How I Got the Shot – Our Lady of Flowers

How I Got the Shot

Last week I had a chance to create an image I’d been dreaming of for months. I have seen (you have seen, we all have seen) many photos of women lying in flowers, but generally they’re very light and ethereal, with the women presented as delicate, whimsical creatures. Well, you know that’s not my thing.

One of the better-known photos of this type, this award-winning image by Sue Bryce is gorgeous, but the woman does look a bit as if she’s lying in wait to be ravished. My ladies don’t get ravished.
This woman looks a bit embarrassed to be caught lying in the flowerbed. (Sorry, can’t find credits for this one. If you know, let me know and I will update it.)
Too happy! Too bright! Too much yellow! (Sorry, can’t find credits for this one. If you know, let me know and I will update it.)



I wanted to create a similar image but with a darker and more mysterious vibe, in tones of purple. I also wanted my model to look more purposeful. Generally I want the women in my images to look as if they know what they’re up to.

I’d previously shot my friend Sam for another project, and I knew she’d be perfect for this one. Sam has an unholy passion for makeup and I knew she’d do an excellent look for this shoot. (IIRC she called this final look “Modern Day Maleficent”.) We discussed wardrobe options and she picked out a few dresses, one a dark purple and one a turquoise wiggle dress from Pinup Girl Clothing. Sam has lovely red hair, and she also brought a long, curly wig that she’d worn recently in case we wanted to play with that look.

I had a white seamless set up initially, but then went digging in my bins o’stuff and found this purple curtain that I thought would make a better backdrop (floordrop, actually) I started arranging the flowers for my test shots, but of course the real arranging had to wait until the model was in place. I varied between a two and three-light setup for these images, and I have made a stunning, professional lighting diagram here below to show you how it worked (JK I drew some shapes in Photoshop and they’re mos def not to scale.)

My key was the 22″ beauty dish, which was boomed out over the model. (MOAR SANDBAGS.) I gridded the beauty dish because I wanted to control the spill out over the rest of her body, and keep the light on her face. The Photek softlighter was to the side to soften the shadows. The third strobe I brought in midway through the shoot, to play with some purple and blue gels. (I really liked the mood they added to the shots, but I post-processed the tones of the images pretty heavily, so I wouldn’t say the gels were a must. )

Here’s a snap of the setup, in case my gorgeous diagram above is for some reason incomprehensible to you.

Seriously, use more sandbags when you’re booming a heavy light out over a model. That always gives me nerves.

Here’s a test shot, sans model, from when I had the basic lighting figured out. If you look not at all closely you can see my dangling camera strap in there.

Using this purple fabric was a big help, as it meant I had much less work to do in filling in any flower gaps in the image later.

Test shot for lighting. See the nice falloff towards the “bottom” (right side) of the image? That’s what the grid did for me. ©2017 Ooh St. Lou Studios

After this I got the model in place, and basically posed, then arranged the rest of the flowers around her. (Pro-tip, when you’re doing a shot with the model lying down, always give her something to prop up her head. If you don’t, it’s too easy to get really weird chin/jaw angles and the neck will look strange. This also brings the head closer to the camera, making it look a bit larger in relation to the body, which is normally a good thing.)

This was the main shot I was going for, with the deep purples and a warmer, more vintage feel.  When you compare to the colors above you can see I deepened and warmed the tones in post. I love the way this one turned out.

©2017 Ooh St. Lou Studios

Once we’d nailed that shot, Sam changed into another dress, and brought the fabulous curly wig into play. I changed the left strobe gel color to a blue-turquoise, gave her a bouquet to hold and ultimately captured this shot, which manages to have a completely different vibe. (Some of that is also due to post-processing choices, naturally.)

I’d be afraid to wake her up, wouldn’t you? ©2017 Ooh St. Lou Studios. All rights reserved

Other boring settings stuff  – shot on a Canon 80D with 24mm lens (36mm equivalent) at f5.6, 1/250. (I knew Sam wasn’t going to be moving, but I was going to be swaying up on that ladder, so I wanted a fast-enough shutter speed.) Post processing done in Lightroom and Photoshop. Strobes are Flashpoint XPLOR 600s.

Hope that helps explain how I got this shot. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

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