How I Shot These Rooftop Fashion Images

How I Shot These Rooftop Fashion Images

I shot these images for fashion ecommerce store Zilingo when we were doing a recent campaign/catalog shoot. What a fun team to shoot with! They really have a vision for what they want to pull off and are very supportive in terms of getting there. 

That being said and outside the control of anyone involved, Zilingo included, we were on an incredibly tight schedule where after the catalog shoot, I had to set up and photograph the campaign within 30 minutes before the sun set. Sadly there still isn’t any gear that I’m aware of which can outright control the sun. Pity! This meant I had to use a very simple setup.

Right after the catalog was shot in studio, we quickly rushed up to the rooftop which is always a fun mix of cardio and weight training when you get to run with gear in hand! Fun, right? During the planning, we had imagined a beautiful golden hour lighting plus slightly dramatic skies. If possible I would have liked to shoot it in just natural light with a reflector. However the weather was not on our side and the sky was slightly uninspiring. The sun was also quickly setting which made my very limited time even more limited. 

On the one hand I could choose to complain about this but there really is nothing we can do to control the environment so in my experience a huge part of the artistic scene is of course having a plan but absolutely knowing how to adjust on the fly when that plan runs into issues.

Equipment List

Lighting Setup

Seeing how flat the natural light was at the angle I was shooting from, I decided to use my Profoto A1 fitted with small translucent umbrella to give a little more pop to the image. I initially wanted to add another reflector below the umbrella to lighten up some of the shadows but unfortunately the windy situation on the rooftop prevented it from being a possibility. Even handling the umbrella was already difficult. There’s that whole thing about having a plan or an idea and adjusting on the fly. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back but rather aiming to emphasize how absolutely critical it is to do so when needed! Already with the Profoto A1 and umbrella, I had my assistant to hold it instead of relying on a light stand as the wind made that too risky for my taste.

Post-Processing

I initially wanted to preserve the natural sky so I shot darker than I would have liked. Due to being unable to lighten the shadows as much as I wanted with a reflector, I brought up the shadows quite a bit through Capture One. I also replaced the skies in the photos with images in Mike Kelley’s Ultimate Sky Library. Lastly, I finished off with some color grading using Pratik Naik’s Infinite Colour Panel.

After basic editing:

Sky replacement:

Colour grading:

Closing

It was fairly challenging to achieve what I had in mind and it included additional post work that I would have preferred not to do but it’s always good to know what steps can be taken to help achieve a good end product if ever needed. Have a plan and try to execute it but ultimately you have to work with what you have available and that is a philosophy I try to bring with me to every shoot Im working on. 

Photographer: Shavonne Wong 

Model: Lily Mezokozy, Mannequin Studio, Tereza Smejkalova, AVE Management

Makeup: Christian Maranion

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46 Comments

Previous comments
michaeljin's picture

So as I understand it, you essentially went to the rooftop for a shoot and the only thing you did was use a speedlight and umbrella to augment the sunlight from the direction it was already coming from? The description was a bit confusing...

Shavonne Wong's picture

The sun came on the right so my light was actually on the left for fill!

michaeljin's picture

Ok, that makes more sense. ^^;;

Matthias Dengler's picture

The flesh tones became all red. Liked it more before the grading.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Colour grading is quite subjective but sure, thanks for your thoughts! (:

Dan Howell's picture

honestly my first reaction when I saw the shots was: didn't your client have a problem with the crop of the photos? You mentioned that it was e-commerce and catalog. Don't you need to actually show the clothes for a catalog shot? Not to detract from your technical information presentation, but I think it is important to convey that there are parameters for certain types of professional photography.

Frankly, it is more difficult to take a compelling full-length fashion photo than it is to take a cropped shot. I have faced this on numerous fashion catalog shoot. It is definitely easier when you can narrow the scope of an image, but I have found on some catalog shoots clients want to see the skirts/slack and shoes of an outfit, if not on every view, at least so they can make the selection or have options for different views. Working professionally is not only about the technique of the capture, it is at least as much taking your client's needs into account.

Shavonne Wong's picture

This photographs were meant for the campaign, not the catalog so it's aim was more to capture the mood and vibe of the brand!
Examples are like the images below, was was a campaign for a brand named Carven that isn't even in focus, and another for Tom Ford where the the mood of the shot is a bigger factor than showing each and every outfit clearly.

If this was the catalog shoot, it will definitely be shot a lot differently. However for this brand, they just wanted the clean white background images for their catalog, which was shot right before this.

An entire article on the "out-of-focus" image would be a great read :) As photographers we tend to focus on working through the checklist: as Dan said "show the outfit", "don't crop at the joints", yet ticking the boxes often misses the point. The photo for Carven absolutely works. It sets the mood and the tone. But unless I was specifically directed to do this it never would have occured to me that this could have worked. I'm now curious as to how the idea was conceived, did you pitch it or did they?

Shavonne Wong's picture

Oh it's not shot by me! Sorry if that wasn't clear!! But yeah takes a brave and creative client to go ahead with that.

Jairo Melara's picture

Snoozefest 😴😴😴💤💤

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hope you had a great nap!

Brandon Ericksen's picture

Sky replacement? Did you consider taking a picture of the sky in the frame without the models, then with and making a composite? Or did you find out the sky wasn’t recoverable in post? I apologize in advance if it seems I’m badgering I’m a cream puff who’s just getting started and I’m wondering if blown skies are gonna be something I have to look out for.. I noticed you used a 5Dsr (a camera I might buy if I don’t go with a Pentax Medium format) would something like a Nikon D850 or Sony A99MK2 with greater dynamic range have helped?

Shavonne Wong's picture

I did actually take some shots of the sky without the models and was planning to use them too. However I also just got my hands on Mike Kelley's Sky Library and he had prettier skies so I figured why not. 😂

Honestly, not a techie photographer and I have not tried those Nikon or Sony cameras so I can't advise you on that!

Another great post, Shavonne!

It's always great to see insight from those that do actual work for clients, as opposed to taking pictures for their personal Instagram.

Don't pay attention to the naysayers who would rather argue semantics instead of the finished product. Which in this case looks great! And as long as the client likes it, that's all that matters!

I swear, it's so easy to figure out the people who actually do this for a living versus the people that are armchair photographers, just by seeing their thought processes. Which unfortunately leans more towards the latter judging from the comments here.

Keep posting what you've been doing. Honestly, you post the most insightful, real-world thoughts and techniques that actually matter to professionals. It's a breath of fresh air from the overwhelming amount of "is this camera/lens sharper than this one" that we see all the time. And quite frankly, your articles are the only reason I really check this site out anyways!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you for your very kind words John, am flattered and humbled (: