CLIENT: DK Publishing
SENIOR ACQUISITIONS EDITOR: Brook Farling
ART DIRECTOR: Nigel Wright, XAB Design
CHRISTOPHER MALCOLM was a
screenwriter and director before he became
a photographer, and when he plans his still
shoots, he thinks about creating a narrative.
As he thinks about his lighting, casting and
locations, the Los Angeles-based photographer
asks himself, “Who is the character and what’s
the story I’m trying to tell? If I’m working for
a client, I say: Who’s the buyer for the client,
and what’s the story they want to learn?”
Malcolm, whose clients include Nike,
Lululemon and other fitness brands, wants
his lighting to serve the story. “When I light,
whether it’s with natural light or strobes,
I like to start small,” he says. “I like to use
minimal equipment and have equipment
do multiple things.” By using his favorite
modifier, he can have one or two lights serve
multiple purposes. He tells PDN that on two
recent projects, he used bounced light to
create very different moods.
For the book Yin Yoga by Kassandra
Reinhardt, to be published in December,
editor Brook Farling at the publishing house
DK hired Malcolm to shoot models doing
yoga outdoors, and to use only natural light.
Malcolm and the publisher’s production
team chose locations on beaches and wooded
areas in Topanga Canyon and Malibu. Over
the course of the five-day shoot, he says,
“The challenge was creating a consistent,
harmonious and inviting
look, whether it was early
morning or high noon.”
For a portfolio piece he
called “Warrior Academy,” he
wanted shadowy, cinematic
lighting. He imagined the
characters in his story as
competitors, each skilled
in a different physical
regimen, such as Crossfit.
He photographed his
models inside a warehouse
in Los Angeles, and placed
his strobes where the
practical lights would be.
Both the Yin Yoga book and the “Warrior
Academy” project required Malcolm to
produce numerous shots within a tight
time frame. To make the most of his time
on location, he plans ahead and prepares a
document he calls his “pre-shoot.” “It’s a
combination mood board and shot list,”
he explains. In the document, he lists each
of the shots he wants to make, the lighting
set-up he wants, and some reference images
to show the mood or look he wants.
“For most shoots, I’ll tend to walk in
with 30 to 40 pages of plans. It’s incredibly
specific,” he says. For the “Warrior Academy”
project, his document was 100 pages long.
The warehouse he had chosen “was massive,”
he says. It gave him room to set up several
scenarios, but “I had to do a certain amount
of planning to minimize moving lights back
and forth.” On the pre-shoot plan, he listed
the order in which he would create each shot,
and also the variations he would try with each
lighting setup. With the document in hand, he
says, “if something goes wrong, I have a plan
B,” as well as a plan C and a plan D.
During the Yin Yoga shoot, the sun was
Malcolm’s only light source. “Sometimes
the location is fantastic but the sun isn’t
where you need it to be,” he says. Malcolm’s
kit contains a 4x5 California Sunbounce
reflector, which allowed him to reflect and
Double Duty Lights
Christopher Malcolm used the same technique when shooting with daylight and with strobes.
BY HOLLY STUART HUGHES
BELOW: For a personal project shot inside a dark warehouse, photographer Christopher Malcolm brought
his standard kit of strobes, a softbox, an octabank plus his favorite reflector. He also came with a
100-page pre-shoot plan to help him organize each shot and make the most of each lighting setup.
OPPOSITE: For the forthcoming book Yin Yoga, the publishing house DK hired Malcolm to shoot for five
days in multiple locations using only available light. INSET: Christopher Malcolm.
To see all the seminars on lighting that will be held at the PhotoPlus Expo trade show
and conference, visit the “Conference” page of photoplusexpo.com.
To see more of Christopher Malcolm’s work, visit