Six Sets, One Studio | Children and Things by Kristina Varaksina [How You Shot It]
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Today’s ‘How You Shot It‘ is a series of six photographs taken on one day, in one studio by Kristina Varaksina. She is an award-winning fine art photographer who sells her work at galleries in the U.S., Germany, France. Kristina also photographs advertising work and editorials which focus on people and stories about them. Check out her work at kristinavaraksina.com. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
The project started with an idea to make diptychs of children preoccupied with something and still life images highlighting some of the elements in each story. I came up with six different ideas and gave them to my set designer to think of what elements would be needed to tell each story and how we could put the sets together.
Creating the Sets
We decided on creating backgrounds out of foam-core boards, covered by wallpaper, fabric, and sheets of plywood, so we could easily and quickly change backgrounds. We had the same system for our floors using wooden planks and sheets of plywood. You would be surprised how nice and how different planks of wood can look in a photo. They are inexpensive, but you or your set designer can treat or stain them differently and make them a darker or lighter color. They will photograph very well, much better than many polished hardwood floors.
The Lighting & Camera Settings
For these images, I wanted very soft, diffused lighting. I felt it would work best with our young subjects and the intimate moments “caught” by the camera. In this regard, window light was the best solution. Luckily, there are two walls that get sunlight from the window almost throughout the day in my studio. I just needed to diffuse the sunlight with a silk. Therefore, we decided to shoot three sets against one wall and the other three against the other. We only needed to interchange foam-core boards with wallpaper and sheets of plywood together with corresponding floors between each set. I also had a second light source: a daylight balanced, small LED 160 Watt panel at full power on the opposite side of the window at a 45-degree angle above the subjects.
Since I was shooting with natural light indoors, I decided set my ISO at 400 to be able to have my shutter speed at 1/100th and my f-stop ranging from 4.5 to 6.3. For all the images, I used my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 85mm lens.
After I photographed the children with all six sets, my set designer and I put the backgrounds down on the floor and arranged the still life sets. I photographed them using just the window light, bounce, and black cards.
I tried to keep post processing to a minimum as I didn’t want the children to have a retouched look. In Capture One Pro, I did some cropping, adjusted the tonal range, color corrected, and touched up some of the backgrounds. As a final step in Photoshop, I added a warm color filter at 10-15% opacity and a layer of neutral gray with added Grain – 2, blurred at 0.4, in Linear light mode.
I turned the resulting diptychs into a magazine format and used it for my promotional purposes. Below is a behind the scenes video from the shoot.
About the “How to Shoot It” Series
This educational series highlights amazing images from our writers as well as our community. The goal is to not only feature inspirational work but to provide valuable education for our photography community. If you would like to submit your work or shoot to be considered, please click here.