How I Got That Shot: Caroline Knopf’s Luxury and Color
March 26, 2018
Caroline Knopf liked the look of the sails and water backlit by the sun, but added a broad light source (set up on a second boat, near the camera) so the model was not in silhouette.
In her personal work, Knopf says, she often plans stories inspired by a location she likes.
To create stories she wants to shoot, Knopf pulls together talent, stylists and crew.
Client: And Partners
David Schimmel, president and creative director
Miriam Kaplan, designer
Missoni Baia is a waterfront condominium being built in Miami by OKO Group, an international real estate development firm, that will feature stylish furnishings and housewares from the Italian design house Missoni. On a multi-day shoot for the branding firm And Partners, fashion photographer Caroline Knopf created images that highlight the building’s amenities and its unique style.
In describing the look they wanted, the client mentioned words such as “joy, innovation, art,” Knopf says. “The images represent the world class amenities the property would hold with the Missoni branding: Olympic pool, tennis courts, spa and a breathtaking view of the water.” One challenge she faced: The building doesn’t yet exist. During the multi-day shoot, Knopf and her team photographed models in Missoni clothes enjoying a variety of activities she staged at a private residence in Miami.
Knopf, who has photographed assignments for Elle, Natori, Madame Figaro, Neiman Marcus, Kohler, Land Rover and other clients, says she most enjoys creating stories. Some of her fine-art projects and fashion stories start with a location that inspires her, then she finds talent and props to create a narrative. Her lighting and color palette change depending on the props, the clothes or the scene. “I love doing different lighting for different ideas, depending on the story you want to tell and what mood goes best with it.”
For the Missoni Baia marketing materials, she chose lighting effects and colors that would create a consistent look for all her images and also match some houseware product shots that would appear opposite her photos in collateral brochures.
Knopf shot two scenarios a day over the course of several days. Angela Missoni, creative director of the Italian design house attended the shoot, along with And Partners founder and creative director David Schimmel and designer Miriam Kaplan.
In one shot, Knopf photographed a model lying on what appears to be a tennis court. Because the surface on the private home’s clay courts didn’t work, prop stylist and set designer Belinda Scott fashioned an area that looked like a tennis court, using white tape to represent the chalk lines. Knopf shot from overhead by attaching her camera to a ladder, and then standing on the top rung to shoot. The clients and the digital tech, Stowe Williams, previewed the shots on a workstation set up on the ground.
Knopf worked closely with Kaplan to position the reclining model’s body and arms. “Sometimes I’m running around and it’s very freestyle. Other shots, such as this one, require a more exacting approach to the composition,” Knopf says. Scott brought in tennis balls, rackets and baskets, and they chose a sky-blue basket to appear in the upper right of the frame.
To add pops of color on the side of the frame, Knopf tested different lens filters. In the tennis shot, the filter echoes the blue color of the basket.
Whether on assignment or shooting for herself, “I’ll usually sketch out the storyboard of what I want the layouts to be, and make mood boards,” Knopf says. “When you have a clear idea of where you want to lead the team, then when you are there and have those difficult situations that are always going to arise, you’re not wasting time. You know how to switch gears.”
Knopf had to adapt quickly when, just before photographing the tennis court image, the sun disappeared and rain clouds formed. The crew covered all the cameras and gear, and set up a scrim—“like raincoat material”—about 20-feet square, supported by poles. As the rain poured down, Knopf says, “The water was creeping towards us the entire time. It was just outside the frame.”
Knopf set up several lights under the rain covering. Her lighting “was minimal and even, to give it more of a daylight feel,” she says. But she wanted shadows, both to match the product shots and to add dimension to her image. “If I’d shot it in daylight, it would have been flat, and not had that aspirational quality.”
For her main light, Knopf used a Briese with an umbrella at camera right, above the model, pointing down towards the lower left corner of the frame. The “strong directional light was added to incorporate the feeling of the sun which would be present in other areas of the campaign,” she says.
She also used four Profotos, placed at different points around the edge of the frame. Some created shadows near the balls; others provided fill. “I didn’t want it to appear too hollow where her face is turned away, but I didn’t want it to be too even.”
To photograph a model on a sailboat, Knopf shot from a small power boat. “We were doing passes around the boat in big circles, as this sailboat was tacking at the same time,” she says. She communicated with the model, the captain and the crew via walkie-talkie. When the sun was behind the sailboat, she noticed the light shining through the waves by the sailboat’s bow. “I found that I liked the water more when it was backlit,” she says. However, the sunlight filtered through the sails was also backlighting the model, so she was silhouetted.
To light the model, she used a Profoto strobe with diffusion that was set up on her chase boat, then directed towards the sailboat. “A directional light was added to cover distance and to give us some details that were subtle, but not hyper real,” she says.
Knopf shot all her images for the Missoni Baia project with a Canon 5D Mark IV. “I used a range of lenses. 85, 24-70, 70-200, 300mm,” she says. While shooting on the boat, she also used a teleconverter to increase her focal length and a monopod to help steady the camera.
Knopf and Kaplan had conferred on set about the look they wanted, including where they wanted to add softness or color. Knopf has her own retouching company, Camera Works Inc., and likes to sit with the retouchers as they work. “It would be easier to hand it off to someone but I’m opinionated about it, and don’t like anything to look too fake.”
Knopf’s images ran in collateral pieces and advertising, on the development’s website, and in a hardcover book that And Partners produced to show the Missoni Baia property and Missoni housewares to buyers. The campaign won a Graphis Gold Medal for Advertising in 2017.