Gary Barragan is a Louisville headshot and portrait photographer with a passion for fine art still life. His guilty pleasure is photographing food that he and his creative wingmate prepare. This has led to a Curb to Table project where they photograph purchased curb side meals to support the local dining scene during the pandemic. Follow him at @photobygaryb or his personal website.
What was the concept of the shoot?
I call this photograph “QaranTeam Chic.” I wanted to tell a story of life during the shutdown, a typical evening for Shirin and me, my creative wingmate. We are a creative couple that’s been living the quarantine team life. Carrying on with day to day responsibilities all the while still trying to find ways to do our thing which is create. Our Sunday evenings have mostly consisted of relaxing on the couch after dinner where I am usually retouching images (of the food we just cooked for dinner) while she is working on her own art or searching for inspiration for more joint projects for us. I wanted to tell this story in one singular editorial photograph.
The twist on the styling was inspired by a challenge I seen online by my friend Andre Wilson. The challenge was to take selfies while doing random things during the quarantine, be “extra” about it and most of all, just have some fun with it. Right before the shutdown I had just moved into my very own first studio space. I literally had about ½ dozen headshot sessions before it was closed down due to our Governor’s orders. Naturally I had been itching to use it in a creative way and for some portraiture. I had also been building props and sitting options for set styling and wanted to use those as well. So I created a moody living room aesthetic with a flair of set styling that you would see in something like Vanity Fair or Hollywood Reporter. I used a Mole Richardson Baby Fresnel light that a I scored at an antique shop along with a small sitting couch I found on Facebook Market Place. I also used two of my hand painted Oliphant backdrops. We then dressed up in all black as if we were going to an upscale evening event but remained bare foot to give that at home and intimate feeling, The final piece of our styling was wearing sport masks, you would of thought we borrowed these from a Mortal Kombat set! Everything fell together, again this was QuaranTeam Chic. We felt fancy. We had fun, but most of all we were creating art together which is a love language of ours.
What setup and lighting did you use to get the shot?
I used my go to lighting for editorial portraiture which is a large overhead fill double diffused via a Profoto Umbrella White M with diffuser sock and a Lastolite SkyLite. My key light, Profoto 4’ RFI Octabox on camera left.
How did shooting tethered help you achieve the shot you wanted?
Tethering was critical to this shot, as we were essentially taking selfies via my MacBook Pro from the set. The MacBook itself was also a key prop to telling the story as this the machine where I’ve been doing most of my retouching. Being tethered we were able to adjust our positioning after each shot till we landed on the final one with Shirin laying her head on my shoulder and our feet crossed adding the final layer of closeness and connection during these times.
What was your biggest challenge?
Aside from my puppy Dexter running around all over the set and photobombing us, the biggest challenges were positioning ourselves to tell the story of a strong team connected in their creative elements. Then ensuring the key light was feathered evenly across both of our faces. I first tried an OCF grided 2 x 3, but to get the light soft I had to move closer to us which would create a retouching nightmare given the details of the set. Then I tried another Profoto Umbrella M, I was able to move it further away, but the lighting just wasn’t talking to me. So I tried my 4’ RFI Octabox and after a few positioning adjustments I found the lighting I envisioned.
What type of post-processing was involved?
My post processing consisted of a Capture One / Photoshop round trip. Being tethered, all my image go directly to Capture One Pro 20, this is where I do my color and exposure corrections. Then I take it into photoshop where I do my retouching where I will touch on the skin and clothing and compositing. For this shot I had to composite out the Octabox and the light emitting from the Baby Fresnel. After skin and clothing is finished, I go into dodge and burn to add some depth. Then I further meld the mood of the story together with several layers of color grading. Once all that was said and done I brought it back into Capture One for the final treatment and crop.
Who was involved and how did they play a part in the shoot (ex: makeup, assistant, digital tech., etc.)?
The team consisted solely of Shirin and I. For the initial light testing she was operating the camera while Dexter and I were the “models”. We collaborated on all artistic decisions. From what clothing and masks to wear to the set styling and down to how we should sit down next to each other. Once we seen the final shot, we knew it that was it, that told the story we envisioned.