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Saturday, 28 November 2009

How to Photograph Spandex - Part One

Thanks to our regular photographer for writing this for us. They have been taking photos for us for over two years now and come highly recommended. If you want their details please contact us at

How to Photograph Spandex - Part One

Photographing for LegwareUK, the first thing to do is to match the garments to the models. We try now to make sure that a girl with blonde or a light haired girl model dark colours and that dark haired girls model lighter coloured outfits. Also again with regard to colours, the background is chosen in contrast to the outfit, white background for all colours apart from whites.
Normally on a white background is considered high key photography. It can be a simple setup but time and time again I see people get this wrong including broadcaster’s. Within high key you need to light the background so it appears near white without washing out the colours in the garments. The lighting must show the true colour of the garments within the capabilities of the internet (more on this later). I use four mono-block studio lights in a classical square arrangement. The front two lights have 120cm studio diffusers and light the subject, the rear 2 heads are fitted with ‘barn doors’, which provide directional control not to throw light back into the camera, these light the background. The two rear light heads are not diffused so that need to be on half to a quarter power. The whole setup of lighting is always checked with a light meter and settings manually entered into the camera. Normally, images are shot at 125th second, this is the faster speed that will synchronise with the lighting. Anything faster than this and the shutter on the camera closes as the lights are fired especially using a wireless trigger on the hotshoe of the camera, there’s always a slight additional delay.

If shooting on the black background then just two main heads are used.

The colours of the outfits range from blacks to vibrant colours, the problems with some of the colours is that they cannot be rendered properly in digital photography. Even though digital photography has come along way, cameras are only capable of capturing roughly a third of the colour spectrum. Some of the fluorescent colours can look a little odd, also combined with viewing over the internet where only 254 colours are supported on common browsers, so all images are checked and adjusted in Adobe’s Photoshop Image Ready application for trueness. Other problems are with the high sheen of spandex and lycra especially some or the wet look garments. The best way to show them is with the lights are an angle of 45 degrees, any less than this and the shine/reflection of the lighting will overly dominate the image, and lead to ‘burn out’ of highlights. Care must also be taken to avoid burn out especially in digital photography as in if there are areas that have burn out, then there is no detail there to be salvaged, this is a particular problem with digital as film had a more forgiving exposure latitude and still contained some feature. Most photographers on purpose under expose images to avoid burn out and adjust later in post processing. One way to do this is set exposure compensation within the camera, but shooting in the studio I use manual control. For me the best colours are a strong blue or red that can make a image ‘punchy’.

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