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Making of Little Red

Posted on 01-16-2013 in Favorite Photos

Hello dear readers, let me take you on an exciting and exhilarating journey, as I unravel the complex lengths I go to to create my masterpieces.... Or rather how I fluke my way through fashion photography with great finesse.


I work as a fashion, beauty and portrait photographer in the North East of England and although I often shoot especially for designers and collections, I make sure I take the time to do test shoots and little experiments, several times a month to keep fresh and try new techniques. The photo I have chosen to blog about was taken during one of these mini adventures, where my friend AK FX Make up Artist had contacted me with an idea to do a shoot loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood but with no pressure to publish, just for our portfolios. I chose this photo simply because it is such a simple shot but it's still ethereal and holds a narrative. 

(click image to enlarge)
Model: Hannah
Make up: Abbie of AKFX
Dress: Christopher Niari Designs
*please note, to make this image websize you lose a lot of the detail*


  • Pentax K-r
  • Pentax-A 50mm 1.7
  • A Smoke Bomb (pellets like plumbers use)
  • Aperture:  F1.7
  • Shutter speed: 1/250
  • ISO: 400
  • Shooting Mode: M
  • Format: Jpeg

How I did it

I was shooting in a hollow in a woodland area and had set off a smoke bomb a few minutes earlier to shoot another model in front of but as it was late in the day the sunlight was coming through the trees and highlighting the wisps of smoke that were left. I called Hannah the model over quickly (bless her she got stung by nettles a few times) and shot as quick as my manual focusing hand would let me. It was one of those fast thinking moments when I thought "wow this looks like something from a book cover or a late Victorian painter" luckily it all came together beautifully.


Here is the original image:

I used Photoshop CS5 to edit. I actually initially did an edit I wasn't happy with where I speedily air brushed but I have since re-edited using a more professional technique. The danger of being good at Photoshop is that I can get lazy but posting here in a photography forum means I had to use techniques that compliment the original picture and not to mask it.

First of all I tidied up the skin using the patch tool then I used curves adjustment layers to dodge and burn the skin (using a hide-all layer mask and painting into it). This ensures that I do not lose any skin texture if the image is blown up or printed. I then made a dodge/burn layer specifically for the eyes and make up using a soft light layer with 50% grey just to give the make up an extra bit of impact.

The editing I used to get the colour adjustment is as follows:

  • 1 black and white layer with red filter deepened set to soft light blending mode
  • 1 Curves layer just to pick out the highlights
  • 1 hue/saturation layer to desaturate slightly
  • 1 Colour Balance Layer to bring in blue shadows and cyan mid tones then set at 60% opacity.

And finally

My biggest tips if you are attempting to do similar images, is to shoot later or earlier in the day, when the sun is one lovely giant soft box. Don't be discouraged if a few smoke bombs blow the wrong way or don't look right. Last of all: make sure you pick up lots of dock leaves for your poor model if she gets stung by nettles. The best images in my portfolio are always from collaborating with a good make up artist or designer or assistant, the old saying 'two heads are better than one' is especially true. I hope you've enjoyed me prattling on. Please feel free to ask me any questions, I love talking about photography.

- CharisVega


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Dan-paul [Delete] Jan 20th, 2013 1:59PM

Interesting photo. What I don't like is the empty expression in the lady's eyes.

cannukcando [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 3:33PM

I like very much!

CharisVega [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 1:50PM

smoke bombs are these little pellets- like powder stuffed into a little plastic tube, you set them alight and they produce smoke for 60 seconds. Thank you so much guys :)

neuropol [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 1:47PM

I like the addition of the B&W layer in processing. Nice technique.

Spodeworld [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 1:32PM

Love the vision and processing

cjblazer [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 1:24PM

This is from the photographer who was highlighted a little while back, her work is always stunning.

VisualDarkness [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 12:29PM

Amazing shot! Looks a bit different than the ones you usually see. Smoke seems to be the key to get nice lighting for modelshots outside.

wolfworx [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 8:31AM

I really like this, the "smoke bombs" got me intrigued though, what is it (Sorry I am not a plumber)
Colour treatment is great !