In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Angie Pontani.
Angie Pontani asked me if I would shoot some promotional shots for her show at Corio in New York, This Is Burlesque. The name is a play on This Was Burlesque, a revue by Ann Corio, the club’s namesake. The session would be with several of the cast members at the club and would include shots on the stage, candid shots, and studio style portraits.
After shooting shots of each performer on stage under a variety of lighting setups with a multitude of poses, I turned to the studio work. Space was limited, but tables were cleared and I set up my backdrop poles with a white fabric backdrop and took promo shots of Murray Hill, Helen Pontani, Melody Sweets, Peekaboo Pointe, Scott Rayow, and Dulce de Leche.
Angie and I have worked together often, and it's always fun. This time she was very ill, but this was the only time to shoot, and as soon as she stood in front of the camera her confidence and poise overshadowed everything else. I normally don’t recommend shooting someone who is uncomfortable, but Miss Pontani is a professional who’s attitude is “The show must go on” and can turn it on without betraying a hint of discomfort.
For Angie I used a very simple lighting design of two lights at forty-five degree angles to the camera, bounced into reflective umbrellas. This provided soft even light from both sides, bringing life to her eyes and creating a nearly shadowless fill. I shot portrait style, with the camera vertical, and Angie went through a host of poses.
Although this lighting can be flattering to a subject, cross-lighting can introduce awkward double shadows on a background. I avoid this by setting the backdrop further away, having the subject close to the camera in relation to the background. This throws the subject’s shadows far off to either side, out of the frame of the image. The lighting is angled so that the subject is lit evenly and there is enough spill to keep the background reading as white in the exposure. I don’t like to use Photoshop or do retouching, other than adding my credit, so everything had to be perfect in camera. This way the images could be ready for delivery and be incorporated into promotional materials with very little additional work.
The moment we finished Miss Pontani crashed on a couch, out like a light. She was still feeling poor, but from the look of the finished image you would never know it.