved a little more to the front. The soft yet directional lighting resulting from all the diffusion would make for some beautiful photography throughout the rest of the day, while still allowing for flexibility on the set.
While the set was being adjusted, Felix discussed the plan for the day with the client, co-owner of Little Gloriana, Gloriana Bonillo-Valera. While much of a shoot of this size is planned in advance, there are always details to go over and little changes that come up. Making a discussion about those specifics as one of the first things to take care of in the morning is a very efficient way to keep things running smoothly. While Felix and Gloriana were going over things Ana Valera, the other co-owner of Little Gloriana began prepping the clothing and props off to the side.All the clothing was hung on racks for easy access and the props where laid out on tables to make it as easy as simple as possible to make selections and see what was available. In the meantime a breakfast spread was prepared in the office, to keep the food safe from the,several, very friendly dogs brought into the studio for the day.
The assistants, along with production assistant,continued to work on preparing the set. One of the key advantages of working in this studio was the hundreds of backgrounds available to shoot with. With the studio’s own Violet Oliphant on hand to help with the background selection and hanging it went very smoothly. The first shot called for a gold metallic background to be used and the whole team worked to get it hung and ready.
While the photo crew was working on the set, the charming young models, sat with their parents while they waited for small hair and makeup adjustments as well as the decisions on who was to wear which outfit. After all that preparation they then begangetting dressed to match their dolls.
When photographing children it is critical to keep the set light and fun, it can be easy for children to get distracted or lose interest. Felix was excellent at keeping the feeling loose and the models entertained with a series of goofy face and expressions while on set. Also around to keep things moving smoothly were Elise, Josephine and Grace to help with styling and child wrangling. Child wrangling, much as it sounds, is keeping the children engaged and entertained so they can stay focused on the shoot.
As the real shoot began, everybody crowded around the set. With Felixbehind the camera directing and the assistants watching the lights, everyone else was very excited to watch the images come in on the computer.Felix was shooting tethered with Capture One Pro, so all of the photos go directly from the camera to the computer, via a USB cable, allowing for easy client approval. The first shot was a more straightforward, but lovely shot of the model in front of the gold background.Then they decided to add some gold confetti to the photo. This was done by having Violet Oliphant on a step ladder, above and beside the model, dropping the glitter from above.
The next shot was a group shot with a new background and several models, rather than the single model photo done previously. The crew quickly went to work pulling down the background and setting up the next one. Using a staple gun they stapled the backdrop to a wooden crossbar and hoisted it up with a rope and pulley system. They then brought in various props and chairs for the children to sit on and began placing them around the set. The lighting stayed mostly the same. Once the models were ready, Felix stepped in to demonstrate where and how to sit and continued to keep them all laughing and entertained.
Once all the models where in place everyone once again gathered around to watch as Felix began shooting again. With many setups to accomplish throughout the remainder of the day,Felix and his team continued keep everything running smoothly and to create one wonderful photo after another. As Felix said there was “some serious awesomeness”. I am looking forward to seeing the final result.
Here some of the final shots:
Client: Little Gloriana
Owners: Ana Valera/Gloriana Bonillo-Valera
Photographer: Felix Kunze
Set design: Violet Oliphant
Location: Oliphant Backdrops
Styling: Elise Wilson
Make-up & Hair: Anthea King
Child Wrangler: Josephine
Assistants: Brian McGuffog, Grayson
Production assistant: Agata
& whoever else I missed