01 Jun 2015

Snow White cosplay

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Slightly over two years ago, two film versions of the popular fairy tale “Snow White” were shown in cinemas. One was an embarrassing comedy, while the other one – something much darker and appearing quite interesting. Karolina Zientek, my favorite make-up artist, concluded that it would be a good idea to take some photos of a girl stylized as Snow White. As I love cosplays, I supported the idea wholeheartedly. A few days later, we did the photo shoot described below.

Let me mention here that I’ve always dreamt of a photo shoot entitled “Little Red Riding Hood”. It is supposed to be a photo shoot of my life, so everything must be arranged perfectly. Unfortunately, the shots I’ve come up with require huge preparations and thus a long time will pass before I’m able to carry out the project.

Bits and pieces – part 1: In the original story, Little Red Riding Hood ends up just like grandma: she’s eaten by the wolf.

Snow White

Vision one: Let’s do a full-blown photo shoot, with Snow White, the prince and the Evil Queen, so that the shots tell a story… A quick analysis yielded a simple conclusion: unfeasible. Sure, it would be possible to carry that out, but the preparations would take several weeks. Moreover, we would have to divide the work into at least two smaller photo shoots in different locations. As a result, the photos would probably never see the light… By the way, our Snow White was planning to cut and dye her hair, which gave us much less time (unless we used a wig).

Vision two: Let’s do anything, spontaneously as always. Let’s take loosely linked shots without the prince or stepmother and without significant preparations. Such a photo shoot was actually possible to do on the spot. We even found the right place: Le’Prestige, a hairdresser’s salon – or its yard, to be precise. The only problem was the weather, which was… too good, but let me come back to this topic later. The yard had a wooden gate with some ivy growing nearby and the ground was paved with stone. If well lit, that scene could yield a great atmosphere without using the least bit of Photoshop. The place was a bit cramped, but I somehow managed to squeeze in all my lights.

At the beginning we planned three shots: a beauty photo, a fashion-type photo with the model sitting (on a chair) and finally a photo showing an unconscious Snow White lying on the ground. As usual, the plans changed during the work. When I reached the place, the make-up was almost ready and the haircut was in preparation. While Aga from Le’Prestige was finishing the model’s styling, Karolina and I made off to buy “the perfect apple”. What’s Snow White without an apple, anyway? We searched in several shops until in the last one Karolina said, “This is it”. We also tried to get some snow in a package, but we didn’t find any.


The first tests showed that doing that photo shoot with the available light made no sense. For the first shot, I positioned Magda next to the gate and we placed a two-meter sun reflector (with black cover) above her head to keep away the sunlight. Unfortunately, the sun was shining so strong that the reflectors, lowering the ISO below the native value or aperture increase didn’t help much. Everything seemed right, but the photo lacked the gloomy atmosphere I wanted so much. It would have been fine if I had put an ND filter on the lens to exclude the available light completely. Sadly, one needs strong lights for that and I didn’t have them at that time. My 300 Ws by Quantuum (not to be confused with Quantum spelled with one “u”) with a grey filter gave a bit more light than a candle. I didn’t want to take the shots in the available light, but lights were of no use, either. Eventually, that photo didn’t come out right because I didn’t get the atmosphere I wanted. Unfortunately, I only saw the difference on a big display, so I didn’t try to repeat the shot.

For the next photo, I added one more reflector and positioned Snow White as far back in the shadow as it was possible. At that moment, I came up with a previously unplanned shot:


Nikon D700| Nikkor 135 mm 2D DC | F/8,0, 1/200s | ISO 200

Before I repositioned the lights and arranged the ivy appropriately with Karolina (MuA) and Aga (hairdresser), the sun relaxed a bit. I was finally able to use the light to create an atmosphere which exactly corresponded to my vision. The available light lasted, but was subtle enough not to destroy the planned effect. The backstage photo below shows the taking of the beauty shot, but I didn’t change much in relation to that arrangement (mainly the height of the light).


Quantuum R+300 Digital (on a boom) with a 70 cm white beauty dish + a grid. Yongnuo YN- 460II speedlight for the background, directed slightly upwards. Reflectors above the head to keep away the sunlight.

This is more or less what the shot looked like on the camera’s display. The photo was taken using a phone in poor conditions, hence the moderate quality:

Królewna Śnieżka - Snow White backstage

Another shot with Snow White after biting the apple:


Nikon D700 | Sigma 50mm 1,4 EX DG HSM | F/8,0, 1/200, ISO 200

For this shot, the beauty dish was positioned so as to distribute the shadows on the face as in standard shots where the person is in a vertical position. I directed the speedlight at the apple, using some magazine to create a snoot quickly (sadly, the magazine wasn’t Vogue). The key light was cast completely beyond the top right corner. To prevent the hair from looking like a black patch on the top, I directed another light there, supplementing it with a silver reflector which reflected the remains of the light. The whole lower part of the shot gradually plunges in the dark, but that definitely suited me, so I didn’t fill it with light. Setting up the lights took quite a lot of time because the adjustment of speedlight strength proved insufficient that time. I tried to limit the strength of the snoot using i.a. a plastic drinking cup, but it completely changed the light color. I finally mastered the situation by selecting an appropriate height. This resulted in a very sharp shadow next to the apple, but it actually fitted the scene, so I left it that way. The backstage photos below show the setup:



The last shot was taken as planned, i.e. the model was sitting with the apple in her hand:


Nikon D700 | Sigma 50mm 1,4 EX DG HSM | F/4,5, 1/200s, ISO 100 (LO 1,0)

There was no available sunlight there – just the way I like it the most :) The key light came from a 70 cm beauty dish with a grid, positioned to the left. I directed two lights at the background and one at the right side. Why as many as two at the background? Well, the chair stood right next to the gate which served as the background and all I had was speedlights whose angle wasn’t wide enough to light a sufficiently large area. Thus, I put one light on the ground, directing it slightly upwards, and placed the other one on a stand at the height of the arms, also pointing it slightly upwards. This, and not directing the lights straight ahead, is what makes the gate’s texture stand out more. The fill light positioned to the right prevented the shadows (i.a. those on the dress) from being black patches.
Below there is a comparison of the RAW and the final version, which proves that light can change a lot:

Zrzut ekranu 2015-06-01 o 13.09.47


I consider the session by all means successful, though the beauty shot didn’t come out right (well, maybe it did, but its level, or rather its atmosphere, was completely incomparable to that of the remaining shots). I was really satisfied with the other photos, though. While publishing the photo shoot later on, I wondered what could have been done better. It would be nice to have some snow on the shots with Snow White sitting and lying down, but we hadn’t managed to buy it. I would also like some blood flowing from under Snow White’s head and on between the stones, but that would have required more work and one cannot be sure if the final effect would really be better.

It’s worth mentioning that the lighting used during the photo shoot was inexpensive and yet sufficient (though if the lights had been stronger, I could have used a grey filter). The key light cost approx. USD 120 and the additional lights – less than USD 50 per one item. The only equipment to supplement them was the stands, the beauty dish with the grid and an YongNuo RF shutter release. We did use diffusers, but they wouldn’t have been necessary in different weather conditions. The whole set cost less than USD 600.

Bits and pieces – part 2: In the original story, the Evil Queen does not want Snow White’s heart. She wants her liver and lungs in order to eat them.

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I have taken beauty and fashion shots for a few years. I publish the results of my work on this blog together with photo shoot descriptions, setups, backstage photos and everything that is significant while photographing. I try to diversify the equipment I use during my photo shoots.
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