2 strobes…1 model.. and some perspex

Attended a little free session at park cameras today run by Olympus and Gavin Hoey in which we looked at the merits of small strobes, in this case the battery powered godox ad200.

Simple to set up and remarkably effective

And the result…

Great option for this style of image.

Transformation of self

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 3

It suddenly struck me during a headache induced lay down thinking session that I could in fact interpret the theme of this project as one of self transformation, not necessarily myself but any person in general. Not only that but the images could in fact not be needed to show an actual material change or transformation, the images could be those of a place that has prompted a change in a persons thinking or mental state.

An example from a personal point of view. A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression brought on by a lack of a certain hormone in my system, rather than take pills for this I decided that my therapy and drug of choice would be to go walking in the local park out amongst nature. So it is entirely possible that I could take images in a park and link that to a transformation of my mental state and character, because less than a year later my depression had ceased to affect me even half as much, Now this would require text as a narrative to help the viewer but its doable and something to discuss in class.

Conceptually showing the journey from Depressive to non depressive or vice versa may be another avenue to look at. Showing the story in images that could be interpreted in that way would be a challenge and something I’ll have to look at in a but more research as it would be a narrative.

There is a photographer called Edward Honaker who documented his depression and anxiety issues in a series of images which for me definitely show a transforming mind descending into a darker place and struggling with that change.

He said of the project,

Mental health disorders are such a taboo topic. If you ever bring it up in conversation, people awkwardly get silent, or try to tell you why it’s not a real problem. When I was in the worst parts of depression, the most helpful thing anyone could have done was to just listen to me – not judging, not trying to find a solution, just listen. I’m hoping that these images will help open up conversation about mental health issues. Everyone is or will be affected by them one way or another, and ignoring them doesn’t make things better.”

In contrast there is the possibility to try and take images of people that have had a major transformation in a material way, obviously some more easy to come by than others. perhaps old aged people holding a youthful image of themselves, transgender or injured people who have lost limbs or function somehow. I must say I’m not entirely comfortable to shoot these sorts of images and not even sure if its possible to access such subjects.

Weight loss and body transformation is another way of showing a constant transformation in the right circumstances but due to time constraints this isn’t a great idea.

Finally I thought hang on…. what about transformation of myself from a level 1 photographer to a level 3 one. Including work from the last 3 years it I feel that’s cheating a little 🙂


Portrait Final choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

Just like in my still life we were tasked with taking a portrait image which draws inspiration from classical art, of course my mind immediately went blank and panic set in. Alexa, Sylvia and I decided that a trip to the national gallery was in order to actually view the types of Images we were to draw our inspiration from. Upon looking around the centuries of art in the halls I began to draw the conclusion that I wanted to follow my line of thought that I had with my Vanitas and do something broadly similar. I came across several Momento Mori style portraits and some portraits of monks in prayer and had an idea of what I wanted to do. Again I wanted to draw my inspiration from the paintings not simply replicate them.


Some of the images I looked at during my research. Like like the Chiaroscuro lighting in some of these images and wanted to do something low key as I love that effect and look in images. The creation and appearance of something coming from the dark.


My initial idea was to do a momento mori portrait with Skull to tie in with my Vanitas as a common theme. I had noticed this running through several of the artworks I had seen in the gallery. With this in mind I ordered a large black cloak for my model to wear and obviously already had the skull from my still life. Just like with my Vanitas Still Life I wanted to give a nod to the portrait I had seen without replicating or imitating to much.


With this portrait task I decided that I wanted to do a much darker portrait and very much different to the norm. I wanted to not show the models face or at least only show part of it but leave enough in the Image that you knew someone was there. Again I tried several lighting approaches and schemes in the college studio and at home using speedlights and I really wanted a low key image and some separation from the black background similar to a Chiaroscuro effect I had in mind. I chose to rim light and feather the model to create this effect and feather the light onto the skull so that it only had minimal lighting so as not to overpower the image.


Initially I set the scene up in a small room with white walls, this was a mistake as no matter how low I put my flashes there was light bouncing all over the room due to the reflective qualities of the walls. I did a few test shots and quickly decied to use a large black surface behind my model to dampen some of the reflections which helped alot.

