Recently, I had the opportunity to do a photo session with Rina, who I met through Instagram. Rina is a model whose photos on Instagram, Twitter and her homepage display a wide variety of styles, from goth and macabre to artistic and erotic. She is a photographic chameleon, continuously changing appearance from one session to the next. Always striking, whatever her look, she has been photographed by some big name photographers around Japan. So, I was a bit surprised when she contacted me about doing a portrait shoot. In contrast to some of the more risque shoots she had done previously, this time she wanted to go for the traditional Japanese kimono look, and thought that my style would be suited to the job. I have photographed children in kimono for the Shichi-go-san celebration, but I had never had the chance to do a photo session with an adult in kimono, so of course I agreed. Rina did all the preparation for the shoot, including scouting the location and preparing two different kimono plus accessories, For the location, she found a Japanese besso (a traditional holiday house for the wealthy) that rents tatami rooms, and booked a room for three hours so that she would have ample time to change her kimono and makeup half-way through the session, all of which she did without an assistant. For my part, all I had to do was show up with my camera. Unfortunately, on the way to the location, I stopped at a convenience store and when I got back in my car, it wouldn't start. It turns out the battery had chosen that moment to die, so I spent the next two hours or so calling a wrecker, getting my battery temporarily charged, and finding an auto parts store to have a new battery installed before finally getting to the location with only about an hour and a half left for the shoot. The rented space consisted of one tatami room with fusuma (sliding paper screen doors) separating the tatami room from an outdoor walkway with sliding glass doors which led to the garden area. The diffuse light coming through the windows was perfect so, with no time to spare, we started there, using the fusuma as a frame.
Next, we took some with me in the hall, with the glass windows leading to the garden as background. I love this sort of diffuse light, that softly wraps around the subject without leaving any harsh shadows.
Next, we did some close-ups.
I took a few focusing on the details of her kimono.
The room had another door leading to another garden where the quality of light was a bit different, so we tried some there, too.
Rina said she preferred the right side of her face, but we tried some from her left side as well, which I thought was just as beautiful.
Then, it was time to change kimono and make-up. I left the room so Rina could do her thing, and in less than fifteen mintues she called me back in, having miraculously changed kimono and make-up, and put on a wig in that short time. She looked like a different person. She had brought with her an enormous sensu (folding paper fan) which she set up as a backdrop. She also had a smaller sensu which she used as a prop.
We tried some close-ups using the smaller sensu as a framing element.
Then, we used the fusuma as a framing element again, this time with Rina in her green and red kimono.
Rina had brought with her a beautiful woven Japanese ball, so we did some photos with that as the focus.
Next, we closed the fusuma to darken the room and change the mood, and took some more photos with the ball.
Using the large sensu as backdrop again, I set up one flash on a stand with a diffuser to get a low-key look, working as quickly as I could given our time constraint.
We tried a few with the paper window screen as the main light source.
Then, we tried some standing in the middle of the room, with backlight coming from the hallway. I used a flash set on low power as a fill light.
Finally, we went into the hallway again to get some natural light close-ups. I noticed Rina's reflection in the window, so had her get close to emphasize the effect. I liked the mood it created.
Then, the proprietors were knocking at the door, saying our time was up. I quickly packed up my camera gear while Rina put away her kimonos and accessories and we got out. Given the limited time we had for the session, I was really pleased with how the photos came out. We moved from set-up to set-up with a minimum of conversation and fuss were able to achieve a variety of looks in a short amount of time. It was a pleasure doing a shoot with a real pro, and I wish Rina the best of luck with her modeling career, and hope that these photos make a nice addition to her portfolio. You can see more photos of Rina at her homepage: http://her-majesty-sm.com/art-photography/