One Big, Beautiful Light


So I’ve been really busy lately. For one, we’ve been planning the seminar that’s taking place this up-coming weekend, November 7th and 8th. We’re almost sold out, which is exciting and I want to thank all of you who have purchased tickets and are planning on attending! It’s going to be really fun, the models are GREAT and the studio we’re using is just A+ professional, as are the people who run Smashbox. Secondly, I have been spending ALOT of time SHOOTING SHOOTING and SHOOTING some more! Here are some new pictures along with a Lighting Diagram on a test I did with just 1 Big Beautiful Light!


I recently decided to start working with Maria Bianco at Blur Production. Maria has a long resume of working with photographers and ad agencies as both an agent and a producer. Maria approached me to work with me and after our first phone conversation, I was convinced! We met briefly before she took off to Chicago, in the meantime, I had an ad agency in Europe ask me to put together an estimate on an image and I immediately called Maria to help me with it. We bonded through the experience and I was eager to start working with her when she got back in August.


The one thing Maria wanted a hand in was the organizing of my portfolio, the most important selling object a photographer has. I brought my book over to her office and she immediately grabbed the post-its and started tagging the pictures that she wanted out of my book. Honestly, I love that! I need a seasoned voice, someone who is emotionally removed from the images and who knows what art buyers and editors are looking for. Often times, as photographers, we are too attached to a photograph and it isn’t representing us in the best light or in the direction we are heading in. I can handle a harsh critique of my work, I welcome it! And while she wasn’t mean about it, she did point out some things that I hadn’t realized until her critique. One thing she said to me was that my work had this very “dark” almost Gothic feel to it and it was overpowering my book.


I believe that art imitates life, in other words, we tend to create art that mimics what is going on in our own lives. My father passed away almost 2 years ago and the experience of being with him in his last 6 months was very powerful. I literally put all things aside to be with my dad as he prepared to die. It isn’t something I really want to go into here, but the experience was incredibly cathartic. I have written before how my father was the one who convinced me to become a fashion photographer and was incredibly supportive of my career choice. It’s the one thing I am so grateful for as I know there are people when starting out who’s peers or parents are strongly against them going into such a competive and financially unpredictable field. At any rate, back to the portfolio, the sadness and grief I experience of losing my father translated itself on to my work and my work did have this “heavy”, “dark” feel to it. And it was consistent. However, in my personal life, I am fairly happy. I love to laugh, I’m surrounded by great people and friends who really love me. My own world is not so dark. And my old work was beginning to feel contradictory to how I really see things. Maria suggested shooting a fashion editorial test for my book in the way that was much brighter and more approachable and this shoot here with Sarah Deanna is the first of many tests that are keeping me busy these days but also really inspiring me as an artist!

One Big Beautiful Light - Lighting Diagram

(Lighting Diagram)

I used one light. The Elinchrom Rotalux 39-Inch Deep Throat Octagonal Softbox on a Profoto Head. That’s it! I placed it above the models head, about 6 feet away from her. She stood near the background so we had a nice short shadow. Again, I cannot empathize it enough how important my crew is. Having the best model, hair stylist, make up artist and wardrobe stylist is tantamount to having a successful fashion shoot. I worked with Sarah Deanna again, from LA Models. You remember Sarah from the Mechar Handbag shoot? After we worked together that day, we have wanted to shoot a test together and we finally were able to pull it off 4 months later! I worked with Steve David from Artists by Next who did Sarah Deanna’s hair and Heather Kubly-Pepe who did the make up. Both Heather and Steve are just geniuses when it comes to their craft. George Blodwell was kind of enough to lend his styling wizardry for my test. The whole team pulled together and we produced a stellar test for my book. I had 10 shots retouched, only 4 will go in my portfolio, 8 will go on my website. My website, incidentally, is being updated and moved over to Viewbook! I love the guys at Viewbook, they are so helpful and nice. But I what I really love is the ability to manage my own site from now on!!! No more having to beg David to upload images or take down images that are updated. It’s so nice to have that freedom now!


