There has been quite a stir in the Pullen household lately. This is a project that has been undercover until now. We didn’t exactly want to get the cart in front of the horse. For those of you who have been faithful readers for the past few years may already know some of this so I apologize in advance.
My wife and mother co-own AA Serenity’s Touch Inc, a day spa and hair salon in North Port, Florida. They offer services such as pedicures, manicures, massage, hair, facials and waxing just to name a few. They have won the “Best Of” many times in multiples categories so I think they are doing something right. Their salon is quiet and serene so if you are looking for a place to relax in peace without all the loudness of a department salon, this is the place for you. My wife Angie even worked for Disney a while so they know how to provide service to their clients with the highest Disney standards.
So, what’s the big news? Angie was in contact with a national trade magazine called Nails Magazine. The magazine was interested in how their salon came to be and more important how they switched from acrylic to natural nail care and shellac. Over the years, my mother Ann had developed a sensitivity to the polymer that is used in the acrylic process. Not to mention all of the dust being produced and filing that was needed to get the surface prepared for the final polish coat.
Anytime you are working with a magazine, nothing is definite until the ink hits the paper. The magazine needed copy and photos, good photos. Since I have photographed for a variety of magazine over the years, I should be able to pull this off. Angie was in charge of writing the text. We were going to submit the package and see if they were even going to accept the story and publish it. We just got confirmation that the story was published in the 2014 January edition.
Now that the rest is history, I thought some of you might like to see how some of the photos were done. This is actually a lighting post in disguise. Also, I’ll go over some of the points that you should ask your salon for your own safety. There’s a reason why we are bosom buddies with the State of Florida! One inspector even said, “This place is so clean you could eat off the floor. All of the salons should be like this.” Angie and Ann’s salon has been deficiency free since they have opened over eight years ago.
This is a typical “office in a box” environment; this means that the space is lit mainly with fluorescents. To the human eye, it looks like there is an abundance of light to work with, however the camera thinks otherwise. First, lets look at the equipment that I used. Anytime I need speed and sharpness, I always grab my 50mm f/1.4. This lens has a permanent home in my bag. Since the lighting was going to be a challenge, I knew I was going to have to relight the space and make it look like it wasn’t being lit artificially…is everyone still with me? I took a couple of Nikon flashes, light stands, umbrellas and the tripod. In a case like this, especially if you are going to be shooting for something that is going to be printed on glossy paper, there isn’t any room for soft photos. The camera has to be on a tripod. I also fitted the camera with an electronic release to aid in the sharpest photos possible.
First up was Ann. Since we did this after hours and there weren’t any clients in the building, we improvised. Angie changed her shirt and became the client. You can’t see her face so no one is the wiser. Couple of things here, first we made sure that the marketing material was closer to the camera to get as much advertising as possible. Then came the lighting. I set up two umbrellas, one at camera left and one at camera right. Normally I wouldn’t flatten out the ratio like this, but this is about being able to see all of the details of what is going on. To stage this scene, Ann is posing to polish Angie’s nails. Angie has one hand in a special UV light that hardens the polish. Here’s the challenge, the UV light that coming out of the lamp is not as strong as the flash. I had to slow down my shutter speed to 1/30 of a second to make sure that the blue light was going to show up.
Now it was time to switch things around. Angie and Ann are known for their pedicures. Angie started as a massage therapist so she took advantage of her knowledge and implemented it into the pedicures. This is where they tip you back in the chair, put an herbal eye pillow over your eyes and give you the most relaxing experience that you will ever have. Also, one reason why the State of Florida loves them so much as there isn’t any issues with cross contamination. When we built the salon, the “all in one” pedicure chairs were all the rage. They have the bowls built into the chairs, which are plumbed right into the floor. This should be the way to go, right? Well, here’s what’s supposed to happen, after every client, the drains are supposed to be taken apart and bowls are supposed to be back flushed for 20 minutes with a disinfectant. As in any business, time is money. If there isn’t anyone in the chair, there isn’t any money being made. So what usually happens, they drain out the water, give it a quick wipe down and fill it up with water for the next person. Now the second client is actually having a pedicure with the first client as all of the skin particles that came off the first person are still in the pump and screens. Sounds great, huh? This is how people are going home with more than they came with if you get my drift. We wanted to do something different, we wanted to take the risk out of having this luxury service done. The solution…a disposalable system. As you can see in the photo above, there is a plastic liner that goes inside of a heated and vibrating tub. This is the same system that dentist use, you sit down and they open the fresh packet of tools in front of you so you know that sanitary tools are going in your mouth. When the pedicure is over, the liners get tossed and any implements that were used are soaked in a hospital grade disinfectant in a special machine for a specified time to ensure that they are clean. In the end, everyone is getting brand new tub to stick his or her feet in. One last thing about the pedicures, ask to see their “Pedicure log book”. If the response is, “huh?” I would recommend finding a new place, this means that the cleanings are not documented and the inspector looks for this. Having a pedicure log book is law in the State of Florida and is supposed to be out where clients can see it.
For the lighting, I had a big area to work with. All this stuff has limitations; this is where I let the fluorescents help me out. Again shooting “close to the ambient” meaning a slower shutter speed such as 1/30 of a second, this allowed the room light to fill in the background. My ISO was set to 400 and I used f/11, to make sure I had my depth of field covered. I had the umbrellas set to 45° angles to the camera and we were off to the races. I took multiple shots while Angie was massaging and thought this was the best of the bunch.
Since I shoot in manual mode with both the camera and flashes, all of my exposures came out the same. When we switched to polishing, the lighting was the same. At this point as a photographer, you don’t have to worry about your settings; you can focus on what’s in the frame and directing your talent. In this case, since this is the wife…there wasn’t any directing!
At the end of the night we shot many different headshots, but this is the one that we like the best, and the magazine used this one too. The lighting on this was a mix of hard and soft light. They wanted the polish rack in the background to reinforce what they do. I used an umbrella at a 45° angle to light their faces and torso. However, the next issue was the background. The polish rack and wall was dark, like a cave! This was going to require a separate light to light the background. I fiddled with the background light for 10 minutes trying to get the light to cooperate. After taking a second to look at the set up I realized that I was over thinking the solution, get rid of the umbrella on the background light. I pointed the bare flash head opposite of Angie and Ann and aimed it into a wall/ceiling joint out of the frame. Since all of the flashes are set to slave, I was able to trip them from my pop up flash on my camera. The flash bouncing back from the wall/ceiling threw the light back on the polish rack in a soft, filling fashion. Done.
There you have it, some lighting tips as well as questions that you need to ask your current spa. Unfortunately, some of these fly-by-night places that are only concerned with turning chairs are giving the industry a bad name. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the last inspection report. If they can’t produce it, they are hiding something. Angie and Ann have had clients come as far as Naples, FL and Bradenton, FL to have services done. What’s the secret? Must be something in the CLEAN water!
AA Serenity’s Touch Inc.
13355 Tamiami Trail, Suite D • North Port, Florida 34287
941-423-4561 • www.serenitys-touch.com
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean