• Felicia Mariah

Red Water | Darkroom Shoot

Lately what has been keeping me awake are projects that challenge me. This was definitely one of them.

This is one of the first shots we got of Brett when we were testing lighting. We quickly moved from this high-contrast look since Brett wanted something a little more subtle for his cover and we only had an hour to work with (or so we thought). There were a ton of unknown variables to adjust to. But, after everything, this is still one of my favorite shots!


It was a week prior that he had come to me with the idea of a darkroom in mind. Never having stepped into a real darkroom myself, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was just excited that this opportunity came up because, although I love taking headshots, I’ve been wanting to play in the more “narrative” realm of photography. After hearing the song he is releasing, ‘Red Water’, I thought, HOW PERFECT!

As I started researching Youtube videos on what the process of working in a darkroom was, I started getting really jazzed up about the idea. I used unsplash.com to find some free stock images (seriously, this place is heaven if you haven’t checked it out yet), searching a few different keywords that I felt matched the vibe of the song. I ended up converting them over to black and white and then printing them off at a nearby Walgreens. They weren’t necessary or requested, but they definitely added a little extra flair! In the meantime, Brett booked us a nice little inexpensive darkroom rental at Brooklyn Community Darkroom (BCD) and we were ready!


Our biggest issue was the light, which you can really see the struggle in a few test images below. From the videos I saw, it seemed that darkroom lighting by itself would work. However, BCD was a lot dimmer than I was expecting and more of a yellow color. I’m sure this is fine for proper darkroom use, but we definitely needed more. Luckily, I brought along two light stands with LED bulbs that I use as continuous lighting for my vlogs (remember those?). I also got a small strip of red gel from a local art store prior to the shoot. I didn’t think I was going to need it, so I only got one. But man, did I wish I had two!


We started going for less contrast, first by backing up the only LED I had on with the red gel. As you can see, it was just WAY too dark.

To separate Brett from the darkness of the background, I wanted to backlight him and add some fill for the room. As I stated before, I’m the silly girl that bought only one small gel for two lights. So, we experimented with some pink cellophane that BCD had lying around. Thank goodness I had Karina along with me for this, since she was such a fabulous assistant! (Can you come to all of my photoshoots please? Thanks. (: )

As soon as we flipped the switch on that baby, we saw it was WAY too pink! But, we knew we were in the right direction as far as intensity goes. We added a blue gel that BCD also had. (I promise that is the last of the colors.)

Too cool this time. We gave it one more try by removing a layer of blue.

We couldn’t fully get rid of the pink color, but we got to a happy medium and started shooting away! I realized in post that I could adjust those magenta colors in Photoshop Raw to a much closer red, which made the processing round a lot easier than expected!

There you have a final processed photo! This one didn’t get any detailed editing and is still a proof, but you can see the final tone for comparison purposes.


This was just such an incredibly fun shoot to play with! Much different than my normal natural lighting headshot setup. I hope this helps anyone else planning on shooting in a dark room. I may return there for another fun shoot. This time, with many more gels!

Be sure to check out Brett Miller Music’s new single ‘Red Water’ (ft. SAZE) dropping on 4.20! Spotify | Youtube
Shot at Brooklyn Community Darkroom - super chill, inexpensive darkroom in Bushwick for those of you who actually know what they are doing :)
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© 2017 by Felicia Mariah Photography.