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April 20, 2015#

My once spartan & minimalistic studio is now a forest of C-stands & sand bags & head hitting obstacles

Circa 1992 we had a softbox hanging from the ceiling on a pull down arm, it was quite cool you could stretch it down move it about and when you were done you could retract it. Every now and then It would fall down and smash me in the head always in front of clients.  Anyway the deal was 80’s Glamour was done the softbox and the soft vignette were in the trash and we started to shoot Natural light at the time (we were very progressive) we had big sheets of Poly boards (Polystyrene or Styrofoam) The movie industry have used them for decades also known in the industry as Beadwall. It was the era of Herb Ritts and Black n White magazine which back then mostly consisted of raunchy in your face Black n White nudes and 90’s Supermodels. We were evolving you see, that is the essence of being in business for 26 years and studio light was out. I built my brand on Natural Window light (One window – One Reflector) I reveled in it I mastered it, in any condition I could bend light and my settings to make it work.Very rarely do I have to concede to prevailing conditions, well before 3pm that is and lets face it winter light is a killer.

I tried constant daylights again in the early 2000’s when I was in a studio with smaller windows and winter hours were narrowing my ability to shoot before and then after lunch. I hated it. I never considered speed lights or strobes as the one simple truth was IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE NATURAL LIGHT. The second truth (In my opinion) is when you shoot modern Glamour in Natural Light it looked fresh and beautiful when I would see a normal client (NOT a model – as in not Fashion) in flash light all I saw was 80’s Glamour! a stigma I had fought years and years to not only evolve and revitalize but relaunch. For over two decades I have enjoyed the fact that my only studio equipment was my camera and my Poly boards.

NB: All Home Depots sell Polyboards also sold as home insulation boards you can paint them you can vintage wallpaper them. They are huge 4 x 8 feet but they are light and versatile and they simply are the best reflectors in the world. I prefer the thick ones about 40mm. I have lived and worked in New Zealand Australia and the U.S and have never had a problem finding them although you may need to do a little research as it seems to be one of the most asked questions to me. On 28 days you can see a video of me wallpapering and painting Polyboards.

Vflats as they are known in the ‘Industry’ are made of foamcore or gatorfoam you cannot get these at an art supplies shop they only have small pieces the big sheets that are the same size as the Polyboards are sold at most Photography and Video wholesalers.  They are commonly white on one side and black on the other and very thin. We tape them together to make a V.  Very handy and free standing.  I had never seen a Vflat till my first creativelive workshop up until then for 22 years I had only used Polyboards but the boys bought me some from the local camera shop Glazers and I used them for the first time, now I have both Vflats and Polyboards although I will not be ordering Polyboards in the future the Vflats are easier to move and store and they don’t make that dreadful squeek. This week I called my local EVS and asked if they sold Vflats the answer was yes $17.99 each I order 8 fresh ones to make four new fresh clean lovely Vflats it’s like having a blank canvas.  They do not need to be painted they will buckle that are for reflecting and you can shoot in the Black V it’s one of my signature shots I love how it looks.

This is a perfect example.

Natural light shot on Black Vflat

Natural light shot on Black Vflat so easy to move the V close to the window light or away depending on the day

Foamcore Vflat white side tape with White Gaffer tape

Foam core Vflat white side tape with White Gaffer tape

Foamcore Vflat black side tape with black Gaffer tape leave

Foam core Vflat black side tape with black Gaffer tape leave half inch gap or they will not fold shut

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It was not Felix’s work that first attracted me to learn lighting from him as I met him as an assistant to LaraJade I did not see his work until later, it was his incredible work ethic as an assistant completely there for Lara and then of course his pedigree. Felix has worked with some of the most Iconic photographers in the world and these photographers use lights in a way that most people only dream of. I challenged Felix to replicate my version of Natural light and boy did he. I am now the proud owner of a 250 Elinchrom Strobe with a 59″ Deep Dish Modifier and a Four bank natural daylight Kinoflo and a large Lasolite Scrim. My once spartan and minimalistic white studio space is now a forest of C-stands and sand bags and head hitting obstacles.  For the last 6 months I have been shooting with all three lighting setups equally and frankly I am in love with all three for different reasons.  More on that later, for now here are my setups enjoy Learn to Light on creativelive and here is a list of what I am using. Watch here https://www.creativelive.com/courses/learn-light

Links to products I purchased on Amazon:

Elinchrom’s 59 Inch Deep Inverse Octa This is the modifier Felix convinced me to buy and honestly I love it

Elinchrom’s 250W BRX Multi-Voltage Flash Unit Same with this

Kinoflo mine has daylight balanced bulbs I bought the four but honestly two is enough

I purchased the Scrim from Adorama remember prior to buying this I had used $4 yards of white polyester chiffon its cheap and effective just annoying to hang sometimes and I asked many assistants to hold it up over their heads for a long time.

