Powder photography adventures: How I demystified and tried the powder Photography trend .
Have you noticed how over the last couple of years the powder photography has gained momentum?
There are so many sensational images and videos posted all over the net. They had me curious (and creating a pin board).
Experimenting and playing with new ideas are so crucial to my growth as a photographer that I decided powder photography would be an ideal learning curve. I had a goal: discover a few of the in’s and out’s of this new photography trend and let our creativity have a ball.
After researching and extensive online reading, one thing became very clear:
A powder shoot is a photo session that you have to prepare … in detail.
In a nutshell a successful, safe and fun powder photoshoot requires:
Remember it’s a collaboration. You need to find a model willing to be covered in flour for a few hours- this not a given. Let’s face it, being covered over and over again in flour is not for the faint of heart. You need stamina and resilience. I had a wonderful model step up to the challenge with me. Vanessa battled through the shoot (our second together check out the first one here) with incredible determination. Despite uncomfortable conditions showed grace and power. Beware: the powdery stuff really gets everywhere, goes sticky once a little wet and takes days to totally wash out…
Find a dry location to work in. An area that can get dirty and not necessarily need to be brought back to the spotless state it was in to start with. I used flour and it is tricky and time consuming to clear up (actually clean-up can be a nightmare). Finding a location that is a little dirt friendly really works best. Some photographers have used the great outdoors with success.
Good ventilation and electricity are also a factor. You can’t shoot a powder shoot without strobes. They are crucial to freezing the moment. Ventilation is super important. Flour can and will combust if it gets too hot, so keeping it away from the strobes as much as possible as well as the room well aired is very important.
The set up takes time. This is not a spontaneous type of session where the key factors can be left to a “spur of the moment-go-with the-flow” kind of approach. You need to sit down work out the logistics of both gear and location and also the structure of the shoot itself. Decide what kind of photographs you want to capture. I knew I wanted loads of movement and drama, real expression and physical strength. I wasn’t going for perfect tack sharp images but more a blur and contrasty feel. All these physical elements I was looking to capture could only happen if my model was able to deliver them . I knew Vanessa was more than capable; with a background in yoga, fitness and dance she was perfect for the challenge .
Assistance, help, extra hands all are crucial to getting the session under way. Someone needs keep the powder flying, needs to throw the powder at the model (away from the face). I had two wonderful assistants to keep the flour on the model (out of her eyes) and in the air. I made sure to sit back, well away from the cloud of flour, the idea of my kit getting powdered was not something I was prepared to chance.
You’ll need to use strobes. The stronger and more performant the better. I used two basic ones on tripods. I kept the lighting simple. One was positioned as a back light and my stronger bigger strobe used as my main light. Both lights were triggered with radio triggers. Camera settings: 1/200 f5,6 ISO100
Finally, you’ll need to decide on what powder you want to use. Talcum powder, flour or powder paints can also be used. I decided on flour because it is white, easily available and very affordable. Tip: You’ll need stock up on quite a bit: we went through roughly 5kg…and that wasn’t really enough…
A CRAZY FUN EXPERIENCE
A powder photoshoot is great fun and not as difficult as anticipated (as long as you anticipate the amount of prep and clear-up work). We made a big mess, had a real laugh and got super results. The extra visual layering created by the powder is just beautiful. Next time round will be even better ;)
I highly recommend giving it a try if only because having fun, creating a new reality and feeding our creativity is what photography is all about.
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
— Diane Arbus
Links to some exceptional powder photography … really inspiring