March 30, 2010



Many people ask me where I find models to shoot. I've been fortunate enough to find a few lovelies in my area, but that's an unusual thing for living in nowhere, USA. Unless you're located in a major city like Paris or New York, chances are the talented model pickings in any given area are somewhat slim. What's a 'tog to do? Luckily, many professional independent models travel around fairly frequently. One way to help afford working with one who's swinging through your area is to offer to host them while they're in town. Not all models will take you up on this, but for many the chance to cut the costs of hotels out of the equation is a god-send. 

First, if you have not worked with a particular model before, be sure to have some references to assure them of the solidness of your character. No one wants to bunk over at a skeevy dude's house (see Don't be That Photographer, coming up soon :P). If she's then cool with crashing at your place, proceed to the following:

-HAVE a comfy couch or extra bed to crash on. 
-Make sure there are clean sheets, blankets, and towels.
-Ask if she has any particular dietary needs, and emphasize that you're not trying to be nosy, but that you simply want to make her stay as comfortable as possible. I once bought a bunch of food in preparation for a model who was staying with me for a few days, and she ended up being on a special liquid diet the whole time. Whoops. 
-Know her arrival and departure schedule, and be on-time in picking up and dropping her off at the airport or bus/train station.
-Let her use your internet. Most independent models rely on online networking to keep their schedules up to date, and going without an internet connection can really put a crimp in their plans.
-Have fun! Every traveling model that I've hosted has been a great, easy-going person, and overall cool to hang out with outside of shooting. People who live out of suitcases don't tend to be prima donnas ;)

March 24, 2010

Little Black Angel


Model: Jessamyne

Would you believe she's a natural redhead??! Black hair looks amazing on Jess. Huzzah for wigs!

March 22, 2010

Rossetti's Muse

Model: BadCharlotte
Wardrobe by and shot for

Ahhh, the Pre-raphaelites! One of the most beguiling art movements to come forth from the golden age of 1830-1930, in my opinion. I love it when I have the chance to shoot a set that can nod back to those masterpieces.

March 20, 2010

Makeup Product Essentials for Photogs/Models

Let's talk about makeup. Often getting a makeup artist to work on a shoot is unfeasible due to lack of budget, or there are no quality ones in your area. What do you need to start Doing It Yourself?
Photographers, have your models bring their own foundation and mascara. Foundation because it would get DAMN expensive to buy quality products for every skin color (tho, if you shoot primarily within a certain skin tone range, it's worthwhile to purchase foundation for that tone), and mascara as it's unsanitary to share it between people. Models, please have your own of these products!

Now, while it's nice if a model has her own kit, the following suggestions are for the 'tog who works with multiple faces. I have found I use these products on nearly every shoot:

The Makeup Kit Staples

-facial lotion, for both prepping skin and removing makeup

-clear lipgloss. Cheap Wet'n'Wild works great.

-4 brushes: one small stiff angled brush (brows and liner), one small springy flat round (concealer and detail), one round one the size of a fingertip (eye shadow), one large poofy brush (blush and powder)

-brow powder in dark brown. Again, go as inexpensive as possible. They all function the same.

-the most intense black shadow you can find

-shimmery white pigment

-black kohl eyeliner pencil

-blush in the deepest red available, peachy coral, and cool pink. It's better to get dark shades that can be applied with a light hand for the best bang-for-your-buck.

-a medium light shimmery peach-bronze for high-shine cheekbones (try the drugstore JesseGirl's loose pigment for this)

-highlighting or shimmer lotion/powder (I favor Benefit's "Highbeam" and MAC's strobecream)

-palette of cream concealer (MakeUpForEver's concealers are AMAZING, and are so highly pigmented only tiny dabs are needed. Well worth getting over the initial sticker shock for.)

-face powder to combat shine

Notice lipstick and eyeshadow is left off the above list. You'll collect quite a collection, never fear, but the trick is there is SUCH a selection available that it's best to plan the makeup for a shoot in advance, and only buy the colors that you need. Don't skimp on eyeshadows--buy quality brands like Smashbox and Urban decay--because the cheaper drugstore ones will have too much "filler" in them: they won't apply smoothly nor with any intensity. The only exceptions I've come across are the BenNye theatre makeup range, and the loose Jesse'sGirl drugstore pigments. Stay away from MAC eyeshadows too- they've gone really downhill in the last few years and contain more filler than pigment. The best thing to do is find a Sephora or other high-end makeup boutique to browse through to get an idea of what's out there. Eyeshadow can also double as lipstick, so look at buying the good stuff as an investment (apply lipbalm and then shadow color to lips, and coat with a bit of gloss). Lipstick is whole 'nother ball of wax. Dollar store lip color works just as well as high end labels.

What if you know you'll only ever use a color once? This is where I have to pimp out one of my favourite makeup sites: Find the eyeshadow color that tickles your fancy, and only buy a sample. They're normally under $2 a piece. That should be enough for one application. Aromaleigh also makes badass mineral foundation in an insane variety of shades; it's worth checking out their Glissade foundation and getting samples of a bunch of colors as a back-up foundation plan for if a model ever forgets to bring hers.

