Speedliter's Blog is delighted to feature Valiant Valkyrie portraits by Saginaw, Michigan based photographer Amber Henry. Amber possesses an eye for creative design and, when coupled with her photographic prowess, she creates powerful and purposeful portraits for her clients.
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What gear did you bring to this shoot?
CAMERA: Canon 5D Mark III
LENSES: Canon 70-200mm 2.8
Why do you use Canon, Godox, and Magmod?
I started with Canon when I was first learning photography over 15 years ago. My first camera was a Canon Rebel! I just kept upgrading from there as I could afford it. My go to lens is the 70-200mm, f/2.8. I call it “The Beast!” I’ve started using the Godox lighting in the last year and honestly really like it! There is so much power in the Godox AD200 that I can shoot in full sun on a wedding day and capture incredibly well lit faces. When I add the Magmod modifiers it's game over! Magmod is so incredibly quick, lightweight, and easy that it changed the way that I shoot.
How did you approach this shoot from a planning perspective?
I had been planning this concept for awhile with model, Bre, in mind. I wanted to create a very powerful series of images portraying strong young women as Queenly Heroes. I wanted to portray young women in a confident and commanding light rather than the typical sexy images we are bombarded with. Bre herself is a survivor of sexual assault, so these images were very therapeutic for both her and her family.
I created the headpiece with feathers, floral wire, headbands and flowers I bought at craft stores and then spray painted. The gown is on loan from ‘The Glass Slipper’ in West Branch, MI. The wings are from Hobby Lobby and are actually wall hangings! My fiancé helped me mount them on adjustable piping to fit different heights and spread the wings open and closed. The throne is a chair I have in my studio with beautiful gold drapes thrown over.
‘The Valkyrie’ shot below is my favorite image! I created this to be very symmetrical so that it would be a strong, imposing image. I shot from just below her shoulders so that she could ‘look down’ on the viewer. I used the main beauty dish directly overhead and tilted her gaze so that her eyes were almost all in shadows, which gives a sense of unease. I also used a backlight to add depth and illuminate her wings and silhouette.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/500sec - F5.0 - ISO 160
CAMERA/LIGHTS/MODIFIERS: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm F2.8, Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS in Glow EZ Lock Collapsible Silver Beauty Dish 42" as key light overhead, Godox AD200 HSS as rim light with MagMod MagSphere and MagMod 1/2 CTO Gel, Flashpoint R2 Pro Xpro-C Transmitter
For the next photo, I shot low again to give her a regal, almost disdainful look. I wanted her to appear defiant as if she had power over the viewer. Although the sword is held up high and strong, her opposite hand I kept soft and playfully brushing through her hair. I wanted to show a balance of power and femininity.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/320 sec - F4.5 - ISO 100
CAMERA/LIGHTS/MODIFIERS: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm F2.8, Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS in Glow EZ Lock Collapsible Silver Beauty Dish 42" as key light overhead to the right, Godox AD200 HSS as rim light from the left with MagMod MagSphere and MagMod 1/2 Blue Gel, Flashpoint R2 Pro Xpro-C Transmitter
Taking off the headdress and sword, I went for a dark angel concept for this final image. Again, I kept the beauty dish overhead but with minimal light reaching her eyes. We used a large fan to blow her hair, and my two assistants picked up and dropped her dress in unison to give the illusion of ascension.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/640 - F5.0 - ISO160
CAMERA/LIGHTS/MODIFIERS: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm F2.8, Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS in Glow EZ Lock Collapsible Silver Beauty Dish 42" as key light overhead, Godox AD200 HSS as rim light with MagMod MagSphere, Flashpoint R2 Pro Xpro-C Transmitter
What software and tools/processes did you use for post-production & retouching?
I use Photo Mechanic for culling first and divide my keepers into a separate folder from my RAW images. I import keepers into Adobe Lightroom CC for basic editing and then into Photoshop CC for more detailed edits like hair and skin. In Lightroom I do not work with a lot of presets, however when I do my favorites are Greater the Gatsby & Jeff Rojas Fashion sets.
What do you like most about the final images?
I love how the lighting turned out and the feeling you get when you view the image. After I released it online I got a slew of ladies and their mothers approaching me asking if their daughters could come in to be captured in the Queen Series style. There are countless girls in this world who are hurting and in need of confidence and a feeling of self-worth.