We don’t do senior pictures – we just don’t. In all of the craziness through the years, the topic of senior pictures hasn’t even come up… until recently.
Navy Thompson is one of the models for Sophie, a local women’s shoe and clothing boutique in Downtown Joplin, and this girl was born to model. She’s always on, always delivers, and we’ve loved shooting Sophie lookbooks with her over the years. Navy is getting ready to enter her senior year at College Heights Christian School, and when it came time to make a decision on senior pictures, she was faced with a difficult situation. See, Navy is used to being in fashion photo shoots weekly, so her senior pictures would need to be… ridiculous… to stand out. Traditional senior pictures weren’t going to cut it. So, she reached out to Storm Stanley and challenged us to do something crazy enough to reach the untouchable benchmark she had created. We accepted, of course.
We agreed on seasonal shoots but wanted to get our first one knocked out quickly. For each shoot, there would be at least one crazy/experimental scene and a few more traditional scenes, because a girl’s gotta wear different outfits in a senior photo shoot. For the first shoot, we were lucky enough to get access to Empire Market and used this for four of the five scenes we shot. Eager to get the crazy/experimental shoot underway, we started in a massive garage area with a raised catwalk.
The thought behind this scene was to create a wall of smoke behind Navy, but to have the smoke be streaks of different colors. We back-lit the smoke with two flashes and positioned Navy in front of the smoke with a single flash and massive umbrella modifier. This gave us exactly what we were looking for. It popped the smoke for even more vivid colors while providing soft fashion-lighting on Navy.
We should note before moving on that lighting these smoke tubes simultaneously took some coordination and the help of two of our crew plus Navy’s entire family. Thanks, fam! Moving in for close-ups, the wall of smoke created a brilliantly obscured backdrop.
Our first run was a success! We could breathe a little bit now and start having even more fun with experimental variations. One thing that we all agreed on was that there was a bit too much going on with all of the different colors in the first run, so we decided to take another crack at it, this time with just pink and white. To ensure enough variation from the first scene, we also flipped directions, now shooting toward Empire Market.
We could see right away that the white/pink combo was flowing much better with the colors of her outfit. Man, this just really works! Because of the change in direction, we also had a different breeze to work with, which moved Navy into the smoke much sooner, but even that played well!
Brilliant! Shooting through the pink smoke was such a pleasant surprise “filter” effect.
As the smoke faded, Navy became more clear but still surrounded/partially engulfed in smoke. Very dry-ice looking.
I mean really, c’mon, this is the kind of stuff we’re talking about when we say that she’s always on. When you have a killer model like this, everything just works so much better. It’s much easier for everything to click. We reviewed the shots, celebrated our success, then began prepping for the next scene. Before moving on to our intended second scene, Navy’s mom, Lori, spotted a scene outside of the building with cattails (the plant, not actual feline tails, we confirmed).
We moved the strobe outside and into a different (more portable) modifier as we set out to shoot through the cattails. In the shot above, we’re shooting from across the ditch but lighting from just outside of the left frame.
We then moved over to Navy’s side and took advantage of the background that the lines the track, as well as an incoming storm, provided. The strobe is moved further out of frame with this wider shot, but it still pops really well against the scene around her, growing darker as the storm moves in.
You can’t move on without a classic Navy close-up. Before moving on to our next spot (the intended second scene), we found yet another fun spot to grab some quick shots in. This wall sits just inside of Empire Market and features the names of different neighborhoods and schools throughout the Joplin area.
Boom. Another winner.
Flipping the light here achieved the shadow effect that we were going for, both with the drama of shadow on her face and on the wall.
And yet again, a killer closeup – no retouching on the eyes here—just killer model eyes. Okay, now we have to get started with our real second scene, which focuses on a large open area featuring white twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling. First, the wide shots:
This is what happens during “lighting tests.” Shut the front door.
Yup, you’re good at this, we get it.
Okay, fine, keep going. Clearly, this scene was going to play well—with the outfit—with the hair—with everything. Time for some close-up fun!
Getting close and shooting with a quicker aperture loosens those string lights up into wonderful orbs. This angle wasn’t the main one that we were looking for in this scene, but we wanted to test it out first since the next one was a bit more complicated. It involved having Navy stand on a table to get closer (vertically) to the lights.
This allowed us to play with some different angles and get those lights in play on mid-shots as well.
Here’s where the real fun begins. We climbed a ladder and shot from within the string lights, through them toward Navy. As the depth changes, the lights go from orbs to more defined bulbs – a great little effect!
Both angles of this scene required only a single strobe with a large modifier. It was a bit tricky to light her and not everything around her, allowing the string lights to still pop. After a few lighting tests, it all clicked, once again thanks to a model who’s always on. Now, it was time for a little break, a wardrobe change and to let the sun go down before the next scene.
Our final senior pictures scene would require a visit to the newly-constructed Joplin Public Library. Frequently driving by at night, we had noticed some posts outside with glowing blue light orbs on the tops. It’s an intriguingly different scene, and we hadn’t yet seen anyone else use these in photos. so we added this scene to our list of experimental settings for Navy. Again, lighting just her and letting the scene shine on its own was difficult and took a lot of test shots, but, as usual, Navy turned these test shots into killer photos.
The posts quickly turned into playful props to interact with.
Allowing more separation between her and the lit portion of the posts gave a completely different effect, now allowing the lush grass to come into play.
Well, that worked. Since we were at the library, it made sense to look around for other useful scenes. There’s a ton of cool stuff around, but reflective surfaces and neighboring buildings and parking lots make angles a little difficult. We did find a section of wooden benches accented in red, and these were fun to play with.
It’s another catwalk! Work it!
What a trooper – we had now been shooting (with a small break) senior pictures for several hours, and she’s still having fun.
And still on.
These last few shots do a great job of showing off the many faces of Navy.
This face is perhaps the most accurate depiction of Navy’s personality – fun, mischievous, yet pulling off that fun trouble with grace and beauty.
All smiles here, and that wraps up our first shoot for Navy Thompson’s senior pictures! It was intense. It was a blast, and we can’t wait for the next crazy experiment. We can’t fully give it away just yet (you’ll have to wait), but we can tell you that it will require a trip to the middle of nowhere and be an overnight shoot. Thanks for being willing to experiment with us Navy, and thanks for trusting us to deliver this incredibly important piece of your journey!
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 50 1.2 L lens
- Canon 600EX-RT Strobes (x3)
- Canon STe3-RT Transmitter
- Apollo modifiers (several)
- Smoke bombs/tubes (several)
- Lighters (several)
- Bottles of water (several)
- Broom (for pigeon poop)
- Table (for Navy in string light scene)
- Ladder (for us to shoot from in string light scene)
All edits were made in Adobe Lightroom – no extra retouching in Photoshop.
We hope you enjoyed!