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Article: Fashion Shoot Featuring a DIY Seamless Paper Dress | Lindsay Adler

Fashion Shoot Featuring a DIY Seamless Paper Dress | Lindsay Adler

World-renowned photographic educator, director, and fashion photographer Lindsay Adler has a unique video that checks off so many boxes – we’re going to have to fight the urge to gawk in awe. First, stylist and designer Jennifer Daniels transformed discarded seamless background paper into an impressive haute couture dress. Then, Lindsay created stunning fashion photos of the dress on a model while in studio. 

The video is equal parts creative genius and technical prowess. Plus, brownie points for a bit of environmentalism by repurposing scraps of background paper that otherwise would’ve gone to the dump. So sit back, hit play, and watch this shoot unfold.

Lindsay’s Thought Process

It should be a no-brainer, but careful pre-shoot planning and visualization are essential to a successful photoshoot. Before even shooting one frame, Lindsay considered the shape, texture, and color of the dress and then built the set and lighting based on her observations. She also found a model that complemented the dress perfectly. The dress, made from a now discontinued Soft Gray seamless background from Savage Universal, contrasted brilliantly against the model’s skin. To make the dress pop even more, Lindsay used a darker gray seamless paper backdrop, also from Savage, called Fashion Gray. On top of all that, the dress consisted of three pieces: a skirt, a top, and a versatile neckpiece that shifted its way around the model’s body for an assortment of looks.

Speaking about the dress, Lindsay said, “What’s really great about how this was constructed is there’s a lot of flexibility. So that neckpiece collar, we can have come off the shoulder [or] back around the head… so I’ll probably play around with that to give me a little bit more visual variety.”

If you’re familiar with Lindsay’s work, you’ll know that she’s no stranger to creating bold, bright, and colorful photographs. But the DIY seamless paper dress called for a different look. “The shot doesn’t benefit from a bright colored background or any visual distractions,” Lindsay explained. “So a fashion gray would be nice and clean and a little bit darker so the subject would pop out from the background.”

Fashion stylist putting a model in a paper dress for a photoshoot.
Stylist and paper dress designer, Jennifer Daniels (left), adjusting the moveable neckpiece. The dress is constructed from discarded scraps of seamless background paper in “Soft Gray.” The backdrop behind the model is a darker toned “Fashion Gray” to add contrast against the dress.

Starting with One Light: A Profoto D2 + Extra Large Umbrella with Diffusion

A master at pre-visualizing her scene, Lindsay knew exactly where she wanted to add light to enhance the texture and shape of the dress as well as the model’s features. Because of this, she made a conscious decision to light from the side.

According to Lindsay, “What’s interesting about this [dress] is it has a lot of texture and a beautiful shape. And so I’m going to have the light a little bit off to the side so it rakes across and creates a little bit of sculpting on [it].”  

Profoto D2 lighting setup for fashion shoot.
Creating a big, soft light source by setting a Profoto D2 to camera left with a diffused, extra large umbrella. 

Here’s Lindsay’s test shot with one light:

Professional model  in couture paper dress.
Test shot with one large diffused light to camera left and no reflector on camera right.

“By moving the light off to the side of the frame, it’s raking across the structure and it gives it depth. And it makes it really, really beautiful,” Lindsay said.

It’s a competent shot, but the shadow side of the model was too dark for Lindsay’s taste. “So what I’m going to do is I’m going to introduce a V-Flat,” Lindsay said. “In this instance, we’re using a V-Flat World V-Flat. It’s a white reflector; a big white V-Flat. It’s going to catch all that light and just lift the shadows a little bit so they aren’t so dark and heavy.”

Shooting with One Profoto D2 + Diffusion and a White V-Flat

Because it’s set off to the side, the D2 creates a main light that wraps around the model, creating a light-to-dark gradient that sculpts the model’s angles and curves. Set opposite the D2, the V-Flat reflects just enough light to keep all the sculpting from the D2, but without the shadows looking pure black like they did before.

