Photography model Yollanda Musa is interviewed by photographer Ian Trayner

Model Yollanda Musa interviewed by Ian Trayner

Yollanda Musa talks candidly about modelling

This post includes a candid interview with photography model Yollanda Musa (at the bottom there is a link to download Yollanda’s “app” which includes a link to a special model portfolio offer from myself).

As a photographer I work with many models

As a professional photographer I deliberately keep my work varied. Most of my work is family photography (ie families, children, maternity, babies and dogs) but I also do commercial photography and some fashion photography.

In the course of my work I meet quite a few models. I don’t think it is possible to generalise about models, but I am somewhat fascinated with what motivates people to become models.  I prefer to be less visible, so I would find being a model very challenging indeed.

I want to do a series of occasional interviews with models who are happy to talk to us. That is to say models who are willing to give us an insight into what their work involves. I am very pleased to say that Yollanda Musa is the first model who has agreed to be interviewed for Circle of Life Photography.

Yollanda Musa is one of my favourite photography models

We all have “favourite people”, and Yollanda Musa is one of mine. We have collaborated on a number of photo shoots. Yollanda is very beautiful (with the caveat that beauty is always in the eye of the beholder) but she is also honest, caring and modest, and she has a very professional work ethic. A successful model’s personality and nature really are just as important (in my opinion) as what they look like.

“Pandora’s Box” photo shoot

I first met Yollanda Musa on a photo shoot organised by Samantha at PortraitX.  Samantha asked me to do an interpretation of the theme “Pandora’s Box”, and the resulting images were published in Secret Eden Magazine. You can read a blog post about the Pandora’s Box photo shoot elsewhere in my blog.

Model Yollanda Musa is interviewed by photographer Ian Trayner

I saw Yollanda’s potential immediately and I invited her to model for me on a photo shoot that was inspired by the film “Battleship” – or more specifically her role was inspired by the character in the film played by Rihanna. Since then Yollanda Musa and I have worked together on a number of photo shoots.

Interview with Yollanda Musa

Yollanda, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us. My first question is why did you become a model?

My initial interest in modelling came from watching America’s Next Top Model.  This is a reality TV series that gives you an insight into the models personalities, as the models are filmed behind the scenes and in the models house. The models on the show are hard-working, and determined “go getters” just like me. So this really inspired me.

A key moment for me was when the models were asked to face challenges such as cutting their hair. The models’ passion to succeed meant they were willing to take on this challenge.

I have always loved taking on a challenge. For example at school I struggled with maths, so to challenge myself I chose to study an Economics degree, knowing very well that I would have to complete modules with advanced maths. The thought of tackling this challenge excited me and my greatest achievement was attaining a 2:1 degree in Economics.

After graduating in 2014, I decided to also take on the challenge of pursuing a modelling career despite doubts I had about being “too short” and not standing out in a saturated industry.

I was inspired to apply for a UK modelling reality series called Born to Model UK which was similar to America’s Next Top Model and this was one my first proper modelling experience. I was the shortest model on this series and I reached the top 5. I am really proud of this achievement and this was the start of my journey as a petite model.

How has modelling influenced your self confidence, your self esteem, and anything else relevant?

My journey as a model has been about facing challenges and with this my confidence has grown. Public speaking is something I used to hate. I used to hate delivering presentations at university or even answering questions in class. I participated in my first beauty pageant in 2015 and delivered a speech on empowering women through education and enterprise. I really surprised myself by going up on stage and delivering this speech with confidence. My friends and family could not believe this was shy Yolly on stage!

I have also gone on to model swimwear. I decided to do this because I lacked confidence in my body shape growing up. My first experience modelling swimwear was at the Miss Pride of Africa UK beauty pageant in 2015. I did a lot of research to find the right swimwear to match my bodyshape. This was really important as choosing the right swimwear meant I felt comfortable and looked confident on stage.