All images from this shoot were shot on my Nikon D2x with my 85mm/1.4 lens. I shot at f10 at 1/250 of a second. The studio was a daylight studio when we entered it, I had them black it out. I think that’s it, as far as technical information. I think the most important information here is to always use the best talent you can get!


(ALL IMAGES 2009 Melissa Rodwell Photography)

One Light: Redux

A little slice of Heaven called CHURCH

Erin Urb 1

Living in Los Angeles is indeed a trip. As the famous gossip columnist Rona Barrett once said; “Pick your enemies carefully or you’ll never make it in Los Angeles.” People tend to live in a dream world here where who you are is identified by the car you drive or the celebrity’s personal cell number in your iPhone. Young hopefuls flock here by the thousands hoping to make their dreams come true and the city supports that mission by placing more importance on material and superficial gains over spiritual enlightenment. LA denizens actually believe if they jog for two hours in the morning they are morally fit. As Craig Kilbourn joked, “People here in Los Angeles are disgusted now about a sex scandal involving Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently for seven years, he carried on a sexual relationship with his own wife.” Yep, that’s my hometown, love it or not.

Erin Urb 2

But a slice of heaven opened up in the dark heart of Hollywood and standing at the pearly gates are Rodney Burns and David Malvaney . These two angels are responsible for opening a high-end boutique that caters to the rich and famous and those who just think they are and they named the store CHURCH. I have to say, the first time I walked into CHURCH I was immediately silenced in awe from the clothing hanging by the ceiling. Rodney and David have an aesthetic like I’ve never seen in this city. And it’s so refreshing to have met two people who not only have an impeccable eye for designers and the clothing they stock, but also that these two are actually NICE. Like, really really NICE. Not fake, not name-dropping, not distracted, not showing off their expensive cars, but just down to Earth, REAL people! I didn’t feel like I was being judged by my shoes when I walked in, or that they unleashed some assistant to go outside and try to figure out which car I pulled up in. They were warm, generous, inviting and charming. I don’t think I have had the chance to use all four adjectives in one sentence when describing LA boutique owners, possibly ever. And the clothes ain’t cheap. This is on parallel to Maxfield’s. Oh wait a minute, that’s where they hail from, leaving the snooty store behind and opening up their idea of what a boutique should be. I am a huge supporter and fan because our little dusty town needs more people like these guys!

Erin Urb 3

When I shot a small ad job for them recently, I put up one of my seamless’ right there in the store and pulled the clothes off the floor with Rodney and I putting the looks together. I used one light, once again. A profoto head at about 300 watts. I used a large umbrella placed above the model to the left so there was some fall off on her from the hips down. I shot with my Nikon D2x and my 85 f/1.4 D lens. And that’s it. So simple anyone could reproduce this. My model was Erin Urb from Photogenics and she’s about as gorgeous as they come. Hair was by Steve David and make up by Heather Kubly-Pepe. You’ll probably see their names for awhile as we’ve sort of formed a little posse out here. Tyler Mitchell assisted me and he’s fast becoming a member of the clique. As long as he keeps me laughing, he’s in!

Erin Urb 4

There’s really not much more to say about the technical side to this shoot. Let’s see: the model was about 2 to 3 feet from the background, I used a medium grey seamless, the light was double diffused and about 6 feet from her body. Oh and I shot around f11 at 250th of a second. The whole day. Rodney and David are happy with the results but again, my team is responsible and the model I worked with and the clothing was out of this world!! I mean, with all those elements in place, how can you go wrong?

Erin Urb 5

Another exciting thing on the table for me is that I have been asked by Smashbox’s FACE OFF 2009 to be one of the judges for their competition. A competition that has been running for 14 years, FACE OFF features the talent of up-and-coming photographers! It’s a GREAT way to get exposure when you’re starting out. Check out their super cool blog Yello! They just posted a interview they did with me today. I really encourage you guys to submit to the FACE OFF competition. Like I said, it’s a great way to get recognition!!

Erin Urb 6