Location: The Rialto Theatre, Tampa

I've been dying to do something really fun with my new Profoto B1x battery-powered strobes, but my travel and seminar schedule has been so crazy lately that I couldn't fit it in. Well, last Friday I finally got the chance, and it was worth the wait. For our shoot we rented the beautifully restored Rialto Theatre just outside downtown Tampa. It's no longer a theater — now it's an event space, but we needed a location with lots of room, high ceilings (yes, we needed to fly a drone in there. Well, not "needed" per se...), and I loved the beautiful old brick wall that formed the back of the stage. It would add the depth we wanted, as it would let us have our set in front, our painted backdrops behind, and then the brick wall behind it all. It was just what we were looking for, and for a photo shoot, the Rialto was very affordable.

The empty set starts to come together.

The Concept For The Shoot

Kalebra was my creative director for the shoot, and once she found the dress she wanted to use (a handmade red feather dress), the story came together quickly. Here's the story we were going to tell, in Kalebra's own words:

Our little birdie got her wish to be human. Breaking out of her gilded cage she was finally able to live the free and glamorous life she had watched so many live in this room before.

When Kalebra told me about the idea, I knew right away one thing I would want to do — show more than just the set. Including a pullback look "behind the scenes" is becoming more and more popular, especially in fashion. You're showing more than just the tightly cropped final image, you're seeing the lighting, stands, fans, apple boxes, and such, but you give it the same post-processing treatment as you would any final image.

The shot you see below is the final image, and the shot after that is that "pullback" shot (well, that's what I'm calling it). Notice both have the same post-processing style and color grading.

NOTE: For you Photoshop nerds out there (like me), the color grading was done using a Look Up Table which I applied using the Color Lookup Adjusment layer in Photoshop CC. I created the LUTS myself using Adobe Premiere Pro CC (tip of the hat to Glyn Dewis — I used his technique for creating LUTS in Premiere Pro. Smart guy that Glyn).

Here's the final image, with the cropping and composition as I'd usually do it.
The "Pullback" shot which shows the stands, backdrops, etc., but is still treated and processed like a final image. Near the end of the shoot I wound up adding two more Profoto heads (500W Profoto D1 Airs) aimed at the brick wall in the back to light them up just a bit. I used them open head (no softbox) and positioned them so they skimmed the wall on either side.


Here's a quick look at the set, and the lighting set-up. My main light is directly overhead — that's a Profoto B1x battery powered strobe (and yes, they are every bit as good as you've heard they are. Maybe better), with a 5' Profoto Octa. On the far right is a Giant parabolic umbrella with a built-in holder for my 2nd B1x. I'm controlling both heads with a Profoto Air Remote sitting on my camera's hot shoe mount. There are no cables with the B1xs — no external battery packs, so when you want to tweak the lights, or move them to a new location, you just grab them and roll. It literally sets you free on the set. They recycle fast, they set up super quick, they're consistent flash after flash, and they are literally a joy to use.

Camera Settings: ISO 100, f/10, 1/125 of a second.

That's Viktor and Julio getting the set, set. :)
The view from back at my shooting position. I'm using a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.
Here's the view from the set, and you can see how far back I'm set-up, but my tethering rig is on wheels so I can roll up close or back at any time. Those wheels are worth their weight in gold.
We all broke for lunch but forget to tell the model (kidding, just a joke).
Here's Julio (L) adding a light to skim the back wall so it's not so dark back there.


Besides getting to work with my new Profoto lights, I've been saving up some new hand-painted backdrops for this shoot. I was researching buying some high-quality backdrops, and I found a company in NYC that a lot of the high-end shooters use, but their backdrops literally cost thousands of dollars. In fact, they are so expensive; you rent them by the shoot (the one I wanted to rent was around $750, plus shipping). But then someone mentioned in the comments a European company called Gravity Backdrops (gravitybackdrops.com) who make hand-painted Italian canvas backdrops, but instead of renting them for $750 a day, you can actually buy them and own them yourself for around the same price.

That was pretty much all I needed to hear, and I got two sets — a darker grey set (one larger, one smaller), and a lighter set. The only downside is their Website. Lots of great examples (more on their Facebook page), but they don't actually have a price list, or an online order button, or anything like that. You have to contact them, tell them what you're looking for, and they'll give you a price. If they had a solid online store, they'd probably take over the market.

