Our Own Flavor Of Musical Spookiness
If you have been following us for a while hopefully it's become obvious that we like to do things with our photosets that gives our images a bit more 'oomph' Or as Tacocat puts it: have all the 'extra'. Since it is Halloween season it was a very good reason to certainly go that route. Plus since we had been invited as guests to the Seguin MiniCon at the Seguin Public Library we figured it could also give us some new material for prints to sell.
We did put together a mini-set last Halloween where Tacocat, Allybelle, and Mermaid Child were dressed as the Sailor Scouts if they had decided to dress up as scarecrows. This time around we knew we didn't want to do Sailor Moon again so we fell back to another well known source: Love Live. There are existing card sets for Halloween but we felt that would be a bit too predictable. We were discussing it and a thought came up: what would these characters (Honoka, Kotori, and Eli) choose to dress up as if they could?
Pretty much right away Allybelle decided that Eli would be a vampire. Eli has this air of confidence and sexiness that would fit well with being a vampire. I mean if a vampire has neither one of those things then they probably wouldn't get very far in life. The skirt design was initially from an existing Eli outfit with a few changes. Everything else was either made from scratch or had extensive alterations minus the vest.
Tacocat though that Kotori as a witch would be a good choice but at first she wasn't sure what design to go with. Through a random bit of research she stumbled upon an image of Ochaco from My Hero Academia where the look would also be great for Kotori. With a few changes it was totally a Kotori costume.
But what about Honoka?
Since a witch and a vampire were pretty common costume choices for Halloween we knew we didn't want to be 'generic' by going with something like a mummy, zombie, or Frankenstein's monster type. Plus none of those really fit Honoka's personality. But at first we weren't really sure what would be a good choice.
One day a while back Tacocat, Mermaid Child, and I were hanging out doing some shoot planning for some upcoming sets. At that point we still hadn't come up with a good idea for her. So we started looking through the costume section of the Party City website just to see if any ideas would jump out at us. There were some 'broken doll' ideas there that would have looked interesting on Honks but it still didn't quite fit. And then we stumbled upon circus ringmaster costumes... and that fucking fit Honoka to a T.
We started browsing around various sites for ringmaster costumes. One thing we knew we wanted was for the costume to have a long tailed jacket. We found a couple we initially liked though at the time they were not available in an appropriate size for Mermaid Child. So we kept an eye out for when they would be back in stock. While we were waiting Mermaid Child found a costume at Yandy and she absolutely loved the jacket (though the rest of the costume was certainly NOT Honks' style). In my head the image of a men's tuxedo shirt, bow tie, black high waisted shorts, and knee high boots mostly completed the outfit and Mermaid Child agreed. We also knew she needed a hat but we wanted to make a little more of a nod to Love Live designs by having a mini top hat kind of look. Most of the ones we were finding had designs that were rather distracting or were not easily available in the colors we wanted. But then I found that Party City hat a ringmaster style mini hat that was absolutely PERFECT. So Honoka was all set to go.
As for props... certain resources allowed us to get 'extra'... I'd say well into Plus Extra territory.
Allybelle's parents it turns out really like to go all in when it comes to Halloween. They are all out there with the decorations. Inflatables, fog machines, lighting, et cetera. They go kinda batshit in a good way. Since they don't tend to set up everything until a little over a week before Halloween we asked if we could use some pieces they had available. And they were totally cool with it.
There would be more pieces needed however. We couldn't find a suitable broom for Kotori so that one I made with some materials from Hobby Lobby. If the candle stands look a bit familiar they should; they were the donuts stand used for Sugarbelle repainted with this lovely antique bronze paint I found (plus two more taller stands were built). I was happy to find a cauldron that had that 'rusted' look since all Spirit and Party City had were the straight black ones. The candelabra, lantern, and a good chunk of the candles were purchased from Michael’s. If there's any one piece of advice to offer here: get the apps for Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and Joann on your phone and use the absolute shit out of the coupons. You'll be glad you did.
With this being a Halloween shoot with some of the ideas we had in mind we knew we needed a lot of space with a dark background. So we went back to one of our favorite places to work with: Soundcheck.
For this set I wanted the main lighting to have some punch and specularity to it as I felt that would lend well for this particular presentation of the Love Live characters. So my main light would be a Godox AD200 firing into a Phottix Premio 120 umbrella. Since we were shooting against a black background I had originally planned on using another AD200 with either a Godox 35 degree reflector or a Phottix 60 x 90 cm softbox with a 40 degree grid. But then I found out about a product that was probably one of the best additions to my kit I have made in some time.
I was watching a video by Daniel Norton about certain items he always has on hand while shooting especially in a studio setting. And one item he discussed was a product called Cinefoil from Rosco. It's essentially aluminum foil with a black coating. But the coating is designed to absorb light. This way you could do impromptu things to control light like make flags, snoots, cookies, and what not. The fact that such a thing existed blew my fucking mind. I thought that such a situation could come up during this particular shoot so I made sure to grab some beforehand. And I was glad I did.
While we were shooting one thing I had noticed when trying to use the 35 degree reflector that I was getting some unwanted spill onto the back wall regardless of how I positioned it. So I was like "Hey, this would be a good time to try Cinefoil." So I took a sheet and taped it to the inside of one half of the reflector to see if it could control the light spill.
AND HOLY FUCKING SHIT IT WORKED.
I would end up using a bit more to make some snoots. And it worked wonderfully for making something similar to well controlled spotlights (two shots of Honoka came out amazing because of this). So yeah... I will always have this stuff around and I highly recommend picking some up.
One other piece that worked well was a classic effect: dry ice and warm water. Since we had the cauldron we knew we had to try something. I picked up some small small aluminum baking trays to hold the water/dry ice combo. At first I thought about getting some LED lights to give a certain color effect but I wasn't sure if they would be bright enough. So I ended up putting a small colored gel on one of my Godox TT350Fs, putting it next to the water, and setting it to the lowest power. That set up worked wonderfully.
Some things didn't quite work out the way we wanted to. With some of the shots where we were using the LED candles I had originally wanted to try a long exposure to try to bring out more of the light on the candles. Unfortunately it didn't quite pan out. Which for me is OK especially since everything else about the images where we used them grabs attention. For the amount of candles we had I'm glad we didn't use real ones. Especially after Allybelle kicked some off of the stands a couple of times.
All in all everyone was super happy with this set. There was one thing I had picked up on with some of our recent sets and it became really obvious while working together on this one. While some of the straightforward shots are good our creativity really start to shine when we start 'building the shot' and adding elements. Everyone on the team is all "Let's try this... let's try this." That collective creativity leads to some amazing art.
When you have people around you who are as dumb as you are... who knows what kind of awesomeness it will lead to?