The Enchanted Forest: Behind The Scenes With Julia Kuzmenko McKim

We have a very eclectic and large group of talented photographers that are active on our Fstoppers Facebook group. Some specialize in portraits, some in weddings and others, like me, are commercial photographers. Julia Kuzmenko McKim specializes in the whimsical. She sculpts beauty using light and a Wacom tablet. In this shoot, Julia and her team have tackled on an editorial. The setting, a fairytale like scene in a bright green forest.

The gear that Julia used in the shoot was her Canon 5d Mark I, two lenses the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and the Canon 24-70mm L 2.8, a Paul C. Buff Einstein strobe that was shot into an convertible umbrella, Elinchrom universal trigger set and sync cord, which she admits she always keeps with her in her camera bag, and a Wescott 5-in-1 40" reflector.

Julia: "We started shooting on a sunny day, so I initially planned to only use my reflector (silver), since I'm a big fan of shooting with natural light and wide open apertures for softness and depth in the background. I usually place my models so that the sun is behind them (beautiful rim light plus lots of detail (on the model) and depth behind the model in the frame), and bounce direct sunlight back onto the model with my reflector. 

My initial camera settings (while the sun was out) were: 50mm, f1.6, 1/1600, ISO 100"

Julia: "For the rest of the shoot, after the sun was gone, my camera settings were mainly the same with the exception of shutter-speed; jumping between 1/400 and 1/800 and ISO 200. For group portraits I would close up the aperture to around f5.6 (so that all faces were in focus) and my shutter-speed was about 1/160."

Julia: "This time I only used my Einstein to add a little light in the background or on the second model when it got a little darker in the forest. I used its modeling lamp and fired the flash in some shots too." 

Some more from her wonderful shoot:

I would like to thank Julia for sharing the video and details of the shoot with us. If you'd like to view some more of her work you can find her at her Facebook Page and her blog. You can also find great retouching tips on her blog, so it is definitely worth checking out. Julia would also like to thank her videographer, James Kriha, for helping her out with the video.

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Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you so much, Fstoppers! You guys are great!

These are amazing!!  I love the desated look and the perfect porcelain complexions.  It's extremely elegant and refined.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you, Matt!

These images are fantastic. This is really high end professional work on showcase here.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you, Raj! 

Dafydd Owen's picture

Lovely shots and thanks for the info.

I'm not sure of the intention of the video though - doesn't show much technicalities, explanation or setup for the photographers, not much on styling for the MUA or stylists etc - mostly just people smiling at camera / waiting to be shot.

Rebecca Britt's picture

That's why I went ahead and wrote the article, dear. You'll find that when people make behind the scenes videos they forget to film themselves explaining what they're doing. Julia was kind enough to speak about the shoot for the actual article. I always encourage all of our readers to create their own behind the scenes videos, with that in mind I hope that when you do, you'll take the time to be in front of the camera and share your knowledge with the rest of us.

Dafydd Owen's picture

I think if I do one or have something worthy of a BTS I'm just going to annotate it rather than speak on it ;)

But will certainly show the component parts.

Rebecca Britt's picture

Well, let me know when you make one and we'd be happy to share it with the rest of our readers. :) Even I do voice-overs for the bts videos that I've done. 

Nicholas's picture

The images are beautifully captured. I love the team effort everyone gave to this project. If I may mention an opinion on the video? I wasn't too fond of the unnecessarily quick cut editing of this video. It was cool within the first few seconds as a way of transitioning from one frame to another with the music, but then it got a bit dizzying. The videography was so well captured, the editing had no reason to flicker this way and that- which can take a viewer out of the environment this amazing team created. For lack of a clearer way of describing it, I wanted to look at what I was looking at. Like in movies, a good edit is a good story, and sometimes quick cuts can get in the way.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you for your feedback, Nicholas! I will make sure to pass it on James, our videographer. He's a very young and talented guys, and still learning, I'm sure he will appreciate your comment too!

Thanks for your comment Nicholas! I was going for a more abstract/artistic feel to this edit since there was no narration and just images. When editing you want to have your visual edit flow with the music, so a slower pace would have looked off with the song choice we had for this project. The video is strictly for artistic purposes like mentioned and to show what Julia was capturing. The longer look you are searching for would be looking at her images which is what we want...for you to want to look at her images and see her amazing creation! Thanks for your comment I appreciate it!

Rebecca Britt's picture

Can I chime in?

I think it depends on what your audience is.I like the video first of all, the only thing I would say is that since it is a behind the scenes video, you will get more feedback if it's informative. At least from other photographers (the people who would probably be more interested in the video in the first place.) Have the photographer/videographer ect... speak about the project, explain what they're doing and how they are going to achieve it. Include lingering shots of the equipment they used and perhaps even the LCD screen of her camera while she is reviewing a shot. There are a ton of BTS videos that are just music videos which is fine, but you won't receive much feedback from those from other professionals. You can still be artistic in even the most informative videos. Remember you can also do a voice-over, as well. We at Fstoppers would love it if people included more information in their bts videos. We'd be posting them like mad. So, I always encourage everyone to make their bts videos as informative as they can.

If this is for a wedding or portrait client, then of course that's different. 

Keep up the good work, dear. 

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you for your feedback, Rebecca!

That's priceless! Both James and I are pretty new to the whole "capturing BTS of an editorial photo shoot" deal, so that is definitely a great suggestion. And we all know that you, Fstoppers' guys, know it better than anyone else!

Thank you again for everything (you know what I mean!) :)

Kayzar Bhathawalla's picture

That male model, is he the same as in last year's never ending fashion shoot?

Angel Oviedo's picture

¡Que chingón! (mexican :P)

Or in english: "Great images!"