How to Create Separation from Bricks

How to Create Separation from Bricks

I am typically not a fan of shooting a model closely against a wall (any wall) because of the lighting limitations that this scenario creates. For starters, depending on your light, the shadow will be very close, and difficult to hide.


DMV based model Dakota Snow came by the studio one evening to hang out and make some art, and I wanted to shoot a set against the former Baltimore Studio’s brick wall; partly because I have not done it very often, and also for the challenge of it.

As you can see in the (center) image above, there was VERY little room to work with. No prob!

Like many of my studio light setups, this was a single light/ modifier. I chose a 1’x4’ strip box to limit spill, and echo Dakota’s tall, lean body shape. We dipped into the studio’s wardrobe and spent a little bit of time trying to find something fun to shoot in. We collectively selected a black, see-thru patterned, top and bottoms. While they match fairly well, they were not an actual set, so there was some issues with consistency in the pattern.

The table was set: patterns in front of patterns, with similar but different patterns… what was I thinking to let this happen????

Its OK, I am always up for a challenge!

One major thing was certain: I needed to create separation from the bricks.

Dakota has a very well defined figure with long lines. In order to sculpt the light, I actually ripped the front panel off the strip box, basically creating an oddly shaped reflector. With only the inner most baffle diffusing the light, this source produced a much “harder” light, which gave us more contrast and a more defined “harder” edge.


I made sure to take the time to pose Dakota in relation to the light so that it caught the curves of her body and created the definition that you can see in her skin. The highlights and shadows on her body make her look much more three dimensional. The difference was sometimes so subtle in the pose that she didn’t even notice that she was moving in relation to the light. Often times it is easier to ask the model to continue doing what she is doing and just go ahead and move the light ever so slightly yourself so that you do not disrupt her rhythm or balance.

To me, the above is what many photographers overlook the MOST, and I can understand why. When you have a model that is performing fantastic poses, photographers rely on them (as a crutch) to carry the series… when in fact,

the photographer should be matching the model, by making sure the light is presenting her in the best possible way.


This is a “master class” sort of topic for sure. There are so many, often times overwhelming, things to have to pay attention to that, “how the lights falls on different parts of her body” seems to be low priority compared to others.

To overcome this begins with trust. Having worked with Dakota previously, and having a good rapport with her, we were both relaxed and focused on just having a great shoot. She was familiar with me, my work, and I was frequently handing my camera to her, allowing her to see EVERYTHING I shot. Not only did this reassure her that I was focused on the same thing she was, but she was also able to see how the work she was putting in, was translating to the lens. Her trust in me allowed her the confidence to focus everything on her posing.


Furthermore, models with dark hair, need far more light on their hair or you will be left with flat, lifeless field of darkness. I want to see highlights and shadows as much as possible!

Paying attention to the way the light was falling on her body, and what it was doing to the background (creating a shadow of course, but what shapes it created, and if they were distracting)

Dakota is a brunette with fairly dark hair; I knew that it needed light, and lots of it in order to stand out. To me, there is nothing that ruins a photo of a model quicker than flat, uninteresting hair. This is especially difficult to avoid with brunettes.

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Post by Atomic Joshua

Photographer + Filmmaker turned studio owner.