vampire diaries

The Vampire Diaries

I have always liked movies related to vampires. Some of them are better than others, but I guess I’ve seen most of them. I definitely consider “The Vampire Diaries” one of the best. As I know a girl that looks VERY similar to the main character of the series, I immediately thought about a photo shoot with her. It took over a year to carry out that project, though; more or less in the middle of that period I discovered that my favorite make-up artist was obsessed with the series. She gets up early in the morning especially to see a new episode broadcast in the USA, then watches it again in the evening and in the meantime comments on photos of the main characters on their Facebook profiles. Other people willing to assist with the photo shoot were the hairdressers from Le’Prestige salon and my proven assistant Mateusz “Pro” Prociak. We finally did the photo shoot in March 2012, that is, during the second half of the third season of “The Vampire Diaries”. It was the time when I had just bought my first studio light. It was very poor and problematic, but I couldn’t afford anything better then.

The photo shoot was carried out first and foremost with one shot at the back of our minds: it was going to be inspired by posters promoting the third season of the series. They showed particular characters holding a blood-stained fruit in their hands (each of them had a different one; in Elena’s case it was a pomegranate). You can view a compilation showing them all here.

I didn’t really like the fact that the fruit covered a part of the face in the original photos, so my shot was going to be different, but the leitmotif – a blood-stained fruit in the hand – remained the same. I finally achieved the following effect:

135 mm | F/13, 1/200s, ISO 200

“The Vampire Diaries” – how it was made

Let me now write a bit about how the shot was taken. To begin with, it was a rather unfortunate photo shoot. We went to Brick club in Tarnowskie Góry (Poland) – it was not the first time they had made their rooms available to us to take shots. Such is life: when you don’t have a studio or another place where you could squeeze in a setup with lights, you have to search for a place each time, even for beauty shots. Thanks to Brick’s gesture, we were lucky in this respect: quite a lot of space, electricity, places to sit down and good food – what more could one want?

We carried the whole equipment down to the bottom level of the club. Sadly, during connecting the monitor to the computer, it turned out that the former did not work: the matrix backlight had broken down. It wasn’t a big surprise because that monitor had been dying for months, but had usually managed to start working after several attempts of turning it on. Not that time, however: well over 30 attempts were fruitless. Thus, I had to take it to a fellow electronic engineer after the photo shoot and use a 19’’ 4:3 monitor with MVA matrix for two days. Pure nightmare.

Well, then. The monitor was dead, so the LCD display in the camera and a histogram would have to suffice. A bigger problem emerged a while later, when the boom’s handle broke while we were fixing the light. But we had sellotape and cable ties, didn’t we? Yet another problem was the boom that I had constructed by myself (using two stands and a spinning wheel bought to serve as a reflector handle): it was dying, too… We had to wrap it with sellotape as well in order to prevent it from spontaneous lowering.

The Vampire Diaries: Pamiętniki Wampirów - backstage

Bits and pieces – part 1: In 1972, Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan fixed a defect in a planetary rover using sellotape. If one can repair such things with it, why wouldn’t we be able to do the same with a stand made in China?

Anyway, since the stand finally fell completely apart, I had the motivation to buy a better one. Let me add that during the next photo shoot I already had a newly purchased boom, but the light handle broke, so sellotape and cable ties proved useful again. The light was Quantuum PT-200 (not to be confused with Quantum spelled with one “u”) – don’t ever buy that contraption, I’m warning you! It could only serve as an assist light and carry nothing heavier than a barndoor or possibly a light softbox.

Anyway, let’s come back to the vampire photo shoot and the bad luck accompanying it. Our model Magda had gone to Le’Prestige salon prior to the shoot, so her hairstyle was excellent. Sadly, the weather massacred it on our way to Brick and it had to be corrected shortly after the arrival. Eventually, a hairdresser from Le’Prestige needed to come to the club and take care of the hairstyle once again. Add to that shoulder dislocation which Mateusz “Pro” Prociak experienced… while eating lunch. Don’t even ask how it was possible…

The light

The key light was a 70 cm beauty dish without a grid (it is normally impossible to see me take shots using a bd without a grid). Why without a grid? Well, the hair kept looking bad in the photos: the shadows were a bit too strong, but I couldn’t light them from the bottom with a reflector because blood was everywhere. Taking off the grid solved all the problems, so searching for another solution would have been nonsense. Behind the girl I placed a black reflector (180 x 120 cm) to serve as a background and directed the light at it to make it a bit brighter. I also directed lights with grids (made of straws for drinks) at the hair from the side to obtain stronger reflections on it.

The Vampire Diaries: Pamiętniki Wampirów - schemat oświetlenia

Today I would simply place the beauty dish further away from the girl and that would make hair lights unnecessary. I wondered for a long time why the eyes in the shot looked the way they did (I mean the characteristic reflection in the lower part of the iris). Finally I discovered that the reason was white tables and poufs (such as the one on which the model is sitting) standing behind me and on both sides. They reflected the light and are thus visible in the eyes. I like the effect, though, because such gaze suits a vampire perfectly.

Bits and pieces – part 2: Paul Thomas Wesley, who plays one of the main characters in “The Vampire Diaries”, is actually called Paweł Tomasz Wasilewski. He was born in the USA, but his parents come from my country – Poland (in Central Europe). He changed the surname to Wesley in 2005 because the Americans had found it hard to pronounce Wasilewski. Before he turned 16, he had spent four months in Poland every year, visiting his grandparents. When he was getting married and they were unable to attend the ceremony, he had had a camera installed in order to provide the family with live coverage of the celebration, so that they were able to be with him then.

Instead of the pomegranate, featured in the promotional shot of the series, our model is holding a pineapple cut in half. We were told in shops that we wouldn’t find pomegranates

anywhere at that time of the year (March). It proved true, so we had to use something else instead. By the way, the most frequent comment on this shot was the question, “What fruit is this?”

I added captions from the series to give the photo a “poster-like” touch. Nonetheless, if someone publishes that shot on their pages, they almost always cut it just below the “The Vampire Diaries” headline, thus getting rid of the footnote with the authors. You can see that cut version of the photo in most places. The shot has also gone viral and was pasted in news sections of blogs as an official poster promoting the next season of the series, though that wasn’t true. I have even found discussions concerning the issue whether the shot shows another lookalike of the main character and what she is going to add to the plot of the series.

After that shot we took another one, for which the model received a vampire’s make-up. First, Karolina drew the veins under the eyes with a pencil; then she covered them with a wet handkerchief and curved them so that they looked like real veins. A bit of fake blood and the make-up was what we needed for this shot. I don’t like this shot at all anymore, though it didn’t seem bad shortly after I had taken it. Here is what it looks like:

The Vampire Diaries: Pamiętniki Wampirów

135 mm | F/9,0, 1/200s, ISO 200

I didn’t change the positions of the lights; I just reduced their power due to a smaller aperture value (though I needn’t have done that because in the case of those very photos it wouldn’t really have changed anything). I also put a silver reflector on the model’s knees (180 cm, but folded to the size of approx. 40 cm). The backstage photo below was taken at the very beginning, right after we had come to the club, but the setup is the same:

The Vampire Diaries: Pamiętniki Wampirów - backstage


Though the beginning of the photo shoot was very unlucky, we managed to get the photos as planned – it just took 13 hours. The monitor was repaired and the assistant reduced his shoulder dislocation by himself :). The boom was disassembled and I obtained two stands: one is completely useless, but the other one served me at every photo shoot in the next two years and I still have it.

The Vampire Diaries: Pamiętniki Wampirów - backstage