Do you enjoy doing the modelling? What are the things you like most and dislike most? (your answer may address different kinds of modelling)

I enjoy fitness shoots the most as I have always been passionate about sport and keeping fit.

I did a Battleship movie-inspired shoot with a fitness theme with photographer Ian Trayner. [Ian writes; Yollanda’s role in the photo shoot was inspired by a character played by Rihanna in the film – young, small, feminine and tough. I split this shoot into two blogs posts which you can find here and here] This was my first fitness themed shoot. The results from this shoot were amazing and really highlighted that I was well suited to do fitness shoots. The images really showed off my toned body and I received such positive feedback from people saying I was in great shape and should model for brands like Nike or Adidas. I realised that the modelling industry is actually quite diverse and I found a category of modelling that is well suited for my body shape.

Model Yollanda Musa is interviewed by photographer Ian Trayner

 

 

Model Yollanda Musa is interviewed by photographer Ian TraynerMy least favourite thing about modelling is the long waiting hours. In particular at fashion shows where sometimes you arrive at 10am for a show starting at 7pm. Makeup and rehearsals take up the most part of the day. I have learnt to use this time effectively by using this time to network and take behind-the-scenes material for social media.

Model Yollanda Musa photographed by Ian Trayner, photographer in Kingston upon Thames

Can you give us a list of awards and things you have won please?

I was nominated for Petite Model of the Year and Hardworking Star of the Year at DC Hotshots Awards.

I was nominated for Social Media Influencer of the Year at The Black Awards 2018.

I won Miss Hertfordshire 2017 Sports Award.

I won a Woman of Purpose Award in 2017.

I won the Miss Pride of Africa UK 2015 Southern Region Princess title.

I was a finalist in Top Model UK 2016 (Commercial Category).

Why do you enter these pageants etc?

My reasons for entering a pageant are different for each pageant as pageants usually have a mission statement unique to each pageant. I am often motivated to apply for a pageant based on how passionate I am about the mission statement.

Miss Swimsuit UK’s mission statement is to “Be Confident, Be Fun and Be You.” This motivated me to apply as the swimwear pageant encourages women to be confident in being themselves.

[Yollanda has her own blog, Diary of a 5 foot 2 Model where you can read more about her entry into Miss Swimsuit UK, 2019]

I understand that your original sponsor for Miss Swimsuit UK fell through for some reason, and that is why I stepped in at the last minute to sponsor you. I know that some people regard all beauty pageants, and swimsuit competitions in particular, to be degrading to women. But obviously many women want to participate, and presumably do not feel degraded by the process. I would welcome your thoughts on this?

I have never entered a swimwear competition before so this is a new experience for me. So many model castings have requirements for models of a particular height or size which restricts models from entering if they don’t meet those requirements. Miss Swimsuit UK welcomes women of all shapes and sizes as there are no restrictions on height, weight or body type. I find this empowering rather than degrading.

I would like to say a special thank you to my sponsor for this event Ian Trayner. Not only did Ian sponsor me; but we actually had a discussion prior to me submitting my application where Ian gave his expert opinion on my potential as a model and this motivated me to apply. It also helps when I review the swimwear images for the Afrokini swimwear shoot that I did with Ian which were amazing. I believe a strong portfolio has been a key accelerator in my progress.

Miss Swimsuit UK semi-finalist Yollanda Musa, photographed by Ian Trayner

What are your plans for the future? I mean in modelling, but you can expand to include life in general if you want. And how can someone contact you? 

I have a background in business development where I have developed marketing, networking and client management skills and used these skills to develop my modelling career. My goal is to set up a platform to connect business owners in the creative industry and support them with developing these essential business skills.

The best way to contact me is via email yollandamusa@outlook.com.

My website is coming soon so keep an eye on www.yollandamusa.com.

Please do also follow @YollandaMusa on Instagram , Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Linked In.

And subscribe to my blog to follow my journey as a model Diary of a 5ft 2 Model.

I have experience in marketing and business development so I collaborate with individuals and brands who are looking for promotion, or looking to be connected with other professionals in the industry.