I used the 2 speedlights with snoots to help narrow the light as much as possible to pinpoint the shoulders and head and accentuate the skull somewhat. The test shots below show that initially I used the speedlights behind my model and at around 45 degree angle to the model facing away from the background. I quickly found that whilst this gave a great rimlight effect no light at all fell on the skull or the models face.



I then decided that directing the light toward the model from either side was a much better way of doing what I had in mind, It allowed me to not only light the model with a rim light effect but also to direct enough light on to the skull and a little on the models face so that the hood wasn’t just a black shape, I wanted you to know there was someone in there. I feel I have managed to give a nice nod of my head to Saint Francis in Meditation by Francisco de Zurban whilst making the image my own interpretation of this artwork.





For the portrait I chose a Fotospeed signature Cotton Etching 305 which is a 100% cotton Acid Free Fine Art paper with a white base. The surface has an slight etching texture which helps accentuate detail and gives a depth to your image.

Cotton Etching 305 uses the latest coating technology resulting in a wide colour gamut and pin sharp detail. Developing this paper with Doug Chinnery was such a pleasure as he understands not only his images but how a paper enhances them in a way a screen just can’t. We are thrilled to have Doug Chinnery on board as a Signature Photographer.”

I found this paper to be an excellent choice for the portrait as it wasn’t overly textured and had a nice smooth feel but being a cotton based media it held the ink well and had very nice black reproductions and sharp edges to the image. You can view the paper information HERE


Again as with my still life, I am extremely happy and proud of the way the overall image came out. I Love the lighting I have managed to create and the ambiance and atmosphere through the use of the snoots and finding the correct angle to just highlight the models face and give a little light to the skull. I have had a good reception to the image and even been asked for it on a canvas by a friend as she loves the image and the general feel of the work. Had I done anything differently I would maybe try some different approaches to the face and vary the lighting to see how they turned out, but overall I am extremely happy with the final image and print quality and how deep the blacks are.

Portrait Selection

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So the time has come to pare down my shots and although I think I have already chosen my final portrait, Here are a few of the images I took in the build up to the shoot as practice and some I considered as the final choice. I have left some unedited so the difference between studio outcome and final shot can be seen as the difference after editing is a stark. Contrast to the out of camera raw images as always.

The difference between shots in the college studio using the powerful flashes and those taken at home with speedlights is quite surprising too, the college images seem to have highlighted a hell of a lot of dust in the air which looks like stars and is actually quite pleasant. Though the studio may need a little cleaning.

Hopefully you can see my thought process in trying to get the image darker and to help direct the light accordingly. I think I have made some great progress during the term in working with studio lighting and speedlights and hope this continues in my future photography.

My Still life/portrait process

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

After initially deciding on a subject for the still life or portrait image you have in mind it then falls to composition. How do you want the subject posed or objects arranged, do they need a specific arrangement or just to be placed randomly. Is there a story or some message in the composition or do certain objects need to be in the foreground of the shot.

Test composition
Test composition

Once you have decided on your Composition it is time to decide how to light the scene and which direction, strength and type of light you want to fall on the subject/objects. This is where a rough lighting process can be used.

After deciding and testing what focal length to use, the correct aperture for the scene and setting your camera to the chosen flash sync speed you can move onto a workflow for deciding on your final lighting scheme.

1 – Decide or test what type of light you want whether hard light, soft light. Do you want to try imitating a specific type of light like window or natural light. What modifiers could you use to get a chosen effect.

2 – Decide or test how many lights you want to illuminate your scene. Do you want 1 sole light from a certain direction (key light) or would you need to add some more (fill lights) to highlight a particular part or provide a certain approach such as back lighting or rim lighting the objects. Do you need to have a spotlight or reflector to give some light into a shadowy spot.

3 – Using your preferred type of light first either meter the scene or test your exposure at your chosen f-stop to check for a well exposed overall key light. This is the most important part to getting your first light set and can be done using a light meter or test shots.

4 – Begin to add fill lights to the scene testing the power and coverage of each one as you add them to make sure the scene remains as you would want it to be and that the light isn’t spilling into areas you don’t want it to.

