How to use flash to freeze fallng materials into fascinating shapes

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I love using the power of the flash to suspend objects in time and space. Particularly with drapes and cloths freezing them in motion lets you see materials in a completely new light.

Light materials such as this organza are a gorgeous foil to the nude form. The graceful folds and curves of the material counterpoint the smooth shapes of the naked figure.

In this first image the cloth is being thrown behind the model by my assistant. Light weights in the bottom of the cloth allow sufficient heft to throw the cloth but not make it plummet to the ground in heap. That gives us this lovely elongated form of cloth behind the subject.

I have chosen a material colour which will work as either a colour or monochrome image. I have a large box of similar materials in colours ranging from yellow through reds to blues and purples. Experience teaches you how each image will show in monochrome.

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Composing so the cloth is cut at the boundaries of the image creates a stronger, more dynamic image and reduces the empty, negative space in the image.

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In this image Carla is throwing the cloth up behind her then quickly moving to a pose position. Some models and photographers like to count down to these kinds of moves, but I recommend that you do not do this. Just let the model throw and move and you will be able to anticipate the moment for the shutter press.


key points

Thrown or dropped material can be "random" - nobody can predict how the material will flow and fall, so be prepared to make many shots.

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