El Dia de los Muertos Photoshoot by Peter Phun

As photography explodes worldwide in popularity and photographers traditionally getting hired to produce imagery shift to teaching beginning photographers, a new revenue stream has opened up for stylists in the way of paid meet-up photo shoots.

Stylists take care of wardrobe, model recruitment, hair and makeup, to give wannabe and beginning photographers a ‘show-up-with-camera and shoot’ experience.

Having participated in a couple of those, I have to say even though the idea of just showing up and shooting is rather appealing, I forfeit a lot of control.

Most experienced photographers do better when they are the only photographer shooting.


Every October, I get with my good friend Mexican artist Fryda Fernandez, to dream up a La Calavera Catrina “Elegant Skull” theme photoshoot commemorating the Mexican celebration El Dia de los Muertos  (Day of the Dead)

Each year Fryda comes up with the most outrageous sugar skull makeup and styling.



The images from our collaborations have been used to promote the city of Riverside’s Day of the Dead festival which falls on the 2nd Saturday in November.

This past year, Fryda and I actually scheduled 2 shoots: 

  • the first one with 2 of her friends was at an abandoned building
  • the second one was just with Fryda on the grounds of our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Tios Tacos 


At abandoned Building:

At the abandoned building, I was extremely fortunate to have a good friend Marvin Sesuca to assist. For the photo of Nancy, Fryda and Rocio in sugar skull makeup, Marvin had the responsibility of spraying ‘haze’ out of a can in the open window which was heavily backlighting them to complete the illusion of smoke.

The challenge at this spot was the extreme difference in exposure from the dark interior and the bright morning sun. We arrived much later than I had hoped but it wouldn’t be the first time I had to roll with the punches. I was confident that it would be manageable: I had the more powerful Orlit Rovelight RT610 monolight, my bracket for 2 Canon Speedlites that would fit inside Photoflex’s small Octodome and 72” silver reflector if needed.



Gear used:


The Orlit and Canon 600EX-RT’s were all set to group A as my keylight and on High Shutter Speed Sync 




At Tios Tacos restaurant grounds, I started working with Fryda, this time by herself around 5p. The entire grounds was already in shadow. The challenge was mostly helping the camera to focus in the low light so I decided raising the ISO to 400.  



Gear used:

  • 1 Canon 600EX-RTs inside a Saber Strip keylight
  • 1 Canon 600EX-RT fitted with Honl grid and red/pink gel
  • Canon 7DM2
  • ISO 400 50mm lens 1/15 f8


I always look forward to each October when Fryda and I get together and we dream up something more elaborate. 



Fryda Fernandez http://www.facebook.com/frydasartsouls/



Tios Tacos restaurant http://tiostacos1.com



Peter Phun http://peterphun.com


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