Photographer Lindsay Adler at work on fashion shoot in studio.
Lindsay Adler, shooting with one Profoto D2 with diffusion and a white V-Flat to bounce light.
Side by side model photos with and without v-flat.
Side-by-side comparison with and without the V-Flat.
Fashion portrait close-ups showing facial shadows with and without V-Flat.
A closer look at the facial shadows with and without the V-Flat.

Taking It a Step Further

If Lindsay wanted to leave the photo as is, with one light and a reflector, the photo would be completely fine. But… why leave it completely fine when you can take it beyond fine and into the realm of mesmerizing and jaw-dropping?

Reviewing her current image, Lindsay says, “I don’t have to make any modifications. But looking at the dress, I think we could maybe mimic some of the textures and patterns onto the background.”

So she added a second strobe, another D2, to camera left, outfitted with an optical spot using a searchlight-patterned gobo and a 24-70 lens. An optical spot is a fun tool, used by many photographers, that projects shapes and patterns onto your scene. In this case, Lindsay used the searchlight gobo to cast radiating triangular shapes onto the backdrop, mimicking the shapes on the paper dress.

Optical spot light set up in photography studio.
The Westcott Optical Spot by Lindsay Adler with a 24-70 lens.
Searchlight gobo, photography tool to create triangular shapes.
Lindsay and the searchlight gobo, which projects radiating triangular shapes when placed inside the optical spot.
Projecting triangular shapes on a photography backdrop using an optical spot.
Projecting designs onto the backdrop with the use of an optical spot.
Fashion model photoshoot setup.
BTS of the DIY paper dress fashion shoot with a main light, V-Flat, and an optical spot projecting on the backdrop.

If you’re not familiar with the Westcott Optical Spot by Lindsay Adler, it’s a versatile tool that adds to your creativity in ways that other light modifiers can’t. Because of the lens on the front as well as the leaves, the optical spot gives you precision control over the light so you can focus, blur, and slice it any way you want. Add gels and gobos for dazzling and inventive images. With 25 gels and nearly 30 gobos made for the Westcott optical spot, the creative possibilities are endless.

And don’t forget that you can change your camera settings to shoot at a different aperture, which also affects the clarity of the background.

Model wearing a stunning DIY paper dress.
DIY paper dress and model with an optical spot projecting a background pattern to mimic the dress design.

Lindsay shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8 using a Canon EOS R5 with the Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS lens to allow for flexibility in focal length. “I’m shooting at f/8,” Lindsay says, “because at this point I don’t need the background to be out of focus. I actually think it’s interesting having a little bit of that sharpness there.”

Final Images of the DIY Seamless Background Paper Dress

Two professional images of a model wearing a beautiful dress made out of paper.

Ravishing, darling. 

We’ve had the privilege of following along with Lindsay and collaborating with her over the years. She’s highly skilled with countless accolades and awards to her name, yet Lindsay is refreshingly humble and gracious to everyone around her. 

Super nice work, Lindsay. We love the video!

Watch Our Collaboration with Lindsay as She Duels It Out with Dani Diamond in “Photography Wars”


Camera: Canon EOS R5

Lens: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS

Lights & Modifiers: Profoto D2, Westcott Optical Spot, V-Flat

Get Connected

Photographer: Lindsay Adler 

Stylist, Paper Dress Designer: Jennifer Daniels 


Watch How Other Photographers Create Using Optical Spots and Gobos:

Watch Manny Ortiz create a fake sunny outdoor portrait indoors with an optical spot.

See Hudi Greenberger play with shadow patterns and light gobos with food photography.

Learn how Jeff Carpenter uses an optical snoot to create a starburst pattern across his model’s face.

Wanna Learn More About Fashion Photography?

We’ve got over 100 videos on our Behind the Scenes page with tips and tricks for photographers and videographers of all genres. Learn how to light, shoot, and more.

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