Mai Mao Photoshoot in Makena

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso100 1/1000@f1.8

One of the things I've had on the back burner for a while is the creation of a 写真集 (shashinshū), or Japanese photo-book. I've been continually postponing working on this project mainly for two reasons - the cost of producing a high quality book and the difficulty in finding the right model.  It was only late last year, after a fellow photographer showed me a book he had done through MyPublisher, that I decided to finally start seriously working on making the photo-book.

Although I've attended a few glamour nude workshops in the past, I haven't had that much actual real world experience with shooting nudes.  Therefore for this project I wanted to sort of step out of my comfort zone this time and challenge myself to create a book that mixed in a variety of images - lifestyle, swimwear, lingerie, & nude/implied nude.

To do so meant finding a model that was both comfortable shooting nudes, and who I could rely on for coming up with a variety of poses on her own with little direction from me.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/2000@f1.8

I came across a travel notice on Model Mayhem which put me in contact with Mai Mao, a model who happened to be vacationing in Maui for a few days in December.  Luckily our schedules worked out and I was able to book her for this project.

Normally I prefer to work with a team, especially if the shoot involves partial or full nudity.  Because this shoot was put together on a relatively short notice however, I wasn't able to get a makeup artist and assistant this time.  Flying solo on this one meant keeping the lighting gear relatively small and quick to setup and break down.

We started in the morning on North Maluaka Beach in Makena, getting in a few lifestyle and swimwear shots. I kept her back to the sun and shot most of these with natural light.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/800@f2.8

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso100 1/640@f2.8

It would have been nice to get a few implied nudes on the beach, but since there were several tourists nearby, we chose not to take that chance.  Instead, I had her drop the shoulder straps of her swimsuit  top and just framed the shot in tight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso400 1/60@f5.6

To add a little highlight to her hair, I positioned a 580EX with a CTO gel on a light stand behind her.


While we were shooting, Mai pointed out an aerial camera drone flying overhead. Whoever the pilot was seemed to be VERY interested in what we were doing, as the drone circled over our location a few times including once when the model was changing outfits.

As I didn't have anything to take down the drone with at the time (I had left my spare rocket launcher at home since the darn things are just too big to fit into camera bags these days), we cut our beach session short and headed to the model's hotel room to continue the shoot.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/200@f2.8

This was actually the first time I've shot in a hotel room.  For weddings I've shot bridal preps in hotel rooms before, but lighting and shooting a glamour session was a different animal.  Mainly because there's not a whole lot of room to set up  bunch of light stands and soft boxes.

We made use of the existing light as much as possible.  The morning light coming in from the balcony acted as our main light for most of the shots.  For backlighting, we used a Westcott Apollo Strip Softbox with a Yongnuo 560III flash triggered with the YN-603 radio triggers.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso200 1/200@f2.8

The same Westcott Apollo Strip Softbox setup was used here on the bed for fill lighting. The main light was still the window light.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso800 1/100@f2.8

Tulle netting was used to wrap the model for a few shots.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 50mm f1.4 iso400 1/160@f2.8

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso400 1/160@f2.8

We also shot in the opposite direction, switching to the Westcott Apollo Orb softbox as the main and the window light as her backlight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 50mm f1.4 iso800 1/160@f3.2

At the end of the session, I reviewed the shots we had and figured that I had about 75% of the images needed for the planned layout of the book.  Mai agreed to a second shorter session on another day to help me get the rest of the images I would need.

Our second shoot took place at a different hotel.  Since this room did not have as much natural window light as the previous one, we used two Yongnuo 560 III flashes, one in the Westcott Apollo Orb for the main light, and one in the Westcott Apollo Strip for back/hairlight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/80@f5.6

For this hallway shot, the Apollo Orb was to camera right as the main light. At first, I put the 2nd flash without a soft box back up against the door to rim light the model, but it looked too unnatural.  I ended up putting the strip soft box back on the flash and positioning it in the bathroom off to the left of the hallway behind the model. It took a few tries of moving the  2nd light back far enough into the bathroom so that the light would not flare back into the camera lens but still rim light the model.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/160@f5.6

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/160@f5.6

Overall the final printed book came out pretty good (for a first attempt). Sent a copy to Mai as well.


I wish MyPublisher offered different formats of books, like a portrait oriented one instead of the landscape oriented version you see above.  Will keep researching for the next book project.