I also provide mentoring for upcoming models. Specifically I have mentored a few models participating in beauty pageants or modelling competitions. [Ian has put together a special photography offer for aspiring models who need some high quality images for their portfolios – see the link to Yollanda Musa’s app below].

I also do hosting, backstage interviews and behind the scenes social media videos such as Instagram, Facebook live and snapchat for events. Get in touch yollandamusa@outlook.com if you need that added feature at your events.

Yollanda, thank you very much for talking to us. I am sure many people will find your experiences very interesting. Personally I am very impressed by the way you are willing to take on things that are difficult!

Download Yollanda Musa’s custom app with a special photography offer!

Ian and Yollanda have brought out “Yollanda Musa’s model app“. You can view it online or you can download it to your phone. Currently the app has;

  1. More photos of Yollanda Musa
  2. Yollanda Musa’s contact information
  3. A link to Yollanda Musa’s blog
  4. A link to a very special photography offer for aspiring models who want high quality images for their portfolios. This is an offer from Ian Trayner at Circle of Life Photography, based in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

The first time you open the app on a mobile phone you should be asked if you want to install the app, or just view it online. If you install the app it should update every time you open it (if you are connected to the web). I believe different types of phones handle the code slightly differently from each other.

Model Yollanda Musa is interviewed by photographer Ian Trayner

Commercial swimwear photo shoot

Commercial swimwear photo shoot

Swimwear photo shoot – Afrokini bikini

Our model for this swimwear photo shoot is the beautiful black model Yollanda Musa. She is wearing the “Gugu” style bikini made by swimwear brand “Afrokini“. Afrokini uses African-inspired colours and designs in it’s swimsuits. Hence it was very appropriate to use a black model for this swimwear photo shoot. I have worked with Yollanda Musa several times, and we have a very good professional working relationship.

Make up colour coordination

Make up was by Chesmi Rodrigo. We decided to coordinate the colour of Yollanda’s make up with the mauve colour on her bikini.Make up by Chesmi Rodrigo, photography by Ian Trayner in Kingston, model is Yollanda Musa

Bikini photo shoot for catalogue and promotion

This swimwear photo shoot was done in my studio in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. The aim was to start by taking fairly “standard” catalogue photographs of a beautiful black model wearing the bikini. And once we had these photos “in the bag”, to capture some more dramatic photographs for promotional purposes.

Shooting a black model in a bikini against a “white” background

I wanted to start by taking fairly standard catalogue style photos against a white background.  However Afrokini already has photos of a model wearing this bikini against a bright white background, and I did not want to repeat those. Therefore, although I used a plain white background in my studio, it appears darker because I did not shine light directly on it. When you use a white background in a photo studio, the degree of darkening is readily controlled by how much light you shine on it in the studio. The darkness of the white background can also be adjusted later in post production, ie on the computer using Photoshop. As a matter of fact I have increased the vignetting in the first photograph below in Photoshop.Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

How to use light to flatter the female body

I wanted to light my model in a way that is flattering to her body. Yollanda Musa is blessed with a very beautiful body (and face), and I wanted to really show her off. This is something I would naturally do with any client (commercial or private) who hires me for a beauty photo shoot, or a model experience photo shoot.

One of my specialities is lighting the human form to make it look good.

Notice how I have emphasised the beauty of Yollanda’s body by creating highlights and shadows that show her natural three dimensional shape.

Lighting with studio flash

For these first “black model in a bikini” photos (against the white background) I used two studio flash units;

The main (key) light was provided by a gridded soft box to the left of Yollanda (as you look at her) and slightly above her head height. I wanted the light source to be slightly higher than Yollanda’s head, but I also wanted it to shine into her eyes. As a general rule, you want a model’s eyes to be well lit for beauty photography.  Yollanda’s eyes are clearly visible, with a bright highlight. Notice how the highlights and shadows from this key light flatter Yollanda’s body. The soft box was relatively small, and was fitted with a grid. Thus the light is relatively directional. This also avoids excessive spill of light onto the white background.

The second light was a studio flash fitted with a tall gridded soft box. It was positioned behind Yollanda and to the right (as you look at the model). Notice how this helps to further enhance the “three dimensional quality” of Yollanda’s body. It gives a subtle silky sheen to her skin where it reflects off. In the photo above it also provides a slim rim light on her elbow that helps to separate Yollanda’s body from the background.

High heels help with the model’s posture

High heeled shoes are usually flattering – I think we all know this. But it isn’t just at the level of the feet – high heels change the overall posture, weight distribution, and muscular tension in  ways that are flattering. (I am not recommending high heels for any other purpose!)

But we don’t want the shoes to distract the eye away from the clothes

In the full length photo below, notice how Yollanda’s high heels do not distract the eye from the more important parts of the photo. In fact Yollanda’s shoes are almost invisible. From the point of view of the designer, the most important parts of the photo are those that show the clothes. In this case the model’s bikini.

If Yollanda’s shoes were black they would attract the eye (because of the extra contrast against the pale background). If her shoes were white they would look OK against a pale background, but they might be distracting to the eye if we had selected a dark background.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” about this. It is a matter of what is appropriate. But overall,  transparent high heels are “a good thing” from the point of view of photographic safety, and versatility.

Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

 

The power of dramatic lighting in a bikini photo shoot

Once we had a set of “safe” catalogue shots of our bikini in the bag, we wanted to capture some images that were a bit more dramatic for our swimwear photo shoot.

I decided to create images with a relatively high contrast, using dramatic rear lighting and strong colours. I decided to use “cold” blue and green coloured lights with a pale wig to give an “ice” effect. And I decided to use red lights and a black wig for a “fire” effect.

“Fire and ice” bikini images

“Ice” bikini photos

The key light on Yollanda is provided by a 21 inch beauty dish fitted with a grid. This is one of my favourite lighting modifiers. The key light is white, so as not to change the colours of the bikini – at least the top part.

Yollanda is lit from behind using three speedlights. Two are firing through blue gels, and one is firing through a green gel. I love what the coloured lights do to Yollanda’s hair against the black background, and I love the blue and green rim lights on her body. These help show off the curves of her profile. I have written about using coloured gels with flash photography in a previous blog post.

Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

 

Adding coloured mist to our bikini photos

I wanted to add more drama to our swimear photo shoot. I did this by using a water spray to catch and diffuse the coloured lights behind Yollanda.

This is very easy to do. All you need is a cheap spray bottle (such as you use for misting plants) and a means of co-ordinating the spray with firing the camera. I used a remote trigger to fire my camera, and sprayed the spray myself. But you can use an assistant to do the spray if you have one (and don’t have a remote camera trigger). Obviously you need a tripod or other stable support for your camera if the photographer has to do the spraying himself (or herself).

It is important to make sure you don’t spray your lights! If you are short of space you can put clear plastic bags over your flash units.

The water spray settles quite quickly with gravity, so you need to coordinate the spraying and shooting. You will find every shot is different from the one before, and you can play around for a while capturing images that are slightly different from each other. You will find some work much better than others.

If you go on for a while you can end up with a bottle worth of water on the studio floor too (I have a plastic paddling pool I use for catching the water).

Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

“Fire” bikini photos

To photograph Yollanda “on fire” I used red gels on the speedlights behind her. These give the curves of her body a lovely red rim light. I added the flames on the computer in post production.

Beautiful black model Yollanda Musa wearing bikini "Gugu" from Afrokini. Commercial swimwear photo shoot. Photograph by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Accreditation for this swimwear photo shoot

Model: Yollanda Musa (she has a website coming soon I am told)
Make up: Chesmi Rodrigo
Swimsuit: Afrokini (On the website is says their swimwear is “waterproof”. I guess that is true, but it made me chuckle).

