by Sean Setters
When a friend of mine posted on Facebook, "Does anyone have any use for a TON of expired coffee beans?," I quickly replied, "I'll take 'em."
As others expressed interest in the coffee beans for gardening purposes, and I didn't need much for the macro shots I thought I might use them for, I only ended up getting a couple of bags out of the seventeen pounds she was offering (though I'm sure I could have found an interesting use for that many coffee beans).
As I was picking up the graciously free props I asked my friend if there was anything specific she wanted me to shoot with them. Much to my surprise she had a very quick answer. "Amanda. Something with her hair, maybe?"
While it certainly wasn't what I had in mind, it sounded right down my alley. I nodded my head and replied, "Okie dokie. I'll see what I can do."
With a vague idea in my head, Amanda and I took the opportunity of some free time yesterday afternoon to bring it to fruition. I laid a standard sized (32x40") white foam-core white poster board on my living room floor. I then extended the legs of my Induro CT314
to their fullest extent, reversed the center column, attached my 5D Mark III
+ Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
and positioned the tripod directly above the board. After that, I set up one light stand with a Canon 580EX and an 24" Glow softbox
and another light stand with a 580EX and a Westcott RapidBox Octa
(both triggered via radio slaves).
I asked Amanda to lay on the white board so that her head was basically centered in the board. We then spread out her hair so that it filled a majority of the space after which I began taking test exposures while fiddling with the position of the lights. I settled on f/6.3, 1/160 second at ISO 160 for the exposure with the lights set to between 1/8 and 1/4 power.
Getting the light just right proved a little challenging because of the orientation of the subject and the background and the fact that both were on the ground. I positioned the RapidBox Octa toward the top of Amanda's head, camera left, feathered a little downward. I positioned the 24" softbox camera right but feathered slightly toward the top of the frame. This lighting position and close power ratio provided a relatively flat lighting from a highlight to shadow perspective, yet there was still a direction to the light which helped to sculpt and highlight Amanda's features.
Then the coffee beans. If I had thought through this setup a little more, I would have laid down a garbage bag or two beneath the white board in order to catch stray coffee beans before they hit the carpet – but I didn't. When I opened the bag and started pouring the beans onto the background, the beans bounced much more than I had imagined. While most of the coffee beans stayed within the confines of the white board, more than a few landed on the carpet. Tip:
If a coffee bean lands on your carpet, be careful not to step on it. It can make the mess infinitely more difficult to clean up.
We tried several different poses throughout the session including several with Amanda holding a coffee mug. But in the end, this was the keeper from the shoot. And while I typically see the world in a 2x3 (and increasingly, 16x9) frame, I ended up liking the square crop best and knew it would work well as a profile picture.
Since updating her Facebook profile picture yesterday afternoon, the picture has amassed 95 likes with several nice comments as well. It's amazing what you can do with a little space on your floor, a white board, a tripod, a couple of lights, a pretty girl and a bag of magic [coffee] beans. ;-)
Click on the image atop this post to see a larger sized version on Flickr