Any questions? Makeup is incredibly versatile and limited only by vision, so be sure to experiment and have fun!

March 19, 2010

La Feé Verte

Model: Ariel
Wardrobe by and shot for:

The poet in his attic room paces by the dim glow of the oil lamp, fevered ~ again he is walking the thin line between genius and madness, waiting for his muse to come, a faceted goblet of potent green liquid in his pale hand.

But La Feé Verte is a capricious and cruel mistress ~ she murmurs promises of glorious lucid visions in your ear... but then overwhelms her acolytes with feverish passion for ever more, until one sip too many ~ and she is gone in a vaporous flurry, leaving them muddled and weak. Still, the poet drinks… and dreams…

March 17, 2010

Allusions to Alice for Blasphemina's Closet

Instead of leaving this as a photo-only post, how about a bit about putting the set together, eh?

How to make your own large checkerboard for under $20:
1. Go to the home-improvement store of your choice. Peruse through the lumber and plywood until you find a suitable 4'x4' piece of wood. Mine was some sort of thin veneer, but getting a 4'x8' plywood plank and cutting it in half would suit as well. Cost: $7
2. Next you need 2 4oz bottles of acrylic craft paint--one black, one ivory-- and a square foam "brush". Cost: approx. $9 Get some wide masking tape too if you don't already own some ($3).
3. Get that all home, and draw straight lines (I used a carpentry measuring tape) piecing your board out into 1ft squares. Now, paint all of the alternating squares white. It's OK if you're sloppy; the black part is where care is needed. Let that dry for several hours.
4. Once the white is dry, carefully apply straight lines of masking tape against the edges on the inside of the white checkers. This is a PITA, but it'll save the white checkers from any errant black paint.
5. Paint the remaining squares black. Let it dry, then remove the masking tape. Voila! Checkerboard!

Other props necessary for this set: blue glass bottles and jars (check your local thrift stores first), and a decorative metal lattice. Now, find a public wild area where you aren't likely to be disturbed. Haul everything out there--and I won't lie, carting around that checkerboard is going to be a bitch--and thunk down the board in the first pretty area. Shove the metal lattice into the ground next to the board, affix the bottles to the lattice (use black electrical tape if you don't have the sort of bottles that'll loop on without extra aid), and you're good to go. That's the set.
If you want a bunny for a prop too, sorry, you're on your own on finding that one :P

More about this photoshoot:
-Makeup is simple: brows powdered and eyes lined with blue. Peachy-pink blush and lipstick.
-Hair: thrown into a bun on the right back side, and a bunch of curly extensions thrown on top of that. Fascinator (large decorative barrette) clipped onto the right side. Forelocks tucked behind ears.
-Have discovered that Cleo, teh bunneh, does not mind being carted around in a food cooler :D
-Lighting is all natural, facing towards the sun in late afternoon 3:30-4:30pm
-The sky has been darkened in photoshop to a stormy purple. The original bright blue was pretty, but took emphasis away from the dress. Same thing with filtering out the yellow and red tones in the shrubbery.

Striped Retroscope Fashions

Model is BadCharlotte, wearing Retroscope's Juliette Blouse

Model is Ariel, wearing Retroscope's Striped Bolero

March 16, 2010


Welcome to the Aesthetic Alchemy blog, where all the behind-the-scenes verbosity will be spewed!
I'm Darien Revel, a photographer/former model/stylist and set designer by necessity/reluctant businessperson/beauty enthusiast. This blog is intended to host jabber about the gestalt process of model/fashion specific digital photo illustration, and moreso, doing it on a shoestring budget and doing it well. That includes everything from posts on model posing, styling, set design, art theory, photographic light wrangling, etc. After this post, for the sake of conciseness, I'll make no qualifications like "this won't work for film users" or "in my experience...". All I can discuss is what I know, and I hope you find it interesting and helpful!
In addition to topic oriented ranting, there'll be updates with new Aesthetic Alchemy photosets, behind-the-scenes shoot candids, and tutorials.

Here's a small selection of topics to be discussed in the future:

-The joys of hot lights

-Understanding the applications of natural light

-How to find models, and what to look for in approaching pretty people on the street

-Modeling tips: posing

-Photoshoot etiquette and how to be a benevolent photographic dictator

-Makeup: skin and base makeup

-Composition and ways to emphasize areas of interest

-Putting together a Badass Wardrobe

-Hair design/styling

-Set design

-Finding and using good locations


-Developing a concept

-In defense of retouching: Photoshop is not a 4-letter word

-Hosting a traveling model

-Don't be That Photographer: a guide to NOT being a creep

-Studio set up

-Wardrobe fitting: non-permanent ways to tailor garments to a model

- A model's guide to pre-shot prep

If there are other things you'd like to hear about, do say so: I love suggestions and feedback!