Rosemary Lloyd: photo shoot for magazine cover

Photo shoot of Rosemary Lloyd for magazine cover

Fashion photo shoot of Rosemary Lloyd

I was asked to set up a fashion photo shoot to take photographs of Rosemary Lloyd for the cover of “World Class Queens of England Magazine“. Rosemary is the magazine’s first UK embassador. We did the photo shoot in my studio in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Who is Rosemary Lloyd?

I’m afraid that is too big a question to answer in my simple blog. She is more than just an internationally known model. She has won more accolades than I can list here. If you are interested you can read an interview with Rosemary in the September 2018 issue of “World Class Queens of England Magazine“.

Sigrun created a dress based on the union flag

The styling ideas for this photo shoot came primarily from Rosemary Lloyd herself. She wanted to use a very patriotic theme based on the union flag. Specifically, she  wanted to portray the character “Britannia”. Rosemary asked  Sigrún Björk Ólafsdóttir to design a bespoke dress that included the colours of the union flag. Sigrun also made the union flag shield.

Who is “Britannia”?

According to Wikipedia the word “Britannia” was used from 43 AD to mean “Roman Britain”. In the 2nd century, Roman Britannia “came to be personified as a goddess, armed with a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet”.  This figure has appeared on many British coins over the years, and has been perceived to be a symbol of of “British maritime power and unity” (the words of Wikipedia again). I associate Britannia with the old British penny that was in circulation prior to decimalisation, but I discovered she is also featured on some variations of the modern 50p piece. I think it is fair to day Britannia is a fairly familiar figure to most people who have grown up in the UK. But I suspect most other people won’t have noticed her before.

While I was “researching” this information I realised how little I notice what is actually on our coins. They are so very familiar and recognisable, but could I tell you what they actually look like? I don’t think so.Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Sigrún Björk Ólafsdóttir

 

Additional styling for the photo shoot

We replaced the Corinthian helmet with a tiara from Swarovski. This was supplied by the magazine’s editor for our photo shoot. It is far more befitting to Rosemary Lloyd’s title of “World Class Beauty Queen of England” than a Corinthian helmet.

But what about the trident? The obvious way to find a trident would be to buy one online. However as far as I can remember, I don’t think I had prior notice that Rosemary would be posing as Britannia. I think the first I knew about it was when Rosemary unpacked her costume.

So what to do? One option would be to ignore the trident. But then I had a moment of inspiration. I fetched a garden fork from the garage. All that was required was to reduce the number of tangs from four to three in post production. What would we photographers do without Photoshop (or equivalent)? I liked using the fork because it is obviously real metal in the photographs, and not a plastic prop.Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Sigrún Björk Ólafsdóttir

World Class Queens of Europe Magazine

For the magazine World Class Queens of England Magazine we got not only the cover, but an additional eight pages in the magazine. The editor liked the photos so much that he also put Rosemary Lloyd on the cover of the sister magazine, World Class Queens of Europe Magazine.

Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Forever Devine | tiara by Swarovski

Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Forever Devine | tiara by Swarovski  Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Forever Devine | tiara by Swarovski Rosemary Lloyd as "Britannia" photographed by Ian Trayner | dress designed by Forever Devine | tiara by Swarovski

The creative team for this photo shoot

The photo shoot was done in my studio in Kingston upon Thames. After Rosemary asked me to do the photography I had a good look at the style of images that appear in previous issues of the “World Class Beauty Queens” family of magazines. I needed to adapt my lighting to be consistent with their brand. I found the best solution was to use a beauty dish fitted with a “shower cap” diffuser as the key light.

The theme of “Britannia” was from Rosemary Lloyd herself.

The union flag dress and shield were designed and created by Sigrún Björk Ólafsdóttir.

The navy blue dress was designed by Forever Devine.

Hair and make up were by Cindy Purezka.

The tiara was from Swarovski, and the sash was supplied by the editor of World Class Queens of England Magazine. I am told the crystals on the sash are also from Swarovski.

bridal gown photo shoot Shamali

Commercial bridal gown photo shoot

Bridal gown photo shoot for Shamali

Shamali wanted a “wow” image to show off a bridal gown from her new collection, and she commissioned me to create it.