I feel fully confident of the different lights and how they respond, also what looks best in each setup.  I can replicate the light to mimic natural or with a simple turn bring in more direction and more of a fashion look. I have loved exploring and learning and experimenting.  We need to consider cost and which light is going to work best for you in your space, the look you want and the budget as this investment is a big one but well worth it.  Above all know that if you are not ready yet to make the leap or the commitment your studio can operate just perfectly with Natural light after all I always joked when others were showing off about their light equipment and they asked me what I used I always replied “Oh I use God light” hehe no one ever shot me down.

Backdrop facing window Black Vflats to bounce in light

Backdrop facing window White Vflats to bounce in light

Backdrop facing window Black Vflats to absorb light

Backdrop facing window Black Vflats to absorb light gives your subject more contrast

Natural Window light diffused with a white net curtain bouncing onto a white Vflat reflector

Natural Window light diffused with a white net curtain bouncing onto a white Vflat reflector

Elinchrom 250 Strobe with Deep Dish Modifier bouncing into a white Vflat reflector

Elinchrom 250 Strobe with Deep Dish Modifier bouncing into a white Vflat reflector

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Natural Window light diffused with a white net curtain bouncing onto a white Vflat reflector

Natural Window light diffused with a white net curtain bouncing onto a white Vflat reflector

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Kinoflo 4 bank natural daylight balanced bulbs through a large Lasolite Scrim

Elinchrom 250 Strobe with Deep Dish Modifier bouncing into a white Vflat reflector

Elinchrom 250 Strobe with Deep Dish Modifier bouncing into a white Vflat reflector

March 28, 2015#

when you find yourself with a backdrop asking for more attention than your client

Take back the contrast or embrace it? I have always run run run from busy backdrops when boudoir photographers around the world were purchasing those black and white damask backdrops I was shaking my head with a hell no.  What happens however when you’re on location and you don’t have a choice.  Do you run from it or embrace it. I posted a photo from this shoot and there was an instant splitting of very strong opinions between like and don’t like so I edited the shoot dropping the contrast and embracing it, here is how I did it and I hope it helps you when you find yourself with a backdrop asking for more attention than your client.

Canon 5D iii ISO 640 1/50s 1.8 (for background and hair blur) 50mm 1.2 lens Light Kinoflo thru scrim Late afternoon light

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Out of camera tones are very soft and neutral, obviously throwing yellow.

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Open in PS and up curves for a little more contrast.

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Open in Alienskin Polaroid SX-70 Blend 75% –  one of my top used like it but keep looking

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Color fading – Color Photo Warm Skin at 40% (definitely like the contrast and color pop)

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Stay in fading Kodachrome 40% with dust and scratches removed subdued and more grungy not a beauty look

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and thats what I stayed with Kodachrome 40% with dust and scratches removed up the contrast a little.  Once I find the tone and mood of an image in editing I generally stick with the same tone of all the sequence of images in that one outfit or backdrop.  I like uniformity it looks more professional and you definitely see consistency which is a good thing.

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Out of camera: Some people would be horrified when images came out so flat and neutral but my camera picture style setting is set to neutral with two stops contrast dialed down.  What I get is an even perfectly exposed image that I can do anything with. Before you flip over that statement my work has always had a flatness and softness to it it is my signature look.  So before you start to preach to me about the RULES remember I don’t follow them.

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I have always been drawn to cold editing I like anything that takes the skin tones slightly away from red which is normal.  I have always liked slightly desaturated images so my go too here was Color Films Vintage Kodachrome 35mm faded (Would you believe a film I actually shot on for years in the 90’s)

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Color Fading Color Photo Warm Skin so I also try the opposite because how do you know unless you try this whole fading set is seriously yummy

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I ended up with this Polaroid 600 Brown Highlights then I went to textures and put a texture over it. Dial back the texture over the face with Protect and drop the opacity of the texture for subtlety

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The texture gives the wallpaper a vintage look there is contrast on her and a more faded look on the backdrop

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Pulled away from wall a little more a nice shallow f/1.8 and soft light on the face

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experimented with the cold tones and then the warms

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I actually finished with this a perfect mix of both this was the warmer of the two with command B plus 10 blue and command M curves more contrast

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Out of camera This was my first light test before I bought a reflector close to her obviously sitting on the edge of under exposed more drama on the face but I really liked it the natural shadow around her face this not what I normally do, you know I like to bring up the face light and flat so I wondered if I edited it a little gutsy and dramatic if I could make it work

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Straight to the polaroid filters because they are the drama filters I like the best

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This was in the Vintage range and towards Cyan

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and then I went Textures used protect around the face and cropped a little tighter

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Tessa is building a model folio to try to get model work I enjoyed being a little bit more fashion in my otherwise glam portrait world and it’s always good to try something new.

