Friday, 6 January 2012

Beyond the Lens - StroudFM 'Uncovered'

This past October I was asked if I'd shoot Stroud FM's 2012 Nude Calendar. How could I say no?! I knew it would be hard work, especially on such short notice. I basically had to cram three months worth of work into three weeks. And I'd have to go a month without any paid work. None the less I took it on and I'm glad to say I did. Working with the Stroud FM presenters was so much fun, they were all terrific and great to work with. What an experience!

I decided quite quickly how I wanted the calendar to look photography wise. Well honestly I didn't have a lot of choice as time was limited. I chose to shoot everyone at my photography studio in Gloucester and to keep it very simple. I talked to each of the presenters who'd volunteered to model for the calendar before their shoots. We discussed props and their shows. I wanted their portraits to show a bit of their individual show's personality. I also decided early on that I'd have one prop that'd be in every shot to pull the images together. This prop wound up being the cover photo....which I shot during the first shoot. 
Stroud FM Calendar Cover
The photographs I'm posting here are snapshots of the calendar that I created from a PDF file of the mock-up we used to pull the calendar together. The designer of the calendar itself is Malcolm Jackson of the Nailsworth Design Company.  

Before the calendar was launched I released a few teaser photos to give people a taste of what the calendar was like without actually reveling any of the calendar pages. I did this because we'd decided to keep the actual calendar images secret until the 'Unveiling'. 
Stroud FM Teaser Photos
My theme for all 12 shoots was high key and keep it simple. 'Less is more' I kept telling myself. I really enjoyed shooting in my studio which is set up for easy high key photography. I've got a lovely infinity corner cove with lights coming down from the ceiling. Having this set up made my job a lot easier. Made everything a lot more fun too. 
Stroud FM Calendar pages January - June
High-Key Photography, for those who don't know, is basically over exposing your shot. A bit more than thant though, usually shot in a studio with a white background, your subject not having a lot of contrast and not much if any shadows. No real blacks. As you can see from my photos here, I didn't shoot true high-key. I like my images to be a bit more contrasty. My subjects are a bit 'over exposed' but not so much so that you loose the blacks. I set the lights on the background a full two stops brighter than the lights on my subjects. 
Stroud FM Calendar pages July - December
The approach I took with this shoot was casual. All but two persons, as I understand it, had never done anything like this before and I wanted them to feel comfortable. One person had done some life modeling in the past and another person had done some dancing or stripping or something along those lines. I'm not telling you who so don't ask. All but one person is completely nude in their portraits. I'm not telling you who that is either. :-)

How I made them feel comfortable and put them at ease was to just not make a big deal about the whole thing. I kept them in their robes for the start of the shoot and when they were comfortable we lost the robe. I also talked to them and joked around with them during the shoot. I did this because I wanted them to let their guard down, I wanted to engage their attention with the camera, and I wanted to capture natural smiles and expressions. Mostly I was trying to capture a bit of their personalities. I feel this makes for a much better portrait than just sitting there with a fake smile and a blank look in their eyes. 

I've been asked by quite a few how much photoshoping have been done on these images. I can tell you not a whole lot really. These are real people, not models, and they were very brave. I did do some light touching up, but not much. The most photoshopped things are just that, things. The newspaper in February, the CDs in May and the ducks in November. Oh and the Mic in a few of the shots. That's it really. I did the usual tweaks of levels and curves and removed a few dirty spots on the floor. That's about it really.

Again I can't tell you how much fun I had doing this and all of the presenters told me that they enjoyed it too. A few told me that it was a real self-esteem booster for them. It was for me too. :-)

These calendars are still for sale and you can buy them direct from Stroud FM or from a number of shops around Stroud. The places that I'm aware of that have them are: Trading Post, Confection Affection, Cornflower & Calico, Music Dynamics, Fandango and The Prince Albert

By buying the calendar you are helping to keep your local community radio station, Stroud FM, on the air! So please do buy one! 

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