Behind the scenes shot below: — the overlapping of the two backdrops is intentional (it's another one of those things you see more and more). Anyway, as for my backdrops from Gravity — I just love them! Their backdrops definitely have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, and I felt this was a really great find, so I wanted to share this, and give them a shout out. Top quality stuff without a crazy price. High five!

Here's a better view of those backdrops.

An Unexpected Bonus — a Beauty Headshot Shoot

When we had wrapped up the shoot above, I asked our model if we could shoot a quick headshot, right where she was on set — still sitting on the couch. I would just have my assistant bring in a reflector to bounce some light back into her eyes and under her chin. Well, once I took a few shots, I was psyched to see the beauty poses our model, New York-based fashion model MJ Butterly (follow her on Instagram: @mjbutterly) was coming up with. After about 3 minutes of shooting, I told her, "You've got to let me shoot some straight up beauty here!" Her poses, look, and understanding of the beauty style was so on point.

Here's us doing a regular headshot with the same fashion lighting — we just added a silver reflector.
I take my Tethering Rig with me on location whenever possible (shout out to Tethertools - their stuff is awesome!)
View from the other side (All three BTS shots by Kathy Porupski).
Here's a Lightroom Grid of picks from the first group of headshots, with the fashion lighting and background.


In two minutes flat we converted what was the fashion shoot lighting to beauty lighting, by taking the 5' Profoto Octa with a Profoto B1x above her head and putting it directly behind her and then aimed it up at a 45° angle, so the light wouldn't be firing directly into the camera causing loads of lens flare and loss of contrast. That would create our solid white background. The other benefit of putting the light behind her is — the light coming forward would skim the edges of her jawline creating a subtle skim light effect. All that from just one 5' Octa. Then, we took our huge umbrella (which had been off to the camera's right, used as a giant fill light), and put it right directly in front of her. We had to have her stand up for the light behind her to serve as a background, but outside of that, it was just repositioning two lights and adding a reflector.

Here's one of my favorites from the beauty headshot using the large Profoto umbrella in front, and the 5' Profoto Octa in back.
BTS: putting the 5' Octa behind; big umbrella in front (I'm standing under the strobe), and a silver reflector.
BTS shot by Christina Sauer.
Here's a different angle. You can see how I rolled my tethering rig right up to where I was shooting.
Here's a Lightroom Grid of picks with the beauty headshot lighting.

We did have another dress...

and it was born to fly....

It took three people to toss her train into the air, and them jump out of the way, but in the end, I had to use a "plate" shot (a photo of the empty set) to get rid of all the other stuff, and the tossing crew.

A few behind the scenes shots...

Here's how you make a dress fly (spoiler alert: it takes three people besides the model).
This "throwing the dress" thing is more of an art than a science.

A simple portrait

When we were just about done, and MJ had switched into her own clothes, I wanted to catch a quick portrait before we wrapped up. One light. Nuthin' fancy. That's it below.

Shooting Fashion Isn't About The Photographer. It's About The Team

Fashion is about the clothing, it's about the story, and the model connecting with that story and bringing the clothing to life. To tell a story like this, you need a team. You need a great makeup artist, somebody killer with hair styling, you need a great outfit and accessories, and you need production help, you need photo assistants, you need drinks, snacks, sometimes a full meal or two; you need a second and third set of eyes, and in my case, I need behind-the-scenes photographers and videographers. It takes a team. More like an Army. But shooting in a team environment can really be fun and exciting. All these people are coming together to help tell this story, and if the image comes out great, we all share in the victory, and you feel that on the set.

Kalebra was my creative director for the shoot, and she did everything from choosing the model to selecting the styling, the set, the accessories, the hair and makeup looks, and working with the model on the story we wanted to tell on set. We have so much fun on these shoots together, and it's really a kick to see her vision come to life. Then once it does, I get to do my thing, and light it and shoot it. We make a really good team. :)


Getting to work with a New York model like MJ Butterly was really a treat (follow her on Instagram: @mjbutterly). She was so professional, patient, funny, easy to work with, and a pleasure to have on set. She just gelled with everybody right away, and her poses and expressions were just spot on. She took Kalebra's story and just ran with it, and the day literally just flew by.

That's our model MJ (L) and our dress designer Julia Crew (R)


From the moment a friend turned us on to the incredible fashion work of Julia Marie Chew, of Xiaolin Design — the shoot was born (follow her on Instagram: @xiaolindesign). Seeing her amazing design work propelled the entire shoot, and when Kalebra showed me the red feather dress she had chosen for our shoot, I knew we were off and running. Fashion photography is about the clothes, and when you have an amazing outfit, the rest comes together very quickly. Thank you Julia for sharing your wonderful work with us.