5 – Adjust all lights and light modifiers to taste and take an exposure. Look over the image and see if you are getting the correct light into the places you want it and adjust or add more light to get to where you want the scene to be.

6 – Take your images and adjust and correct lighting, exposure or composition to match your ideas and be prepared to change those ideas if you discover a new way of doing something.

I used the process above to decide how I wanted to light both my portrait and still life shots for this term. I feel quite happy and confident in the studio now with selecting modifiers and adjusting settings and positions of light. During the term I helped several fellow students to select, position and set light power correctly for their projects and I believe this had helped greatly in our mutual understanding of the process involved.

Young Man Holding a Skull – Frans Hals

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,4

Thinking more about our studio Portrait task and varying the previous darker images I have seen of monks in prayer, like below,

I have been considering doing something along the same lines as the Vanitas still life I am Planning. Why not try to have a common theme between the portrait and studio tasks and perhaps even the cruel and tender part.

I saw the image below at the National Gallery on a trip and was Intrigued by the pose more than anything else. The man reaching from the canvas seemingly mid speech or conversation, gesturing to an unseen audience yet looking lost in thought.

The artist Frans Hals was born in Antwerp around 1582. His family were forced to leave their home and flee to Haarlem during the siege of Antwerp by Spanish troops. Hals studied under the Mannerist painter, Karel van Mander. In 1609 he became a member of the city’s painter’s union and society, the Haarlem Guild of St Luke and began to earn a living by working for the town council as an art restorer.

Unlike his fellow artists of the time he demanded that his patrons came to him rather than for him to leave his family and travel the country to seek out patronage and make his fortune. Frans Hals died in Haarlem in 1666, aged 84 with very little to show financially for his artistic career. He had been penniless on many occasions and had often been taken to court by his creditors. Left destitute, the town council had little choice but to subsidise him for the last two years of his life.

This painting is entitled Young Man Holding a Skull (Vanitas) and was painted by Frans Hals between 1626 and 1628. On first sight I immediately thought of the scene from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet when Hamlet was seen holding the skull of Yorick in the graveyard of Elsinore.

For many play and theatre buffs this scene is a lasting favourite and remains one of the most memorable images of the melancholy Prince. The play was first performed in 1600 so maybe Hals based his painting on that very scene. But art historians cannot agree and many believe it is much more likely to be a Dutch Vanitas allegory.

Vanitas paintings feature an object (or objects) which symbolises our own mortality and the fact that life is short and reminds us of the transient nature of all our earthly pleasures and achievements.

The Vanitas paintings are meant as a warning and ask us, the viewers, to think about death . The inclusion of a skull in a painting was a typical motif of a Vanitas and Momento Mori painting.

However this is more than just a Vanitas painting. In front of us we have a boy holding a skull. His rosy cheeks, similar in colour to his lips, give him a youthful appearance. His right hand reaches towards us as he gestures. You can see how the artist has skillfully shortened his arm and hand in such a way that it seems to be bursting out of the canvas towards us. In his left hand is the skull, glowing in comparison to the darkness of the boy’s palm and clothes.

The light comes from the left hand side of the painting causing a dark shadow on one side of the boy’s face. This should be relatively easy to replicate with studio lighting using barn doors and snoot to highlight the skull against the slightly darker figure.

The painter was famous for his style. He worked quickly, often painting “wet on wet”. Wet-on-wet is a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint. This technique requires a fast way of working, because the art work has to be finished before the first layers have dried. This technique results in vibrant swirls of semi-blended colour. Van Gogh admired this technique and wrote:

….eyes, nose, mouth done with a single stroke of the brush without any retouching whatever,,,,, To paint in one rush, as much as possible in one rush…..I think a great lesson taught by the old Dutch masters is the following: to consider drawing and colour [as one]….”

This is an interesting portrait. There is a beautiful simplicity about it but let us not overlook the skill of the artist who has given us such a work of art which certainly gets you thinking about the circumstance behind the pose and the meaning behind the image.

Now I must look at how to light this and perhaps reimagine the scheme and pose yet take inspiration for a scene without being a direct copy of the original which, I think, would be impossibly hard to match the nuance and beauty of the original.