Shamali is an exclusive range of high quality bridal gowns to suit every shape and personality. The collections are all designed exclusively by Shamali and hand finished in England”.

Commercial photography

Although I am primarily a family portrait photographer, I also do some fashion and commercial work. I have had the privilge of photographing Shamali’s bridal gowns for a number of years. This summer (2018) Shamali asked me to create a single “wow image” for promotional purposes. She also wanted me to take some additional bridal gown images for her website and catalogue.

Photographing bridal gowns in a relatively confined space

Shamali decided we would do the photo shoot in her shop. This is very convenient because all her bridal gowns are already there, as well as other props. Of course I have to bring my lights and photography equipment! However the space is relatively confined as far as photography studios go. You can Google “Daisy’s Bridal Couture” and have a look at the front of the shop in Google’s streetview to see what I mean.

I always enjoy visiting Shamali’s shop because of the calm atmosphere, and the warmth and friendliness of Shamali and her staff.

The first challenge – creating the set

My first challenge was to design a photography set that looked elegant, and was suitable for photographing bridal gowns. You can see the set I came up with, but I shall keep how I made it a trade secret!

The second challenge – “going the distance”

In order to photograph a model full length without distorting her body, it is necessary to place the camera at some distance from the model and use a long lens.  The model will then appear to have normal proportions. In contrast, if the photograph is taken close to the model using a wide angle lens, we may find we are looking up at the face of the model, and down at the top of her feet, with her legs foreshortened. This is not at all flattering. The resulting images exaggerate the size of the torso, and “shrinks” the model’s legs. So for fashion photography usually one wants to get a good distance away from the model and use a relatively long lens. For a full frame (35mm) chip camera, lenses with a focal lenth of 100m or longer would be good.

And that brings me to my second challenge – how to get far enough away from the model? The solution was to place the camera on the pavement outside the shop and shoot through the doorway.

The creative team

Shamali provided the bridal gowns, shoes and hair jewellery. She also provided the “studio space” in the form of her shop, Daisy’s Bridal Couture.

The model for this photo shoot was Olivia Dunn.

Kirsty Cox did Olivia’s hair and make up. I have worked with Kirsty a number of times, and I can recommend her professionalism, and the quality of her work. I have included a couple of head shots to show the quality of her work.

commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox

commercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Coxcommercial bridal gown photos shoot for Shamali, hair and make up by Kirsty Cox

How did I light the “wow” bridal gown image?

I used two lights.

The main light is from a white 55cm beauty dish, fitted with a grid, from Viewfinder.

The rim light caressing Olivia from behind was provided by a tall slim softbox. But a similar effect could have been attained using a variety of lighting modifiers.

The studio set is all white. The background is white, and the columns are white. Areas appear dark because there is little light shining on them. This is an important principle; control of shadows and control of light are two sides of the same coin – and equally important as each other. That is my (allegedly humble) opinion!

Rosemary Lloyd in Kingston upon Thames, themed photo shoot

Photo Shoot with Rosemary Lloyd

 “Singing in the Rain” with Rosemary Lloyd

Photoshoot inspired by classic film

Rosemary Lloyd and I wanted to do a 1950’s themed photo shoot. Our main influence was the classic Hollywood film “Singing in the Rain”, starring Gene Kelly. However I feel obliged to confess I have never watched “Singing in the Rain” – except for snippets!

Rosemary Lloyd is an extremely experienced professional model who has won multiple local, national and international modelling and pageant awards. These include Young Model of the Year, 2016 and Miss Worldwide, 2017. Recently I photographed Rosemary for the cover of World Class Queens of England magazine.

Rosemary supplied all the costumes and props for this photo shoot, including the male model Reginald. He grew his moustache specially for our photo shoot, and for this I am very grateful. I would love to tell you how we gave him the scar on his upper lip – but I am sad to say he already had it. Very fortuitious for the theme though.

