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Colorful Portraits with Powder Paint

Updated on July 9, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Used by permission
Used by permission | Source

There are many ways to enhance a photography portraits. From creative makeup, creative garments to using dry powder paint. In the later case dry powder is literally thrown at the model while the photographer snaps the picture.

This can often be a trial and error practice since you will probably need to repeat the process of throwing the powder a few times before you get usable results.

Before you start getting ideas that you would like to conduct this particular theme be aware that you need a large enough space where you can function properly. This includes the model, an assistant, space for your flash units or lights and for you.

You may also need tarps to cover nearby structures or items that you want to keep free of paint dust but this is often not needed if you uses an open space.

The best scenario would be to do this at night in an open area like an indoor garage or even a basketball court. Don't worry because this dry powder paint is biodegradable and washes off quite easily.

There are quite a few "recipes" for doing your own dry powder paint or you can buy some specifically meant for the activity. If you go commercial and buy your own, start by doing a search for Holi festival paint. A 10 pack can run about $20.

This is what is typically used in the Holi festival in India and it is usually made from 100% natural materials such as rice flour and spices. But if you want to do your own you will need flour/cornstarch and food coloring.

Simply mix cornstarch/flour with food coloring and water, use a blender to get them to mix real well. Let this dry at room temperature for about 2-3 days. Once the mixture is dry enough, preheat the oven to about 180 or 300 degrees, shut the oven off, place the mixture in the oven (on a baking dish) and let stand with the oven door slightly open for about 30 minutes.

This will get rid of any remaining moisture since the mixture needs to be completely dry before you use it. Any mixture that has some moisture in it will more than likely be sticky and hard to wash off.

After the mixture is completely dry, run the mix through your blender again to get a fine mixture.

You can also use sidewalk chalk sticks and crush them to a fine powder but many of these chalks might not be so environmentally friendly as the cornstarch/flour mix.

Edit to comply with TOS
Edit to comply with TOS | Source

Your setup includes at least three light sources; two to illuminate the back of the model and serve to backlight the powder and one for the model which is placed slightly to one side and in front.

Make sure to provide a garment for the model so she or he won't use their own.

Although most photographers like to use a prime lens in the range of 55mm to 80mm, I like to use a zoom so that I can stay far away from the model and avoid getting the paint dust on the lens and camera.

Willing to try this?

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The whole idea is to capture the moment when the powder paint hits the model and bursts in all directions.

Simply photographing a model with paint dust is not enough.

The project gets its "excitement" from the effect of the powder paint crashing into the model and its secondary burst of colors.

Have the assistant stand to the back and side of the model and "trow" the dry paint. Using hands works fine but better if your assistant uses both hands to hold a cup in each and throws them (the powder not the at the same time. Make sure to crop the image to avoid capturing the assistant.

This is the easiest way and works just as well as any other mechanical methods.

Besides doing this project for personal reason, keep in mind that these photos can enhance your portfolio, be used for clients who want something different and for photo related publications.

Another good posing method is to have the model shake her hair like in some of the photos and video shown here.

There are many reasons to photograph but doing so just for the sake of doing so is just as good as any other reason.

The idea is to have fun doing something that you like and learning new techniques and ways along the way of capturing images that are out of the ordinary. Edited to comply with TOS Edited to comply with TOS | Source

As you will see in the link following the body of the article you do not need to uses dry powder paint at all. If you want you can use talcum powder. It works just as well, it's safe, biodegradable and low cost.

The only drawback is that it comes in only one color but if you don't mind this is an excellent alternative to other colored mixtures. By the way, flour works well too!

One simpler way of doing the technique is to "bathe" the model in the mixture regardless of what it's composed of, especially on the hair, and have her jump or make brisk movements like dancing and so on.

Make sure that she is posed against a dark backdrop and that you have at least two photo lamps; one as a backlight and one to one side and front of your model. | Source

© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      alancaster149: Thank you. Yes that shot is great and you really could do it almost anywhere that is open or if you don't mind getting dry powder on it. It is also a great fit for things like dance or even sport figures.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Dramatic stuff, Luis. This is pure theatre, isn't it. You'd need a David Bailey or Terence Donovan for it to really work well. (I wouldn't even start, although as I said it's dramatic).

      l Iike the black girl with the (white or silver) powder backlit against the black background. The sort of thing you could do in front of an open garage door - if you had a garage.