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Dia De Los Muertos – Sugar Skull Makeup Photoshoot in Ely

Like all photographers, there’s certain things I prefer to shoot –

People over landscapes, portraits over street photography – and like all photographers, I have a list of things I’d love to shoot. One of those things was to shoot a model in sugar skull makeup, a-la the Mexican festival of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead,) where families gather to pay their respects to their relatives that have passed.

The makeup is generally very ornate and resembles a sugar skull, or “Calavera”, from the celebrations. The style has influenced lots of other photographers and also paintings, films, animation and other art forms. It’s influence can be seen in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and other gothic productions. So when my wife suggested a photoshoot in full sugar skull makeup, I jumped at the chance.

I set up my lights and backdrop …

in our spare room, which doubles as my office for editing and business activities, and set up a makeshift studio while my wife did her hair and makeup. We had to work quickly as the only opportunity we had to shoot was while my two year old daughter went down for her nap, which gave us anything from an hour to maybe three to get everything done. As always I started by shooting some lighting tests – making sure the lights were in the right position for the look I was going for and at the right levels. This also has the added advantage of easing the model in to the shoot – they don’t have to perform right away, but it gets them used to the flashes firing and the feel of the shoot. Even though my wife has posed for me several times before, every shoot is different and in this case, the time at the beginning gave her time to ‘get into character’. I wanted to portray a sense of sadness, inherent in dealings with loss and death, but also an intensity.

In terms of style, I was going for sharp and saturated to really emphasise the bright colours in the makeup, my wife’s bright red hair and also the felt roses in her hair, (which she made herself, previously.) I set up the lights to give a bright backlight to give a rim light along her shoulders and hair, a flash aimed at the backdrop and then a main light and a couple of reflectors to fill in shadows or picking out details. In the editing, I changed the colour of the backdrop, (it’s actually green,) and edited the tones for complimentary colouring.

Click the images for full sized versions:

Sugar-Skull-Makeup-Photo-Sadness
Sugar-Skull-Makeup-Photo-Portrait
Sugar-Skull-Makeup-Photo-Intense
Sugar-Skull-Makeup-Photo-CloseUp
Sugar-Skull-Makeup-Photo-Halfface

How do you think I did? Leave a comment below.
Interested in booking a similar shoot? Use the contact form to get in touch and we’ll arrange for you to look amazing, whether in bold makeup like above, or just as your natural, gorgeous self.

Leave me a comment!

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