Behind the scenes: Ria Meera Munshi

A few months ago I did a shoot with dancer, entrepreneur and world record holder Ria Meera Munshi. It was a really good shoot, and I’ve wanted to share the process for quite some time, so here we go.

The final image // Model: Ria Meera Munshi, MUA: Patrick Baston, Hair: Emma Hunt

I’ve known Ria off and on for a few years and I knew I really wanted to shoot with her. We started messaging about the idea of a shoot, and then I found this image of bollywood actress and model Chandrika Ravi:

Photography by ms_jankula, Hair by @theravenelise

The image really stuck with me, so I showed it to Ria and she really liked it.

This very much formed the basis of our shoot, and (more or less) was the main source material.

I’m drawn to it because first of all, it’s black and white. You don’t really see a great deal of black and white bollywood images, just because they lend themselves to colour so much. With all the bright golds and reds, I was really interested in creating something a bit more stripped back. You also see it in the lighting — this looks like it’s been lit by one large softbox, rather than the harsh lighting you see in a lot of asian photography.

This was the main image we were seeking to recreate, then kind of moving from there into other stuff.

For the makeup I brought on Patrick Baston. I knew Patrick through a friend — and he was keen to be involved in the project. You should look at Patrick’s work, it’s excellent (all links etc are at the bottom of this post).

Patrick was also able to bring on Emma Hunt to do hair. This was the first time I’d worked with Emma, and she was great. Again, I’ve linked her at the bottom.

Lighting-wise I knew I was going for a one light setup, at 45 degrees throughout, trying to get the softbox as close to Ria as possible without it being in shot. The purpose of this was to create very soft light that gently illuminated her. I also had recently got a hold of a few strip lights that I wanted to test to out give some really interested catch lights.

Styling was something Ria and I spoken about a lot, and with the stripped back nature of the shoot, the clothes were very important. In the original image, Chandrika is wearing a simple sari in a non-traditional way, with some lovely signature jewelry. So Ria sent me some examples of what she had.

Some of Ria’s saris and jewellry.

We picked out a few, along with some jewellery, and I set to work planning a few extra shots, and working out what we would actually be doing. I also sent out a call sheet, which is something I like to do for shoots, so MUAs, Stylists, Assistants — basically anyone who is involved knows what they’re going to be doing on the day.

Emma (standing) working on Ria’s hair and Patrick (kneeling) applying makeup.

Here’s a selection of the shots straight out of camera:

As you can see, the shots don’t look great in colour. The colours all clash, they look a little dull… not good. Also we completely canned the first look in the end — it just was not good on camera.

Once we convert to black and white, they come alive:

Click to make ‘em bigger.

I took them into photoshop to really get them going and I’ve even made a couple of gifs to show the before/after process.

Before and after.

And here are some of the final images.

Model: Ria Meera Munshi | @ririsdanceacad | ririsdanceacademy.co.uk

Photography: Drew Forsyth | @_drewforsyth | drewforsyth.com

Makeup: Patrick Baston | @pbastonmakeup | patrickbaston.format.com

Hair: Emma Hunt | @emmahairhunt

Thank you for reading,

Drew