Sexy Bikini Photo Shoot
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.2L USM
Aperture: Setting: f/16
Focal Length: 85mm
Shutter Speed: 1/200th handheld
White Balance: 6000K
Camera Mode: Manual
Lighting: Hensel Porty Premium 1200 Power Pack w/Hensel Ringflash
Birdseye view photos are tricky, especially when you take a photograph of a sexy bikini model at a straight down angle into a swimming pool. Throw in a much heavier than normal Canon 5D Mark II camera mounted with a Hensel ring flash with cable attached and a bracket to the camera body with an 85mm f/1.2 lens poking through it’s center. Add to the mix I stood on a ladder as I ignored a sexy bikini; it was fun!
The Story Behind The Photo
Normally during my exotic photography workshops, I’ll try and get some shots of my own done, especially during a little free time. In this particular situation, we were conducting a photography workshop in the Caribbean and it was “afternoon break time,” so our six models headed out to the infinity pool to chillax. Sometimes that means nude sunbathing for the girls so they eliminate the possibility of tan lines, but this model, Heather, I convinced to put on one of her sexy bikini so I could grab a few shots.
The cool part of this location is that on one edge of the swimming pool is a small living quarters that is a little lower than the pool. This allows me to climb up on top of the building so I can shoot directly down into the water, but this time, I decided against it, as the side of the building is white, and while it’s a great reflector it becomes a nice big white reflection in the model’s sunglasses—a no go. So instead, we moved to the other end of the pool and got up on a ladder on the edge of the pool to shoot directly down.
It’s important to pay attention to reflections, especially in sunglasses or glasses in general as it’s common to see the photographer’s reflection and instead, I wanted the palm trees. Well it’s not as easy as it sounds and if you look at her sunglasses on the right lens, camera left, you’ll see my reflection standing on a ladder. The sunglasses’ left lens, camera right, you’ll see the palm trees which is what I would have preferred in both lenses, but hey, sometimes you just have to take what you can get and you have to ignore the sexy bikini too.
I will admit, since we were using a ring flash, the physics rule, The Angle of Incidence is Equal to the Angle of Reflection, applies here and there was a “flash hot spot” I had to retouch out in of her right sunglass lens in Adobe Photoshop. While I’m a firm believer in getting it right in the camera, sometimes you have no choice and this was one of those times—unless I wanted to use harsh, direct, overhead sunlight to illuminate her.
This photo was shot at the wrong time of day, but it was our afternoon lunch break and I didn’t want to interfere with the shooting hours of the photographers attending the workshop—plus they loved watching me create this photo—yes, I teach when I shoot. I’m also sure they enjoyed the sexy bikini too. Because the light was too hard, we had to employ the “overpowering the sun with flash technique.” Which simply means make your flash output more powerful than the sun, hence why we shot at 1/200 shutter speed with our lens at f/16. This also helps keep the water a bit darker and reduce the reflection that would wash the water out.
Keeping the Sunny 16 Rule in mind, if your ISO is 100, which it was, then if you set your shutter speed at 1/100th and your lens aperture value at f/16, your exposure will be perfect at this time of day on a bright sunny day. We simply matched the flash at f/16 output, then just raised our shutter speed as the shutter speed for the model then becomes the duration of the flash. That doubling of the shutter speed, basically equivalent to one f/stop of underexposing everything allows the flash to overpower the sun—and a ring flash flatters a model more than direct sunlight.
The first challenge was the model’s safety. She was safe floating in the shallow end of the pool, plus she’s a swimmer and a pool is safer than an ocean. The most important part of this shoot when it came to the model, get it done quickly to prevent sunburn.
Now the next challenge was my own safety as I stood on a ladder at the edge of the infinity pool. This is where a good assistant comes in handy, not only to hold the ladder, but a strong shoulder to hold the Hensel 1200 Porty Premium battery power pack. We kept it safe.
The next challenge was the swimming pool; there is water movement, especially with an infinity pool where the water has a constant flow over its longest edge. So we kept having the model paddle back to the camera—it’s easier to move the model than the photographer on the ladder, not to mention I was looking for those palm trees in her sunglasses.
The fourth challenge was overcoming the sun with flash, which was easy as we used a Hensel Porty 1200 watt-second portable, battery powered pack to drive our Hensel ring flash at full power. My assistant stood next to me while he had the portable power pack hang from his shoulder with a shoulder strap. And as mentioned earlier, he was also standing next to my ladder to hold it steady.
Another challenge is that the model is wearing white. While the sexy bikini doesn’t cover much, it’s still white and pure white reflects 90-percent of the light that strikes and in this case, about a half-stop more light than the models body. Again, overpowering the sun with flash by at least one stop made a difference. This allowed the white material to reveal detail and obviously the skin that it covered especially since we had the model wet the bikini.
The last challenge was finding the right float. Not just one that will support the model perfectly, but one that is a warm color temperature as the swimming pool is painted blue and the opposite of blue is yellow on the photography color wheel. Any warm color between yellow and orange will do when you want contrast from a cool color like a blue pool. Throw in a neutral white sexy bikini, and the model just pops with the contrast.
In the end, we overcame our challenges fairly easily and my model provided some great poses for us to capture quickly. It also helped that Heather had done a little shooting before, including previous photography workshops, thus the more you work with a model, the easier it is to capture great photos. Plus as a photographer, it helps when you have a photogenic and beautiful model along with great makeup and hair plus great assistants. It’s a team effort.
Safety is always first and our first concern was to ensure the model was safe in a shallow pool and she was a swimmer. The other safety was that of the photographer, me, on a ladder, hence we made sure we had an assistant on hand. For our flash, we used a battery-powered pack, not an AC powered flash unit. While still dangerous, the danger is minimized compared to live current and my assistant had the power pack secured with a cross-body-strap.
At anytime if anyone, my assistants, my model or I, see anything unsafe we immediately take action even if it includes shutting the shoot down. All went well and we worked fast, but careful.