Sunset & Glamour Photoshoot with Mai Mao and Tia Kai


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Its always much easier to do an implied nude photoshoot if you work with a model who is comfortable with nudity in the first place.  When you work with professional models that are at ease both in and out of clothing, you don't have to constantly worry about trying to crop out or hide underwear or bikinis in the shot and later having to edit it out in post production.  It allows the model to pose more freely and just makes the shoot go a lot smoother.

Near the end of last year, I was contacted by Mai Mao, a model I had worked with previously worked with. She was planning to visit Maui again and asked if I'd be interested in shooting with her again.  She was also bringing another model, her friend Tia Kai, and suggested we do a joint shoot with her.

Two stunning models at the same time? How could I refuse?

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Our first session was at Makena Cove in the late afternoon.  We were lucky enough to have a couple of assistants with us this day, so we were able to use a silver California Sunbounce Pro, a Sunbounce Mini, and a Lastolite TriGrip diffuser panel to direct and diffuse the natural light for the first half of the shoot while we waited until sunset.

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Mai is a great model to work with, very laid back and easy to direct.  Really enjoyed having the chance to work with her again.


Tia was also amazing to work with. An experienced model, Tia was able to come up with a lot of her own poses, freeing me up to just focus on lighting and shooting. Like I've said in the past, I like it when models are so skilled at posing that I can go into chimpanzee mode and just concentrate on shooting.

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She also manages her own website that she is constantly adding content to, so the majority of the images from this session will be available to view on Tia's website.

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For sunset, we used the Cheetahstand CL360 in a silver Cheetahstand Beauty Dish.

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This was actually my first time using the Cheetahstand Beauty Dish in the field and it performed quite well.  It collapses down for transport and the quality of light from it worked well for our needs.  I think I'll be using it a lot more on future location shoots.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso800 1/160 @f5.6

Our second day was spent in their hotel room where we focused on more boudoir-style images.  Shooting two models together in a bedroom setting was something new to me, and I relied heavily on Mai and Tia for posing ideas.  Thankfully they have a lot of experience working with each other and had no problem with posing together.

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The hotel room was quite small, with very little room to maneuver and set up light stands.  The one good thing we had going for us was that the natural lighting we had in this room was much better than what we had the previous year at this same hotel.  The room that Mai and I had shot in the previous year was on the ground level, and the surrounding greenery blocked a lot of the light coming in from the lanai.

This time since we were on a higher floor and it was a bright sunny day, there was a lot of light streaming in from the glass doors to the balcony.

The hotel had recently remodeled their rooms with a more modern decor, so I took a few minutes to look around and see how we could best set it up to shoot without disturbing the furniture or their belongings too much - they were on vacation after all. ;-)

A few tips I learned from photographer Dean Capture when shooting in a hotel room - keep the lighting simple and avoid shooting blank walls in the background.  Find a background with some character and then think about how to incorporate that into your shots.

We settled on two setups on the bed, and two main angles.

To start off, we set up a Kessler Pocketjib Traveller to position a Sony A7mkII with a 24-70mm f4 Zeiss lens as high as possible and aimed down at the bed for an aerial POV shot.  The camera was triggered using the Sony PlayMemories app on an iPad.

Some tulle material was spread over the bed to try to hide the fine lined pattern of the bedsheet and give the shot a softer look.

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We supplemented the existing light by adding a Cheetahstand CL-360 and a white shoot thru umbrella on the lanai, shooting in the same direction as the existing natural light.  Fill light was provided by our assistant holding up a white bedsheet just out of camera frame to the left.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso800 1/125 @f8

Had to be careful about centering the position of the camera above the bed.  Since the ceiling was rather low, we had to play around in the wider range of the 24-70mm lens. Moving the camera too far off in any direction distorted their bodies too much.

The second setup was angled so that the framed painting on the wall behind the two models could be used as a framing element in some of the shots.

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Working with these two beautiful models from California was a great way to end 2014. Really looking forward to working with Mai and Tia again in the near future.

To view more images from these photoshoots, visit TiaKai.com.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso400 1/125 @f5.6