Dodging Colored Lights: Singapore Fashion Season

Posted: May 8, 2011 in Fashion Shows, Singapore Fashion Season
Tags: , ,

If I ask you to define in your own terms the word “fashion”, I bet some of you will have an involuntary depiction of an image resembling to Bieber’s hair. That’s quite a reflex you’ve got there & I don’t blame you for it. From my viewpoint, mainstream fashion is dictated by pop culture. Though it originates from the runways of Milan, it takes a few pop icons to shove it into our mouths. If you ask me, a normal human being devoid of fashion sense since camo cargo shorts & black shirts roamed the streets of hip, I define fashion as a mixture of patterns, color, & texture that is hip today, gone tomorrow. These three elements kept me on my toes when I went to shoot Singapore Fashion Season last April 2011.

I had the privilege to shoot on two different locations: the Marina Square & ION.  If there are things that I hate when shooting fashion shows, it’s the unpredictable lighting and the shooting angle. These two dreaded aspects kept poking my senses especially on the second location.

The first location, which was held on Marina Square on April 1st, 2011 , was a week long event showcasing different brands per day. Though the location was only a few steps away from my workplace, I was only able to shoot a single brand which showcased the latest collection of the G2000. I was there an hour early before the event to get the “sweet spot” but I was run down by a gang of aggressive competitor armed with mobile stools. I elbowed my way through but could not quite get the “sweet spot”. By what I mean by “sweet spot”, is where the models pause & look through the front element of your lens point-blank. I plugged my faved lens, the 135mm f2 DC, & observed the lighting. There was the ambient light which was close to sunny, there was a roaming spot light which was exhibiting fluorescent temperature, & there were on standby alien-looking heads all over the perimeter which could cast some cursed colors as the models hit the floor.

I kept zeroing in on perfect exposure in order to capture my three elements of fashion as stated above at the right places. I was avoiding over-blown highlights & clipped shadows to retain the intended texture & pattern of the designer. As for the colors, I will have to deal with that on the RAW conversion stage. I set my cam to manual, aperture wide open at f2, & shutter at 1/125, which is the slowest speed I can handle with my non-vr lens without blurring the subject. I set my ISO to its native 200. It was my play-it-safe settings.

Then, without warning, the show suddenly started with all the models lined up for a fashion-hungry firing squad. The spot light kept running in & out of the ramp as if it had a mind on its own. And as expected, the alien heads started to cast the cursed colors on the models faces. When the models pause for a pose, I fire two safety shots. One model after the other, I fire two. One, two, one, two, it was rhythmic I could add a melody unto it.

The show was quick that it lasted only less than 10 minutes. When I went home to process the photos, I saw what I expected. Due to the alien heads, all the models’ skin tone resemble to Barney’s. But what I didn’t expect was that all the faces were over-blown. Talk about play-it-safe settings. I kept on thinking what made them clip the highlights when I set my ISO to its lowest setting? The culprit was the shutter speed. The subjects had enough light on them that proper exposure could have sent me faster than 1/125. That’s when RAW conversion saved me. Not only I was able to recover the highlights but I was able to address Barney’s skin tone as well.

The second shoot was more vicious. Because it was located outdoors, there was no ambient light to play with. Worse, there were yellow lights emanated from the shop fronts. And because ION is located at a prime shopping district, every person who has a camera piled up towards the “sweet spot” hours before the event which made us (my wife, Abs, & Pola) stand by the side lines. As usual, the alien heads were there exhibiting their devilish smiles eager to show more brute force. After the over-exposure lesson I learned at Marina Square, I let my cam handled the metering. Using the same faved lens, I set my cam at aperture priority with aperture set wide open at f2. Because it was close to pitch dark, I set my ISO to auto at maximum 6400. Metering was set to spot.


This has got the worst alien skin that it turned the model’s eyes green while retrieving her natural tone. To add to the damage, the back lighting was so intense that it ate some of her body parts.

Shooting buddy Abs also had his share of the unforgiving lights on the second location. If you read my previous posts on concerts, you might wonder why I craved for fancy lighting & praised the alien heads on those events. It is because  these colored lights add drama to the perfomers and if they cast colors that are impossible to retrieve, you can always convert them to black & white. Some say it’s cheating but it’s one way of recovering that perfectly framed but bad lighted shot from the dust bin. But if I convert fashion show shots to black & white, I am altering color & I feel that I am not doing justice to the intent of the designer unless it’s a mafia’s fashion line.
  1. Anonymous says:

    >all gorgeous shots!… the colors are wonderful too! what RAW converter did you use?btw reading histogram onsite while you shoot can put some intellect to'd know right there and then how's the exposure, highlights and shadow clippings, then you can know the what is play-it-safe settings, it can also aid the "expose to the right" technique. thanks for sharing!!

  2. Ian Soliva says:

    >thanks for the histogram tip! I'll keep a heads-up next time. BTW, Im using Adobe Camera Raw converter. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Angel W. says:

    ISO 6400 with no noise? So crazy! Love your shots here. Thanks for coming by my site as well 🙂

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