March 26, 2015#

Payback Friendship with Friendship

Nicole Fitzpatrick has been a personal friend of mine since 2008. For two years Nicole’s beautiful little daughter Mia battled and finally beat Leukemia and her best friend Coz was there the whole way, you may remember me posting about Mia and bone marrow donation. Well last year Coz turned 40 and was diagnosed with MS. For her 40th birthday she asked her friends and family for a wishing well gift. To be Photographed by me. Nicole called and told me and almost a year later these two wonderful Women flew from Melbourne Australia to me in Los Angeles and we had a Photo shoot day.  This shoot was about laughter and celebrating friendship sisterhood and taking every day as it comes.  The words in this little video are their’s my favorite was the last question I asked them “How did today make you feel?” Coz said “feeling beautiful today made me feel like I can conquer anything”

My Mother always said “The real worries in your life, you will never see coming” but no matter what comes at you friendships just make life better. Oh and Champagne.

Coz I wish you love and good health thank you for reminding me to laugh more work a little less and treasure all the people in my life. Don’t stop fighting we Love you.

Here’s some images and a Video & Slideshow

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For Photographers: Remember our monthly challenge to create stories for your clients and show the beauty of what you do for your brand. This was my choice for video of the month.

It’s free to Join the facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/AnimotoPhotoVideoChallenge/ Stay focused stay inspired and build a library and see what others are creating

I made this with Animoto Custom Pro Style Documentary – music is from the Triple Scoop Library that is included with Professional – it’s “So Long As” by Faith Rivera – the instrumental version.

You can download a free trial of Animoto if you buy Pro here is a discount code for this week (code is SUE2015) It offers 20% off Animoto Pro until April 2nd 2015

 

March 23, 2015#

Portrait of a Musician

I was lucky enough to photograph the incredibly talented singer/songwriter Caity Copley. I went into this shoot with the intention of capturing new fabulous PR images -leaning more towards a rock ‘n roll vibe rather then glamour portrait. Something worthy of Rolling Stone, this was a great challenge for me I lean heavily on beauty posing but Caity has such a natural confidence as a performer so we started with beauty type shots and by the time we got into the tophat she was fully her true self. Her music style is Piano/Pop so she still has an element of young and pretty in her brand so I just said bring clothes you would actually perform in. Caity has killer hair but we bulked it out with synthetic braid wefts so cheap and so easy to do I actually recorded it so you could have a little tutorial on how to do it it’s both affordable and has an instant result. She flipped over her hair.

Lighting I used an Elinchrom 59″ deep dish octobox modifier on my Elinchrom 250 strobe and one reflector (white foam core board) as my light source. I prefer softness in my images I Love it enter my amazing ND Filter. I can shoot wide open between1.2 -2.8 get that shallow yummy Depth of Field that I get with natural light, I can’t get enough of it lately. I am also very proud of how my new self painted backdrop performed. Have a look:

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/1.2 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Turn the light away from her towards the reflector and bounce it back turn ND filter dark as I can)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

Canon 5Diii f/2.8 200/s ISO100 50 mm lens with ND filter (Nice and close to the backdrop step back from the light a little)

 

Links to products on Amazon:

Elinchrom’s 59 Inch Deep Inverse Octa This is the modifier Felix convinced me to buy and honestly I love it

Elinchrom’s 250W BRX Multi-Voltage Flash Unit Same with this

Genus 72mm ND Filter (NB don’t just click and buy this one shop around different brands differ in price but more importantly size of the lens dictates size of the filter)

Caity Copley’s music Because she is awesome

 

Find out more about Caity Copley at:

www.facebook.com/caitycopley

 

 

March 17, 2015#

Chalkboard paint and a Gorgeous Woman

 

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I painted this backdrop and it screamed EIGHTIES I screamed back HELL NO. I wasn’t too worried as the drop sheet had cost $20 and the paint about the same so I thought oh well it’s already primed for another coat.  Then I had the idea to use chalkboard paint so I jumped on Amazon and ordered a quart $19.90 I have always loved chalkboard paint because I love anything matt.

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I had a light plum/mauve left over from my first backdrop attempt so I mixed a little in, I did not want Black Black as I already have the velvet backdrop I made. I wanted a Matt grey black like the Vflat I threw in a little water so the paint would go the distance and painted with a roller.

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I put some water in the empty light color and then threw it on top while it was drying and rolled that out so I could get a light texture all over

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I had left over paint so I painted four of my Apple boxes (A quart went a long way on an already painted drop)

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Painted on Sunday ready for my shoot Monday nice and close to the window light coming in from the left Vflat to stop too much light coming in – White Vflat on the right bouncing light back to her

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Shot natural light 640 ISO 80/s Canon 5D iii 35mm lens.  This back drop is every inch what I hoped for

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This gorgeous woman is 60 years old.  She is a mother a writer and an incredible lady I loved meeting and photographing her.

