Category Archives: How To

How to Shoot Swimwear Like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 3: The Results)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we explored how Victoria Secret and Russell James pretty much defined modern day bikini/swimwear photography. After six beach shoots spanning from Malibu, California all the way up to Vancouver, Canada, we got a nice tan, almost dropped a flash into the Pacific ocean, and left with a greater appreciation for Russell’s art and craft.

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To reiterate, the core of Russell’s genius is his artistic vision and playful vibe when working with the models. His style is sexy, healthy, and wholesome. His style is an inspiration to us at iLHP and though no one can replicate Russell besides Russell himself, we do hope to share our own interpretation.

A Shallow Depth of Field

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Yaroslava Kharchenko basking in the sun on a Malibu beach. Processed in Lightroom with the “VS Style Strong Matte +1EV” preset, available below.

Russell’s style is defined by a shallow depth-of-field so shoot wide-open with you 50mm or 85mm portrait lens. A 135mm will work great also but we found that we were a bit too far from the model and a lot more shouting was involved.

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Yaroslava Kharchenko and Candice Swanepoel. The stunning Yaroslava wearing TeenyB Bikinis at Malibu, California. Processed in Lightroom with the “California Sky +1EV” preset, available below.

Bring along a set of ND filters so you can keep your shutter speeds at reasonable speeds. I used very dark ND8 filters in front of my lenses so if I needed to use flash, my shutter would not exceed my non-TTL flash’s maximum sync speed of 1/160. If you use high-speed sync, you can make due with lighter ND filters.

Continue reading How to Shoot Swimwear Like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 3: The Results)

Exploring the Tiny World of Microphotography – (Part 2: Insects & Critters)

In Part 1, I gave an introduction to microphotography and the gear that you’ll need to take photographs on a very small scale. In this part, we will discuss the joys and challenges of working with tiny creatures and insects.

The world of insects, spiders and other small forms can be enjoyed on any beautiful day from early spring until late autumn. I can step out of my house on any sunny morning with a cup of coffee and leisurely browse the garden and see where the action is. Or I can choose my spot and watch and wait. And with a little patience, insects and spiders will show themselves and sometimes seem to pose for the camera.

Radical portrait speckled bush-cricket, made with magnification factor 8 and f/8. It looks now more like a raging bull. Made with a Canon 7D, a Canon macrolens MP-E 65 mm/f2.8 and a 2x Canon teleconverter. The speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) is a flightless species of bush-cricket that occurs across most of Europe. The grass-green body, which is about 15 millimetres (0.59 in) long, carries minute black specks, as reflected in the common and Latin name of the species; in addition, the dorsal surface of the abdomen features a brown stripe; this is more pronounced in the male. A yellow-white stripe extends backwards from the eyes. The lower legs and feet are brownish. The antennae are twice as long as the body.The species is brachypterous: the male's forewings are reduced to small flaps, and those of the female are even more reduced. The hindwings are completely absent, and both males and females are flightless (source: Wikipedia).
Radical portrait speckled bush-cricket, made with magnification factor 8 and f/8. It looks now more like a raging bull. Made with a Canon 7D, a Canon macrolens MP-E 65 mm/f2.8 and a 2x Canon teleconverter. The speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) is a flightless species of bush-cricket that occurs across most of Europe.

Watching the world of gardens in this way quickly reveals that it is truly “a jungle out there” – a jungle of small predators and preys striving for survival. Microphotography can uncover amazing details of the mysterious world of insects. And yet, this amazing world of insects is right outside the door of virtually every home.

Continue reading Exploring the Tiny World of Microphotography – (Part 2: Insects & Critters)

Exploring the Tiny World of Microphotography – (Part 1: An Intro)

One of the most popular books that I read during my childhood was Eric in the Land of the Insects, written by the Dutch author Godfried Bomans. In this humorous fantasy, nine-year-old Eric enters the landscape painting that hangs on his wall and he discovers a world of man-sized wasps, bees, butterflies and other insects that is stunningly similar to the world of humans.

Portrait female marmalade hoverfly, made with magnification 5 and f/14 using a Canon 7D and a Canon MP-E 65mm/2.8. Episyrphus balteatus, sometimes called the marmalade hoverfly, is a relatively small hoverfly (9–12 mm) of the Syrphidae family, widespread throughout all continents. Like most other hoverflies it mimics a much more dangerous insect, the solitary wasp, though it is a quite harmless species. The upper side of the abdomen is patterned with orange and black bands. Two further identification characters are the presence of secondary black bands on the 3rd and 4th dorsal plates and of faint greyish longitudinal stripes on the thorax. E. balteatus can be found throughout the year in various habitats, including urban gardens, visiting flowers for pollen and nectar. They often form dense migratory swarms, which may cause panic among people for its resemblance to wasps. It is among the very few species of flies capable of crushing pollen grains and feeding on them. The larva is terrestrial and feeds on aphids. As in most other hoverflies, males can be easily identified by their holoptic eyes, i.e., left and right compound eyes touching at the top of the head (source: Wikipedia).
Portrait female marmalade hoverfly, made with magnification 5 and f/14 using a Canon 7D and a Canon MP-E 65mm/2.8. Episyrphus balteatus, sometimes called the marmalade hoverfly, is a relatively small hoverfly (9–12 mm) of the Syrphidae family, widespread throughout all continents. It can be found throughout the year in various habitats, including urban gardens, visiting flowers for pollen and nectar.

