Shekhinah for Cosmopolitan SA
broncolor Gen NEXT ambassador, Marnus Meyer shares his creative and technical process of shooting Shekhinah for Cosmopolitan SA:
When Cosmopolitan approached me to shoot a beauty editorial with award-winning singer and songwriter Shekhinah, I knew it was an opportunity to do something really special. I was already a very big fan of her music and admire what a dynamic and creative individual she is, so I wanted to move away from the type of beauty editorials I had done in the past.
A popular nightclub in the heart of Cape Town turned out to be the perfect location for the beauty editorial. The dark and moody interiors are lit by vibrant neon lights on the walls that make it a visually interesting space. However, capturing this particular atmosphere while shooting a beauty editorial came with several unique technical challenges.
While a neon light may seem very bright to the human eye, it is in fact not substantial enough to light a subject and read on its own together in one image, without additional help. One solution would have been to push up the ISO higher than 1000, but because this was a beauty editorial it was important to keep as much detail as possible and avoid unnecessary noise. Another option would have been to use a very large aperture usually used for shooting in dark spaces, but then the depth of field would have been very narrow, and I would have lost a lot of focus on my subject’s face. Lastly, I could have set an extremely slow shutter speed, but then even the slightest movement from my subject would have caused motion blur.
Location: The Raptor Room
It was clear that the solution was to introduce flash. However, it was important to find the perfect balance between the flash and the existing ambient light to create an even exposure between the subject and the background.
I used Scoro 3200 Studio Packs because they allow for a flash at a very low power, which made it easy to balance the ambient light. For some of the shots where the spaces were particularly dark, it was a case of adjusting the flash at a low enough power as to not overpower the ambient light. While in some of the other shots the ambient light was strong enough for me to increase the power of the flash. I paired the Scoro 3200 Studio Packs with a Pulso G-Head and various light modifiers.
Camera Settings: ISO: 400 Shutter Speed: 1/160 Aperture: F/5
On the left side of the subject I placed a broncolor Flooter used as the main light source and positioned it at a 45° angle, about 3-4 meters away from the subject. I covered it with a rose pink colour gel to create a pink glow on the subjects skin. I folded the gel twice to intensify the pink colour effect.
I placed a broncolor 1x4 strip box as a fill on the right side of Shekhinah and positioned it at 90° angle to her and the camera. I covered this light with a cyan toned colour gel. I built a 6x6 scrim-jim frame covered with 3/4 silk and placed it in front of the strip box. This softened the light, increased the size of my small strip box and allowed more cyan coloured light to fill the space.
I used another 1x4 broncolor strip box as hair light above the subjects head to separate her dark hair from the background. By placing another pink colour gel over this strip I created the illusion that the neon light in the background was casting light onto her hair.
Camera Settings: ISO: 400 Shutter Speed: 1/160 Aperture: F /6.3
The broncolor Flooter was used as the main light and positioned at a 45° angle to the left side of Shekhinah. For this shot I used the Flooter without any colour gels.
I used a 1x4 strip box as my fill-in light and I placed it on the right-hand side of Shekhinah. This time I covered the strip with a darker blue-toned gel to create a bigger separation between all the pink colours. To make this strip light more directional I removed the 6x6 scrim jim frame in front of it.
A 1x4 strip box covered in a pink gel as a hair light and placed it above Shekhinah. It was positioned in such a way that the light also spilled onto parts of her face and body and created a pink glow.
Camera Settings: ISO: 800 Shutter Speed: 1/60 Aperture: F /3.2
Although the Raptor room restroom was perfect for this shot, the space was very tight and difficult to navigate. The restroom was softly lit, very moody and had limited ambient light. The brightest light was coming from the lavender coloured neon lights framed around the restroom mirrors. It took a lot of work figuring out a balance between ambient and flash and in the end I had to shoot this on a tripod to avoid camera shake and motion blur. I tend to avoid ISO’s higher than 400 especially when shooting beauty for print but I wanted to capture the bright neon lights in the background without using a shutter speed that was too slow or an aperture with a depth of field that is too narrow.
I placed a 1x4 broncolor strip box covered in a pink colour gel on the right-hand side of the camera frame and I positioned it straight across Shekhinah.
A second strip was placed on the right side of the frame, all the way to the back of the room with the head just peaking out of the last bathroom stall. It was aimed towards the space just behind Shekhinah’s head and was covered with a soft purple colour gel to mimic the colour of the neon lights around the mirrors. This light acted as a background fill and also a slight rim light on Shekhinah.
On the left-hand side of Shekhinah there was a pink wall covered with reflective tiles. This reflected enough light back to fill the shadows cast by the main strip light. It also created a very pink atmosphere.
Thanks to this effective broncolor lighting solution, I was able to light my subject beautifully and let her presence come through. Additionally, I didn't have to compromise too much on ISO, shutter speed or aperture meaning I was also able to capture the unique atmosphere of the nightclub. Because all these elements were balanced so successfully, what was intended to be a beauty editorial eventually ended up becoming the cover story for the May issue of Cosmopolitan.
Cover star: Shekhinah
Photographer: Marnus Meyer
Photographer’s assistant: Stefan Venter
BTS videographer: Paula Zapata
Hair: Justine Alexander
Makeup: Vuvu Maseti
Senior beauty editor: Zipho Ntloko
Fashion: Cleopatra Marcopoulos
Fashion assistant: Amber Barker
Art director: Juan Geel
Location: The Raptor Room
All broncolor gear supplied by Photo Hire and broncolor South Africa
About the photographer:
Marnus Meyer is a beauty and fashion photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. He also has the prestige of holding the title of international broncolor Gen NEXT ambassador.