Daily art display


National gallery

Studio Safety and legality

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So this week Alexa and Sylvia were shooting their projects in the studio and I was helping move lighting, tables and studio gear, so now is probably the time to talk studio safety and good practice.

When working in the studio you should always ensure you observe any studio rules concerning safety and equipment usage and check insurance coverage on the studio and yourself for any potential issues or breakages.

All lighting should be electrically checked for safe use and you should keep in mind that there may be cables or overhead rigging that could easily be a trip hazard or need secured above head height when not in use.

Liquids, food and non essential items should be out of the way well away from props and bags and such should be secured and stored away.

When you have finished using the studio items they should be stored and unplugged or turned of at any safety switches.

Whilst in use you should observe any instructions and safety guides that may come with the lighting and keep well away from water if you are using it. Lights and modifiers become very hot during use and you must be careful not to handle the hot surfaces without protection.

Studio backdrops and paper rolls should be secured and wound up when not in use and whilst you are using them they should be firmly taped down to the surface or to the floor to avoid becoming a trip hazard or loose on tables.

Always bear your surroundings in mind when stepping around the studio taking care with your equipment not to bang people or objects that may be behind you.

When your shoot is finished and you are leaving the studio tidy everything away and keep lighting stored in its correct position on the overhead rigging, replace modifiers on hooks on walls and replace any tables backdrops and items to their storage.

Legal and Copyright.

When shooting any models in your studio or any property you may be shooting for commercial or publication use you need to ensure a model release form is obtained and signed by the model. A model release form is a legal document between you and the model or the person who owns the property you’re photographing. It is their written permission allowing you to sell the work or publish the image on your website. There are many places to obtain templates and model release form to be customized online and you can detail your own terms and payments on these forms.

Copyright lies with the photographer who produced the images.

More studio practice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

Following our Introduction to Short and Broad lighting in the studio which I have recapped HERE, We set up some lights and took a few shots to practice the techniques including a Karsh Style shot or 2. The following are a few images showing broad, short and a Rembrandt esque Broad light shot. CK was our willing model as always.

I felt these type of shots work best in black and white so did a little editing to darken the backdrop which in some was a bit to well lit and couldn’t be adequately balanced with exposure and shadow.

I also tried one in colour as we managed to get that nicely balanced in image I just needed to bring the eye up a Tad as the hat was not helping with the lighting as it definitely caused shadows and a little to much darkening of the area.

I am happy overall with the results and it may well be a technique I use on the main Portrait submission as the image I have in mind would work quite well with these lighting techniques with a little adapting and perhaps a spot or 2 of reflected light to bring up some areas once I have had a chance to examine how the shoot goes.

Short and Broad Lighting

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

This week we discussed two more lighting styles for studio lighting which can be used alone or combined with others to create effective and creative lighting for portraits. I will blog my results form this week seperately but thought I would add descriptions of these 2 lighting styles to the blog first.
Broad and short lighting describes two styles of lighting that can be very useful when shooting headshots in portrait photography. Essentially, the difference is which side of the face is lit by the key (main) light.

The 2 styles are relatively simple and easily achieved by just turning the subject, in some cases just leaving the lighting where it is and altering the direction of subject and reflector if used can achieve much different results as below.

Short Lighting

  • The shadowed side of the face is closest to the camera.
  • It is great for making faces look longer and more slender.
  • The ideas of what is beautiful change in various countries, but for many, a long slender face is considered more attractive than a round, wider one.
  • If your model’s face is wide, round, or heavy, you can use short lighting to visually slim it down.

Broad Lighting

  • If your subject’s face is already very narrow and short lighting could overemphasise it . In this case, use broad lighting. Depending on the depth of shadow, angles, and so on, it will visually eliminate the too thin look.
  • Another good use for broad lighting is if the model has a facial feature they don’t want to show up in the photo—like one eye is bigger than the other, a scar, whatever—use a broad lighting pattern and put the area they don’t like in the shadow.
  • With a broad lighting pattern the shadow will be to the rear and the added distance from the lens will further visually minimize areas that are not so photogenic.