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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

russell james behind the scenes04
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.

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