Swimwear photo shoot – Afrokini bikini
Our model for this swimwear photo shoot is the beautiful black model Yollanda Musa. She is wearing the “Gugu” style bikini made by swimwear brand “Afrokini“. Afrokini uses African-inspired colours and designs in it’s swimsuits. Hence it was very appropriate to use a black model for this swimwear photo shoot. I have worked with Yollanda Musa several times, and we have a very good professional working relationship.
Make up colour coordination
Make up was by Chesmi Rodrigo. We decided to coordinate the colour of Yollanda’s make up with the mauve colour on her bikini.
Bikini photo shoot for catalogue and promotion
This swimwear photo shoot was done in my studio in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. The aim was to start by taking fairly “standard” catalogue photographs of a beautiful black model wearing the bikini. And once we had these photos “in the bag”, to capture some more dramatic photographs for promotional purposes.
Shooting a black model in a bikini against a “white” background
I wanted to start by taking fairly standard catalogue style photos against a white background. However Afrokini already has photos of a model wearing this bikini against a bright white background, and I did not want to repeat those. Therefore, although I used a plain white background in my studio, it appears darker because I did not shine light directly on it. When you use a white background in a photo studio, the degree of darkening is readily controlled by how much light you shine on it in the studio. The darkness of the white background can also be adjusted later in post production, ie on the computer using Photoshop. As a matter of fact I have increased the vignetting in the first photograph below in Photoshop.
How to use light to flatter the female body
I wanted to light my model in a way that is flattering to her body. Yollanda Musa is blessed with a very beautiful body (and face), and I wanted to really show her off. This is something I would naturally do with any client (commercial or private) who hires me for a beauty photo shoot, or a model experience photo shoot.
One of my specialities is lighting the human form to make it look good.
Notice how I have emphasised the beauty of Yollanda’s body by creating highlights and shadows that show her natural three dimensional shape.
Lighting with studio flash
For these first “black model in a bikini” photos (against the white background) I used two studio flash units;
The main (key) light was provided by a gridded soft box to the left of Yollanda (as you look at her) and slightly above her head height. I wanted the light source to be slightly higher than Yollanda’s head, but I also wanted it to shine into her eyes. As a general rule, you want a model’s eyes to be well lit for beauty photography. Yollanda’s eyes are clearly visible, with a bright highlight. Notice how the highlights and shadows from this key light flatter Yollanda’s body. The soft box was relatively small, and was fitted with a grid. Thus the light is relatively directional. This also avoids excessive spill of light onto the white background.
The second light was a studio flash fitted with a tall gridded soft box. It was positioned behind Yollanda and to the right (as you look at the model). Notice how this helps to further enhance the “three dimensional quality” of Yollanda’s body. It gives a subtle silky sheen to her skin where it reflects off. In the photo above it also provides a slim rim light on her elbow that helps to separate Yollanda’s body from the background.
High heels help with the model’s posture
High heeled shoes are usually flattering – I think we all know this. But it isn’t just at the level of the feet – high heels change the overall posture, weight distribution, and muscular tension in ways that are flattering. (I am not recommending high heels for any other purpose!)
But we don’t want the shoes to distract the eye away from the clothes
In the full length photo below, notice how Yollanda’s high heels do not distract the eye from the more important parts of the photo. In fact Yollanda’s shoes are almost invisible. From the point of view of the designer, the most important parts of the photo are those that show the clothes. In this case the model’s bikini.
If Yollanda’s shoes were black they would attract the eye (because of the extra contrast against the pale background). If her shoes were white they would look OK against a pale background, but they might be distracting to the eye if we had selected a dark background.
There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” about this. It is a matter of what is appropriate. But overall, transparent high heels are “a good thing” from the point of view of photographic safety, and versatility.
The power of dramatic lighting in a bikini photo shoot
Once we had a set of “safe” catalogue shots of our bikini in the bag, we wanted to capture some images that were a bit more dramatic for our swimwear photo shoot.
I decided to create images with a relatively high contrast, using dramatic rear lighting and strong colours. I decided to use “cold” blue and green coloured lights with a pale wig to give an “ice” effect. And I decided to use red lights and a black wig for a “fire” effect.
“Fire and ice” bikini images
“Ice” bikini photos
The key light on Yollanda is provided by a 21 inch beauty dish fitted with a grid. This is one of my favourite lighting modifiers. The key light is white, so as not to change the colours of the bikini – at least the top part.
Yollanda is lit from behind using three speedlights. Two are firing through blue gels, and one is firing through a green gel. I love what the coloured lights do to Yollanda’s hair against the black background, and I love the blue and green rim lights on her body. These help show off the curves of her profile. I have written about using coloured gels with flash photography in a previous blog post.
Adding coloured mist to our bikini photos
I wanted to add more drama to our swimear photo shoot. I did this by using a water spray to catch and diffuse the coloured lights behind Yollanda.
This is very easy to do. All you need is a cheap spray bottle (such as you use for misting plants) and a means of co-ordinating the spray with firing the camera. I used a remote trigger to fire my camera, and sprayed the spray myself. But you can use an assistant to do the spray if you have one (and don’t have a remote camera trigger). Obviously you need a tripod or other stable support for your camera if the photographer has to do the spraying himself (or herself).
It is important to make sure you don’t spray your lights! If you are short of space you can put clear plastic bags over your flash units.
The water spray settles quite quickly with gravity, so you need to coordinate the spraying and shooting. You will find every shot is different from the one before, and you can play around for a while capturing images that are slightly different from each other. You will find some work much better than others.
If you go on for a while you can end up with a bottle worth of water on the studio floor too (I have a plastic paddling pool I use for catching the water).
“Fire” bikini photos
To photograph Yollanda “on fire” I used red gels on the speedlights behind her. These give the curves of her body a lovely red rim light. I added the flames on the computer in post production.
Accreditation for this swimwear photo shoot
Model: Yollanda Musa (she has a website coming soon I am told)
Make up: Chesmi Rodrigo
Swimsuit: Afrokini (On the website is says their swimwear is “waterproof”. I guess that is true, but it made me chuckle).