Tag Archives: beach photography

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)

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 Shoot Swimwear like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 1: The Look)

What do supermodels Candice Swanepoel, Miranda Kerr, Lily Aldridge, Tyra BanksKarlie Kloss, Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio all have in common, besides sculpted bodies and having won the genetic lottery?

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Left to right: Alessandra Ambrosio, Candice Swanepoel, Behati Prinsloo, and Lily Aldridge.

They all are, and/or were, Victoria’s Secret Angels. What was once a failing lingerie retailer created by a man too embarrassed to shop for his wife, is now a multi-billion dollar market leader in the underwear and swimwear industry. But more than that, Victoria’s Secret brought glamour, fashion, and supermodels to the masses with their glossy catalogues and high-profile runway shows.

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The photo of Tyra Banks that launched Russell James’ career.

Behind VS’s stratospheric success is a less well known but arguably the most productive portrait photographer today. Kind mannered and well spoken, Russell James has worked with the super-est of the supermodels from the last 15 years and yet somehow stayed away from the limelight. It’s hard to separate where Victoria’s Secret end and Russell James begin, but his images has single handedly defined the brand in recent memory.

In this three part series, we dive into the look of his images, his setup and equipment, then we wrap up with our own photo shoots and interpretation.

Continue reading How to Shoot Swimwear like Victoria’s Secret’s Russell James – (Part 1: The Look)