Our first choice for makeup artist is always the amazing Hendrickje Matthews (Instagram: @hendrickjemakeup), [above left] and we were lucky to get her for this shoot. She and Kalebra work so well together, and she totally nails the makeup looks Kalebra is after. She is also able to do quick turnarounds on the set for costume changes or different looks, and she's just a fun, positive presence on set. Any chance we get to work with her, we jump on it. We often look to Hendrickje to help us find an awesome hairstylist, and she connected us with Anna Dutko (Instagram: @style.hairandmakeup). We worked with Anna on a shoot last year, and she does wonderful work. The two of them work seamlessly together, and I can't wait to work with both again.


Our in-house producer, Christina Sauer, produced the shoot, and even though she really had her hands full, she did a fantastic job from start to finish. So, while Kalebra envisions all this stuff, Christina then has to make it all come together — from dealing with the location and their staff to working with the modeling agency, and booking flights, and coordinating the team — making sure all the equipment gets there (yes, we had to rent a cargo van), and…well…it's like putting together a big puzzle with lots of moving parts and people, but she totally rocked it. Thank you, Christina! :)

The view from the set looking back out to what used to be the seating area for the theater.
On the left, that's Viktor carrying a loveseat over his head like it's made of styrofoam.


I somehow found a shot of most of wonder woman Kathy Porupski (BTS by Jason Stevens).

I learned this the hard way a few years ago on a big shoot — you can never have enough photo assistants on the set, and I had a great crew, with the awesome Julio Aguilar as my 1st assistant (far left above), and wonder woman Kathy Porupski helping out and doing BTS shots as well (Kathy is the best, and she not pictured 'cause she took the shot), and for the first time helping out on a location shoot, our own Viktor Garcia, (to the immediate right of Julio above) who was absolutely first rate (and saved the day more than once with his handyman skills). I'm going to ask Viktor to help at all my location shoots if he's available. ALSO in this shot: That's Jason Stevens, from our video crew, and beside him is a rare shot of our Producer Christina Sauer, and off to the right that's our fabulous dress designer Julia Chew.


I am so grateful that I sometimes get to do a shoot like this; to have such a great team to work with, and a creative and life partner in my wife Kalebra, who makes this all such fun. I feel very blessed and thankful to get to use such great lighting and camera gear, beautiful backdrops, cool set pieces and to be able to shoot in great locations like the Rialto Theatre. I don't take any of this for granted, and I literally have to pinch myself when I'm on a shoot like this — I can't believe I get to do this, and I'm totally blessed, tickled, giddy, and so very grateful for the opportunity.


You can work wiith many of these same folks if you have a shoot. Make sure you follow them on Instagram and on Twitter. They would appreciate it and so would I.

Photographer: @scottkelby

Creative Director @kalebrakelby

Production Company: @kelbyonepics

Producer (Christina Sauer): @christinam007

Model (MJ Butterly): @mjbutterly

Modeling Agency: @leveltalentgroup

Costume Designer (Julia Chew): @xiaolindesign

Makeup Artist (Hendrickje Matthews) : @hendrickjemakeup

Key Hair (Anna Dutko): @style.hairandmakeup

Camera Assistant (Julio Aguilar): @julioaaguilar

Camera Assistant (Kathy Porupski): @kathyporupski

Behind the Scenes Stills/Video: (Steve Nicolai) @steven_nicolai_417

Camera Man / Stills (Jason Stevens): @darkrequest

Location: @rialtotheatretampa

Lighting: @profotousa

Canvas Backdrops: @gravitybackdrops

Tethering Gear: @tethertools

Special Thanks: @thehiproom


Shot using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, and a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, and a 16-35mm f/4 lens. (2) Profoto B1x 500w battery powered monolights (Main and Fill), and (2) Profoto D1 Air monolights (lighting brick wall); Profoto Air Remote. Tethertools Aero Table, USB 3 TetherPro Cable; Rock Solid Four Head Cross Bar; Rock Solid Tripod Roller.

Behind the scenes shots by: Kathy Porupski, Christina Sauer, and Jason Stevens.

Thanks for letting me share my shoot with you. 'Till next time. :)

Created By
Scott Kelby


Images ©2018 Scott Kelby

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