Photo homage – Regal Portrait with a Ferret
While on a trip to Denver, I had some time free to meet up with my friend, Lynn Clark, one of the best boudoir photographers in Denver. I had asked her to be a subject for my next book, Lighting & Design, and she indulged me. I want each portrait to reveal something of the person I am photographing, and also have some interesting snippets of info for anyone who dips in the book, and of course, for anyone who follows the Tangents blog.
So while Lynn is an accomplished boudoir photographer, I didn’t want to go with the obvious idea of doing a boudoir photo session of her. I met up with Lynn, and our mutual friend, Petra Herrmann in Lynn’s studio. (You may remember Petra as a recent guest on Tangents – increase your sales in boudoir photo sessions.) Lynn’s boudoir studio is home-based, with two large rooms that had been converted in shooting space. I spent some time looking around, and figuring out angles and lighting and backgrounds. The usual things we need to juggle when we consider the setting for portraits.
I liked the one direction where I knew I’d be able to compress the perspective with a 70-200mm lens, and shoot from the adjoining room. Then I could use the red drapes in the background, and throw the chandelier and the rest of the room out of focus. So far, so good. This would be good for a basic portrait. Solid, but not engaging yet. Lynn and Petra and I bounced some ideas around.
Lynn and her husband runs a Ferret B&B in Denver, CO. They take care of ferrets when their owners are on vacation. Lynn and her family also keeps 6 ferrets. So there are ferrets … and they are adorable. In chatting with Lynn and Petra, they mentioned that Queen Elizabeth had been fond of ferrets, and there was a portrait of her with a ferret. And then the idea clicked!
Throwing the chandelier out of focus and keeping it in frame, we’d have a glowing halo of light above Lynn. The red drapes worked too. Then … the costume. We didn’t have anything nearly as ostentatious so we went for a tiara and some bling jewelry.
And then we added Elliott, the energetically curious ferret you see in the photo.
The final portrait of Lynn is whimsical. There’s an absurdity about it. Hopefully the portrait is also quite cute and amusing. I do think it shows that playful aspect of Lynn, though she insists she’s actually a serious person. This impromptu homage to the portrait of Royalty with a pet ferret, was certainly fun to shoot.
Here’s the inspiration for the idea – the portrait of Queen Elizabeth with a ferret, (which the artist had given spots.)
And of course, the pull-back shot to show the setup and the lighting:
Lighting here was with an LED video light (affiliate), which is handy in that you can continuously change the color temperature to match that of the available light. I wanted that bit of a spot light on Lynn, but with the light feathered up a bit to just highlight her face and the ferret.
I adjusted the power of the LED light to not have the background too bright or too dark. In the end, I had the LED light at full volume, and pulled it away to that specific distance. I had the color balance of the LED video light set to the warmest setting, which according to the spec sheet, is 3200K. I changed the LED light’s color temperature to very warm, because I wanted the chandelier behind her to just glow warm, and not be a pool of orange light .
I originally did test shots of Lynn at f/2.8 to really blur the chandelier behind her. But when we added the ferret, I needed a touch more depth-of-field.
Camera settings & Photo gear info (& equivalents)
- 1/200 @ f/4.0 @ 1600 ISO
- Nikon D4
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II / Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
- recommended LED video light
- Video tutorial on using an LED video light
- Romantic wedding portraits with video light – Allison & Scott
- More articles on using video light for photography
Lighting & Design for Portrait Photography
Lighting & Design is a follow-up of sorts to Direction & Quality of Light. It’s a slightly eclectic mix, discussing the thought-process with various scenarios shooting portraits. The examples use available light, bounce flash, off-camera flash as well as studio lighting.
The idea is that in every one of the 60 sections, there is something to be learnt and applied, regardless of your level as a photographer or where you shoot – all shaped to form a cohesive narrative arc throughout the book.
You can either purchase a copy via Amazon USA or Amazon UK. The book will also available on the Apple iBook Store, and Amazon Kindle.
6 Comments, Add Your Own
1Chris Mann says
Today’s trivia fact: the “ferret” in the portrait of Elizabeth I is actually an ermine (a stoat in its white winter coat).
Because of its white coat the ermine was a symbol of purity. Elizabeth I never married and was known as “The Virgin Queen”, so it probably refers to her virginity. Ermine was also an expensive fur used to trim the garments of the nobility – peers of the realm had their caps lined with ermine, so it also implies royalty.
But it was a fun idea to make that connection! I loo forward to seeing the whole set of portraits!
Neil – Great work with the lighting, pose, and background. Are you nearing completion with the book? When will it be available for purchase?
3oscar campos says
great idea and capture!
4SEAN SHIMMEL says
What a fun, fresh juxtaposition.
Here’s my variation with a rat :)
I really like the fact that you give us so much info on the background/inspiration of some of your shots. When I saw this one, it immediately reminded me of Leonardo DaVinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” rather than the Elizabeth I painting you mentioned.
6Neil vN says
You know, you’re correct – the actual pose with the ferret is much closer to Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting than the portrait with Elizabeth 1.