photo session – Modern Gypsies – floating bubbles

photo session – Modern Gypsies – floating bubbles

Another from the most recent publicity photo session with the Modern Gypsies, with two of the girls in French period costume … inside plastic bubbles. Seemingly an easy setup, it took a few quick adjustments to the off-camera lighting while they were enclosed in the plastic bubbles. Time is very limited!

Let’s start off with the test shots, and see the progression from there …

I had Peter, my assistant on the day, stand in the spot where I thought it would be best to do the shoot. I knew I could shoot from a low viewpoint in this busy Brooklyn park, and minimize the cluttered background. I wanted it to appear like it were just the two girls in the bubbles in a wooded area, with sun streaming down.

Two of the test shots with Peter, to get my base exposure. I initially wanted to use the available light, with a touch of fill-flash from the off-camera Profoto beauty dish (vendor) and a  22″ sock (vendor) over the beauty dish. The idea was that if I let the background blow out through over-exposure, it would help the ethereal look.

Then, with the angles and viewpoint figured out and the equipment set up, we had Jen in the first bubble, and I instantly knew I would have to adapt. Quickly!

The test shot showed what was obvious with the naked eye – the plastic bubble reflected so much of the sky and surroundings, that you lost the detail of Jen, the one performer who was in the bubble. Next stop – drop the exposure (by two stops), and instead of the flash being the slightest bit of fill-flash, allow the flash to do most of the work in terms of correct exposure.

I hastily instructed Peter to bring the Profoto powerpack and beauty dish much closer, and to raise it way high on the light-stand, and let the beauty dish light her up from high up. I thought this would minimize the direct reflection of the beauty dish in the plastic.

However, the first shots showed the beauty dish was too high, and we got top-heavy light on Jen.  Her eyes were shaded. Also, the hot-spot on the plastic wasn’t reduced like I thought it would be with the light coming from higher up.

So I had Peter again quickly move the light to the side and bring it lower – better light on Jen, and the hot-spot seen there was easily fixed in post-processing by cloning in part of the plastic bubble from a non-flash shot.

Problem solved with brief adjustments to my camera settings, and scurrying to change the lighting setup. And we still had enough time for a sequence of images with both girls in the ‘floating bubbles’.

Here is a pull-back shot to show the setup. By this time we had attracted an audience in the park.


photo gear (and equivalents) used in this photo session


the rest of this photo session


more info about the Modern Gypsies


a little bit of homework

  • The camera’s auto-focus tended to grab the plastic with the bright reflections, instead of the person in the bubble. I had to find a work-around. Manual focus through the viewfinder was still tough because of the lower contrast of the subject inside the plastic bubble. So what are my other options in getting accurate focus?

15 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2 says

    I notice you’ve listed a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. Did you use this on a Canon body and if so, which camera? Also, are you shooting in RAW or JPG.
    Thanks in advance Neil. Keep up the good work.

  2. 3mike says

    I believe Neil listed the Canon lens as an equivalent to the Nikon he actually shot with. AND RAW always!! correct Neil?

  3. 5Rudy says

    sweet photo shoot…I would have had your assistant stand in the same plane of focus outside the bubble…I can think of a few more but that would have been the easiest for me

  4. 6Augie De Blieck Jr. says

    Homework: If you know the person you want to focus on is a foot behind the bubble that the camera keeps locking on, then step a foot back, lock focus on the bubble, then step forward again and take the shot. f/8 should give you enough depth of field for wiggle room to get that right. Maybe?

    Or, yeah, like Rudy said, have your assistant stand next to the bubble and step to the side and then back.

    Either way, back button focus sounds like a big help on this one.

  5. 7Dave says

    Hey Neil, thanks as always for sharing the troubleshooting for the rest of us to learn from.

    Is there any reason you didn’t/couldn’t use a circular polarizer to control the reflections?

  6. 8Edward says

    Homework – switch to live view and hit the zoom button twice to give a 10x magnification on any part of the image you like. Should be enough to allow accurate manual focus judged by eye.

    I think….am always up for learning something new however.

  7. 9 says

    Hi Neil. About the AF question, was there sufficient contrast to use live view contrast detection? If not, then I guess I would focus on an object that is around the same distance as the subject, such as the tree or the grass.

    About the lighting, what do you think about using a boom to place the beauty dish near the bubble, then erasing the beauty dish and boom in post? Hopefully that would reduce the reflections, especially those in front of the bubble.

    Thanks again for this post.

    Best regards,

  8. 10 says

    thanx for the post! how about trying to focus on the ground at the base of the bubble (where it meets the ground) this way the gypsy should be in perfect focus

  9. 12David de Fortier says

    Homework: i actually had this problem before..
    The easiest solution is to get your assistant to stand in the same focus plane that youre looking for. Back button Focus on him and then tell him to get out of your shot and shoot away.

  10. 15 says

    Emaad … I’m not sure that the polarizer would’ve made much difference with such a round surface. Either way, there wasn’t enough time to test this, since the two girls were enclosed in the bubbles.

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