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February 24, 2015#

Alien Skin Strobe demonstration on Gear Day creativeLIVE

They discount code is active until February 28th at midnight Buy anything AlienSkin 35% OFF you will see my go to is Exposure 7 CLICK HERE use code CRE1502

But the demo video will live on here if you want to download a copy for your self CLICK HERE to get more free creativeLIVE gear day videos

59" Deep Dish Octobox Elinchrom on an Elinchrom Strobe Canon 5D mark iii Background: Black Vflat Reflector: White Vflat

59″ Deep Dish Octobox Elinchrom on an Elinchrom Strobe Canon 5D mark iii Background: Black Vflat Reflector: White Vflat

_B0A1235SX70 _B0A1267BW _B0A1267SX70 _B0A1284SX70 _B0A1289SX70 _B0A1289BW _B0A1296SX70 _B0A1313SX70 _B0A1339SX70 _B0A1348SX70 _B0A1351SX70 _B0A1360SX70 _B0A1372SX70 _B0A1373SX70 _B0A1383SX70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 6, 2014#

My first LA moment & Shooting the black tunnel

Just another incredible opportunity I had working with Olay to meet and photograph all of these incredible Women. Her name is Alexis Wolfer she is the Founder and Editor in chief of The Beauty Bean and an author of an amazing book The Recipe for Radiance and I got to photograph her.  Probably my first LA moment. I say that because Bruce Grayson International Makeup Guru and Randi Petersen Celeb stylist were there to give Alexis the star treatment and what an incredible day we had.  Congratulations to Alexis.

Shoot tip this is what I have been doing a lot these days.  Since I started shooting on the Oliphant backdrops. I realized when I shoot polyboards and Vflats theres is a natural vignette but the Oli’s are so much larger and if I want more contrast around the client and image I turn the backdrop straight to the window and put a Black Vflat (foam board) on either side as negative fill.  She doesn’t need a reflector as the light is straight to face.  People asked me am I blocking the light? as yes I am standing between the client and the window but its a large window diffused with frosting and or net curtains and I don’t seem to block much light or cast a shadow at all.  This apartment was set up as a studio for the day I knew there was a ton of natural light so I brought 4 Vflats a backdrop stand for the Oliphant and some chiffon fabric to pin to the wondow to diffuse the light if I have to much (this is a problem I am rarely face with TOO MUCH light) Anyway my point is the light direction diffusion and negative fill give me a very Strobe like look and I really like it.

Canon 5D mark iii  50mm lens – natural light f/2.8; 1/250s 640 ISO

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Alexis on Instagram CLICK HERE For Alexis’s Website Online Magazine The Beauty Bean CLICK HERE For Alexis’s incredible book Recipe for Radiance on Amazon CLICK HERE

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November 5, 2014#

Adding textures and tones

I do everything the hack way as most of you know although I refer to it as the fast way.  After all I had to teach myself photoshop and by the time there was internet accessible education I was long set in my ways.  I posted a pic of a girl with a large hair piece yesterday and everyone asked about it so here is how I apply textures.  Not all images need or look good with a texture added I almost never do it to a standard portrait.  If I am doing something a little more stylized or arty then I definitely do.  Sometimes its good to put a little texture on a really plain background you can keep the texture off the subject.

This was the first beautiful image I found so I will use this it doesn’t really need a texture as such I would just run this through AlienSkin and pick a tone I love but its a good example.  I shot this in the makeup room at the studio in natural light one window.

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This is the texture I used it is a shot of parchment paper. You can go crazy making textures a good tip is have ONE folder called textures I shoot textures all the time when I see them and I can never find them.

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Open the image and the texture in photoshop and I crop them the same size as it’s faster than resizing (Just my opinion theres so many ways to do it) then I drag the texture on top and I use the eraser tool on about 20 percent with a soft brush and feather back around her face and skin.

Try not to leave any texture on the skin it’s noticeably wrong.

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Then in Layers (Because the texture is sitting on top as a layer) I drop back the opacity usually between 20 – 40 % but it depends on how much you want.

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When you are happy save and flatten then I open in AlienSkin to choose a tone and look I want.  If you dont use AlienSkin you can apply any layer or finish or action.  I do this at the end so it tones the image and the texture and it cohesively brings the image together

AlienSkin action Color and Color Fading are my favorites but there are lots to chose from I flick through until I see the image mood pop out.

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I also love the vintage B/Ws but I prefer them with out the borders and scratches

 

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My go to B/W I use for everything is in B/W Vintage Daguerreotype drop the grain 20% I love gutsy B/W always did from film days

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If a texture competes remove it.  If you look more at the texture than the subject remove it if you see texture on the skin brush it back sometimes when you are shooting on boring Vflats or painted plain walls a little texture is just what you need.

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