Fashion photography is commonly associated with studio strobes and intricate lighting setups. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can do it with a single Collapsible Reflector. Fashion photographer Rossella Vanon did just that. Keep reading to learn how.
Rossella Vanon wanted to portray a woman in rough unison with the earth she walks on. To achieve this, Rossella decided to keep her lighting natural and straightforward, working with available light and Collapsible Reflectors only.
“I wanted the woman to look at ease and confident in the nature around her,” says Rossella. “I wanted her to look almost like a warrior, like someone who not only lives in the rough land, but also loves it to the degree that she is willing to fight to protect it. But at the same time, I wanted to keep the feel of the shoot feminine, elegant and ‘fashion’, so to speak.”
That was the image that Rosella had formed in her mind. All the later decisions regarding aspects such as location, styling and lighting were based on this idea.
“The shoot was done in Haslemere, Surrey, in England,” says Rossella. “We wanted an environment that looked untouched by humankind. But we had to have a roof above our heads. We’re in England after all. There’s always a good chance for rain. So the stylist had to have a dry place to set up her wardrobe, and the model needed somewhere to change. Luckily for us, our stylist Lauren knows the owner of this beautiful manor house in Surrey that we were allowed to use.”
Speaking of styling, it’s quite spectacular. What was the thinking behind it?
“We wanted a feminine styling with a hint of tribal, which we would then place in a totally natural environment. We also wanted to be able to play around with color combinations and the wind. This is why we brought long, colorful pieces of fabric, which we used to create movement and to incorporate the natural effect of the wind into the shoot.”
What about the lighting? Why did you choose to work with Collapsible Reflectors only?
“Natural light has a beautiful softness to it that is perfect for certain themes and moods. It was certainly perfect for this story. There are also certain advantages to working with Collapsible Reflectors. For instance, they allow me to travel lighter and move around more easily while still being able to create a beautiful, diffused and flattering light. That being said, there are situations where I wouldn’t use a reflector. I wouldn’t do it if it was evening, if I was trying to freeze movement, if I wanted super-sharp images or if I wanted to avoid shooting above ISO100, to name just a few examples. In those cases I’d choose a flash.”
There are ten Collapsible Reflectors to choose form. You brought the Reflector Silver/White L, the Reflector Sunsilver/White L and the Reflector Gold/White L to this shoot. How did you reason when you chose what side to use?
“I chose side depending on how my main light, the sun, was behaving. When we were shooting in the shade or when the sun was hiding behind layers of clouds, we used the Reflector Silver/White L. Its silver side allowed me to throw quite a lot of strong, contrasty light onto the model in a situation that would‘ve been dark and dull otherwise.
“We also used the Reflector Sunsilver/White L in a few of these situations – usually when we wanted a slightly warmer effect.
“When the sun eventually decided to come out, we flipped the reflector and used the white side. The silver side was just too strong and harsh when the sun was hitting it straight on. But the white side, on the other hand, provided a soft and diffused light that was just perfect in the open sun.
“The Reflector Gold/White L was used during sunset. At first I tried capturing the beautiful, golden sunset light as it was, but it ended up looking way too orange and strong in camera.
“So what I did was that I moved the model so that the sun was in her back, shining through her clothes and hair. I then used the Reflector Gold/White L in the front to bounce the sunlight in a less direct, less strong and more versatile kind of way. It worked perfectly!
“Using the Reflector Gold/White L also meant that we could carry on shooting a while longer when the sun was setting and it was getting darker and colorless.”
If you had to pick just one favorite of these models, which one would it be?
“The Reflector Sunsilver/White L. It creates such a beautiful and natural looking light. I also love the fact that you can make the light stronger or softer by changing distance to the subject and still keep just the right warmth and definition.”
This was the first time you used Profoto’s Collapsible Reflectors. What’s your first impression?
“They look and feel much more solid than any other reflector I’ve tried. Also, the fact that they aren’t perfectly round makes them much easier to handle. For instance, it was quite windy at times. Usually, my assistant would’ve really struggled to keep the reflectors up. But because of the unique shape, she was able to push the Collapsible Reflector closer to and against her body, grabbing it firmly by the handles – which are a another great feature by the way!”
Last question: you’ve named this series of images Red Story. Why?
“It’s not until I see all final images from a shoot that I can see what they all have in common, what story they tell. We obviously had a concept set from the beginning, but it was only at the end, when I looked at all these shots on my computer, that I realized they all had an important red element in them. So, to stay true to the nature of the whole idea, I decided to keep it simple and call it Red Story.”
Photography and Retouching: Rossella Vanon
Styling: Lauren Eva
Model: Carmen Obied @Model Union
Makeup & Hair: Virginia Bertolani
Photography Assistance: Natasha Xavier
Photography Assistance 2: Paul Smorthit
Styling Assistance: Alexandra John
Behind the scenes images by Paul Smorthit.