BTS of 'Summertime': Conceptual Photography In Under 20 Minutes

As long as I can remember, I've adored summer and heat, and when the season comes, my head starts exploding with ideas that I can realize outdoors without the limitations the cold weather brings. The usual scenario is generating an idea and seeking locations to make it real, but my most outstanding shots were done when I got inspired by the location. I have already described how that inspiration happens in my previous post on my "unLimited" shoot. It was the same was with "Summertime." When my sister moved to her new apartment, I started looking around, and the moment I looked down from her balcony, located on the 5th floor, I knew something would happen there.

Simultaneously, my social media friend, fashion blogger, and stylist, Lucine Ayanian, was visiting Armenia. We have known each other for several years already, but have never met in real life due to geographic circumstances. It happened that we both were in the same city at the same time and decided to collaborate on a shoot. Usually, I am the one who does the styling on this kind of shoot, but as Lucine was a stylist, I happily embraced the freedom of being just the art director and the photographer of the day. This, on the other hand, saved a lot of time on the shoot itself. Knowing what specific outcome I had visualized, we chose the outfits in advance, coordinating color schemes. All was done online with mix and match pictures of the existing wardrobe. Knowing there would be no close-up shots, we went pretty clean and easy on makeup, accentuating the lips only. This also saved a lot of time, as she basically arrived fully ready to be shot.

The inspiration.

I had access to two balconies: one over the stunning green grass area and the other over this geometric asphalt with yellow lines taking you to the building’s parking. Planning and setting all the accessories before the model arrived with my 10-year-old niece, Sophie, allowed us to proceed to the shoot almost immediately.  Lucine arrived with her husband, who was our assistant of the day, we greeted each other for the first time in real life, and I led them downstairs to the green grass.

Picnic Scene

This was the inspiration of the shoot, which later was developed into the other scene with the bicycle on asphalt. I used whatever I had at hand, asking Lucine to bring certain flowers and apples along with her. A basic white table sheet was used as a base to set up the other accessories. The color contrast of the fruits and berries, along with the texture of basket, multicolor books, and wooden sheets made the scene complete. The last touch was the coke in the cup as tea/coffee.  

The red jumpsuit was the perfect choice for a picnic like scene, giving it an easy mood as well as a remarkable contrast with the green color. I was upstairs and arranging accessories around Lucine via mobile, basically creating my perfect scene from a top view. I believe the whole shooting time took no more than five minutes, so when I said, "we are done with this scene," it didn’t sound that convincing at first.

Bicycle Scene

It was time to move on to the next scene after the wardrobe change to match the atmosphere with the striking yellow lines and two-shade gray asphalt. Using the sun created shade as part of the composition. By the time she changed her look, the bicycle had arrived, kindly lent to us by Ideal Bikes Armenia. The moment I saw this bicycle, I fell in love with its beauty, colors, and the retro touch. This was the perfect thing to use in this scene. No other bike, just this one!

Probably the most challenging part of the whole shoot was arranging the model on the bicycle in the most organic way possible. There was not much flexibility to move once we set it all up. When shooting an object and person lying down, there is always a great chance to have an ugly neck; it stretches down and gives the most uncomfortable feeling. I placed a round pillow toy underneath Lucine’s head to bring it higher, making her comfortable and providing a relaxed neck in the photo. Her long hair was a blessing, as it covered the pillow and created movement over it. This scene was also directed from the fifth floor, using a mobile phone, and it took no more than another five minutes.

BTS pictures from www.lucine-a.com.

The yellow skirt with a sheer layer gave a very light feel to the picture, complementing the yellow asphalt lines. The blue bag played the same role as the red jumpsuit in the picnic scene, the essential contrast to yellow, being its opposite in the color wheel. The teal shirt with the silver sandals were neutral-balancing attributes of the whole outfit. The playful addition was the yellow sunflowers in the bicycle basket.

Details

All these elements might seem not so important at first glance, but these tiny things are the fundamental elements of creating a memorable composition. It is important to keep the balance in everything. In the picnic scene, I left a lot of grass around the subject; without this, the picture would have been overloaded with all kinds of distracting elements. Having a natural grass frame around my model and setup let me tell a story by focusing on the whole scene rather than distracting attention with a lot of close-up elements.

BTS pictures from www.lucine-a.com.

Technical

As I didn’t have an assistant, I had to think simple and effective. The whole shoot was done with daylight, and the selection of the proper time was crucial. Checking the sun movement in advance is an essential procedure when I plan something outdoors, so I can have the best light possible. I chose the picnic scene to be all under the shade to have a uniform feel in a grass frame and an angular shadow for the bicycle scene to give a geometrically interesting touch. I totally had to avoid direct sunlight, as it would have cast unnecessary strong shadows on the ground from the model. I was creating a realistic unrealistic scene.

Only one lens was used in the shoot, the beautiful Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM, which is the only zoom I own. These specific scenes needed control. I had to hang from the balcony as far as I could to have a better perspective, and luckily, my sister didn’t have a heart attack seeing me like that.

Retouching

The final shots are almost untouched, having just very slight adjustments to luminosity and saturation. This was done with just one lens, a mobile phone, and the help of people dedicated to their work. I thank Lucine and her husband for the behind the scenes photo and video coverage.

Here's an additional photo from the cycling scene with a slightly different angle and a tiny lens perspective correction in Lightroom providing straight lines.

I hope these details will be inspirational for some and give a better understanding of how to organize something like this. Share your experience of your most rapid and exciting shoots! 

Behind the scenes photos used with permission of Lucine Ayanian.

Log in or register to post comments

4 Comments

Lenn Long's picture

Great shots. I would probably try and revise the bicycle one by placing the subject riding on the shadow line created. Compositionally it may be a little more interesting that way.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

thanks Lenn,
there was a big discussion on this particular shadow subject on Fstoppers fb group, which unfortunately I can't fine. I might agree and not: considering the steps I took to have the most flexible and easy setup and the speed the sun moves at that time of a day I believe this was the best solution. As I already mentioned I couldn't put her under direct sunlight, it caused horrible shadows and putting her revers riding on the shadow (meaning flipping the image 180 degrees afterwards) in the shadow was a total complicating thing to do with this minimal team. I might have totally missed the shot and the geometric shadow. And to be honest I like the simplicity of it as it is, without overloading the image with directions and meanings. Appreciate your time for reading and having a totally reasonable suggestion.

Lenn Long's picture

Absolutely understand. Yes the sun side would have been much too harsh. Perhaps the shadow side and rotate the image in post. I always hate to critique like this because its certainly a hindsight is 20/20 and everyone has their own opinions, but definitely something to keep in mind if the project is developed and the location is used again.

Leigh Smith's picture

I really don't understand the point of the video.