The book made such an impression on me that I have always wanted to explore such a world full of wondrous creatures myself. Once photography became a part of my life, I purchased the Canon MP-E 65 mm f/2.8 extreme macro lens and my world was populated with grasshoppers, spiders, snails, flies, dragonflies and butterflies—Eric’s world.

What is Microphotography?

A leafhopper (Issus coleoptratus nymph), the size is around 1.5 mm. Fullgrown they have a promiment spur on the hindleg. The photo has been made with magnification factor 8 and f/8.
A leafhopper (Issus coleoptratus nymph), the size is around 1.5 mm. Fullgrown they have a promiment spur on the hindleg. The photo was made with a magnification factor of 8x and f/8.

Microphotography (sometimes spelled as two words, micro photography) is an extreme form of macro photography. It is magical because it takes us into a smaller universe of vibrant colors, exquisite details and extraordinary patterns that can literally take your breath away. I photograph invertebrates so close-up that they are transformed into large subjects. Through my images I aim to highlight the different characteristics of a variety of species – and their individual charm.

Continue reading Exploring the Tiny World of Microphotography – (Part 1: An Intro)

How to Shoot Swimwear like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 2: The Setup)

In Part 1, we set out to study Russell James’s collaborations with Victoria’s Secret, which has defined modern swimwear/bikini photography. His beach portraits softly backlit, emphasizing a shallow depth of field, while bringing out a flirty yet classy feel. In this part, we will discuss his setup and the gear you can buy to achieve that look.

Russell’s Lighting Setup

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Russell’s assistant is holding a 6′ x 8′ California Sunbounce Reflector Panel. The aluminum support frame is necessary to combat the ever present wind from the sea. A large floppy would work in a pitch, but you’ll have to fight it like a kite.

The best way to learn from pros is to apprentice for them. And if we can’t do that, the next best thing is to look at the behind the scenes videos. As with any messy beach shoot where the elements like sand, wind, and sea water is working against your favor, Russell’s setup is straight forward and effective.

The basic sunny setup. A single white or silver reflector is set to camera right or camera left to fill in shadows from the sun.
The basic sunny setup. A single white or silver reflector is set to camera right or camera left to fill in shadows from the sun.

The basic setup on sunny days is to shoot the model against a backlight sky, while using a white or silver reflector next to the camera. The reflector is to fill shadows on the face and to give a bit more shine on the model’s oiled up skin.

Continue reading How to Shoot Swimwear like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 2: The Setup)

How to Build a Snorricam Harness: (Part 1- The Setup)

The idea came while shopping with my wife. I was waiting outside the fitting room of a Tilly’s, when this blast from the past came on the screens. I haven’t heard 1979 in probably over 10 years and The Smashing Pumpkins had once been my favorite band. Apparently the 90s is finally retro now, which inconveniently reminds me of my slow yet eventual descend into irrelevancy. Then again…

It’s a great song. It’s an even better music video. It’s an idealized version of the American teenage experience, an experience I share. The scenes from 3:04 has always stuck with me, a shot of the hooligan from close range as he walks into the convenience store. The camera tilts and shakes in rhythm with his footsteps. This led me to the discovery of the Snorricam.

The Snorricam

The Snorricam, named after the Icelandic Snorri brothers (I’m not making this up), is a chest mounted rig that aims the camera at the wearer. When the model walks, they do not appear to move but everything else in the background does. It is essentially a hands-free selfie stick.

The clip above from Requiem for a Dream is perhaps the most famous use of the Snorricam in Hollywood, a hauntingly great film by the way, especially if you are prone to addictions. Jennifer Connelly is seriously underrated and reminds me of a blue-eyed brunette I once knew in Montreal.

Trying to buy or rent a Snorricam seem to be impossible for mere mortals as I couldn’t find anything online. I came across a myriad of DIY tutorials, but many were incomplete and others were hilarious. So we took this person’s original design, improved it in terms of comfort, and made our own. Total materials cost about $20.

Continue reading How to Build a Snorricam Harness: (Part 1- The Setup)