CREATIVES: Joe Sundby, executive creative
director; Mako Miyamoto, creative director;
Mike Torretta, art director
May says many of the clients who hire her
to shoot fashion and portraits seek her out
because of her ability to create a sense of
mood and narrative in her photographs.
That’s a reflection of her directing work,
she says. “Personally, cinema has always
been a huge inspiration for me.” On some
assignments, she creates a single frame that
hints at an unfolding story, but on a shoot
for Reebok last fall with model and Reebok
spokesperson Gigi Hadid, May shot multiple
setups as if she were following the subject
through her fitness routine.
Creatives from Reebok’s ad agency,
Roundhouse, referenced images in May’s
portfolio in describing the “atmospheric, light,
airy and warm” look they were going for.
They also wanted to show Hadid wearing
multiple products in a variety of scenarios—
“Everybody knew it would be a lot of outfits,
and a lot of asks,” May recalls.
The shoot took place in a warehouse-like
space in Paterson, New Jersey, which had
many wide, multi-paned industrial windows
on one side of the room. May wanted to
show light streaming through the windows.
“When the clients described ‘light and
airy and warm,’ that’s what came to mind.”
Knowing she couldn’t count on bright sunlight
on an October day, she planned to place lights
outside the windows. The mimicked sunlight
freed her from worrying about the position
of the sun at different times of the day.
Inside the warehouse, she needed a lighting
setup that would allow her to cover Hadid’s
movements and capture many variations
quickly, with only a few fast adjustments to
her lens or lights.
May explains, “When you get a shoot like
this and there’s a lot of shots, and a limited
amount of time, the schedule starts to break
down to ten minutes for this shot, 20 minutes
for this shot. It’s a matter of being prepared.”
May had one day to do a tech scout and walk
with the clients through the multi-floor
industrial space. A prop stylist set up gym
lockers, a bench and workout equipment in
one section of the large open space on the
first floor. May then had one day to pre-light,
a day to shoot some Reebok products, and a
day to shoot Hadid on the set.
May shoots a variety of subjects in
different styles, and notes, “I don’t have a ‘go-
to’ lighting setup, since a lot of what I shoot is
inspired by the creative, the location.” Given
the size of the warehouse space, she knew she
would need a lot of lights. She ordered a 3-ton
grip truck, as well as a strobe package and
some HMI units which she used on a second
set, for shots of Hadid in a dressing room.
On the pre-light day, May and her crew
set up the lights outside. She shot tests using
members of the crew as stand-ins. After she set
up the indoor lights, she brought in a stand-in
for Hadid to make sure her light sources were
broad enough to allow the model to move.
The large windows were made up of small
panes of different kinds of glass: “Some had
frosted glass, some had textured glass, some
were clear,” May recalls. She liked the idea
of creating patterns with the light shining
through the glass. “However, there were times
that I didn’t want strong unfiltered light”
on the subject or the background. So her
crew cut gels and stuck them over the clear
glass. Then during the shoot, they would
occasionally remove a gel to let in more light.
“This way, we could have diffused strobe light
GEAR & TECHNIQUES HOW I GOT THAT SHOT
RIGHT: For a multi-part shoot, Monica May photographed
Gigi Hadid in several gym scenarios set in an airy,
warehouse-like space. OPPOSI TE PAGE: To provide
good light even if the day was cloudy, May placed
four Broncolor twin heads outside the windows.
Inside, two strobes place behind large silks lit suggest
another set of windows, giving the scene a warm,
sunlit look. INSE T: Monica May.
See more stories about lighting techniques at pdnonline.com/gear/techniques/lighting/
LIGHT AND FIT
Monica May explains how her lighting setup allowed her to
shoot multiple images quickly, despite an uncooperative sun.
IN TERVIEW BY HOLLY STUART HUGHES