Make up was by Cindy MUA who is based locally in Kingston upon Thames.

Hair jewellery supplied by Daisy’s Bridal Couture.

Kingston Bridge, Kingston upon Thames

The bridge in some of the photos is Kingston Bridge, which crosses the River Thames in Kingston upon Thames. The blue lighting on the bridge is courtesy of the local council (I presume). I mention this because I have been asked how I added the blue colour in Photoshop. Not guilty! However the colour does go beautifully with Rosemary’s blue dress.

Rosemary Lloyd in Kingston upon Thames, photo shoot by Ian Trayner Photo shoot by Ian Trayner in Kingston upon Thames Rosemary Lloyd in Kingston upon Thames, photo shoot by Ian Trayner Rosemary Lloyd in Kingston upon Thames, photo shoot by Ian Trayner“Hollywood Lighting”

In my studio I deliberately styled the lighting on Reginald to give a vintage feel to the images. I used studio flash fitted with small reflector dishes and grids to give hard directional lighting. This mimics the effect of fresnel lenses which were extensively used to light classic Hollywood films. I was also careful to put strong highlights on Reginald’s hair. His moustache and hair style give authenticity to his look. I particularly like the scar that graces Regninald’s lip. He looks very “gangster”. I think he is a “wise guy“. Hollywood Lighting photo shoot Hollywood Lighting photo shoot Rosemary Lloyd cinematic photo shoot by Ian Trayner

Published on the cover of NMB Magazine

Images from this photo shoot made the cover of NMB Magazine, issue 10. In addition to the cover there is a ten page article about Rosemary inside, including seven images from this photo shoot.

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

Jackdaw with a deformed beak in Richmond Park

Photographing a strange jackdaw in Richmond Park

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take photos of wild life as a hobby. Regular followers of my blog will know I have a soft spot for jackdaws, and one of the places I like to photograph these cheeky rascals is in Richmond Park.

On a recent gorgeous early autumn day, I took a camera into the park to see what I would see. I was amused to see some jackdaws eating some vomit in the car park at Pembroke Lodge, and I took some photos. Which just goes to show that “one person’s meal is another person’s vomit”. Sorry about that, but this is wild life! (Those of us who have pets know they can get up to worse).

My first photo below shows a normal jackdaw, who appears to be healthy and in superb physical condition. All the other photos are of a jackdaw with a strange deformed beak. The upper mandible appears to be more or less normal, but the lower mandible is very long. I have seen this jackdaw before, but this is the first time I got a good look at it – and only because I had a camera with a long lens with me.

My daughter pointed out that the legs of this jackdaw also don’t look normal. Compare it’s legs to the legs of the normal jackdaw and see if you agree?

And finally, is it my imagination or does this jackdaw look more bedraggled? Is it perhaps not in full health?

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Jackdaw in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

 

Technical Information for photographers

Just in case any of my fellow phtoographers are curious, the camera is the Olympus OM-D Mark 2, and the lens is the Zuiko 300mm. All photographs were taken hand held.

Hollywood lighting for photographers

Hollywood lighting for drama and a cinematic look

What is Hollywood Lighting?

“Hollywood lighting” is an expression photographers use to describe the cinematic style of lighting that was used in the “good old days” of classic black and white films, and “film noir”.

I think it comes down to controlling light and shadow – both being equally important. The lighting is very stylish, and tends towards a steep tonal curve (ie deep blacks and bright whites).

I like watching films like “Casablanca” and “The Third Man” for see inspirational Hollywood lighting.

It is my personal view that any photographer who cares about the quality of his or her work should constantly be on the lookout for inspiration. It is not a question of “copying”, but trying to emulate a style that you have seen. There is a lot to be learnt by looking at the work of others.

Lighting for film versus lighting for still photography

Film (and video) requires continuous lighting – obviously!

But because still photographers capture still images, so we have a luxury of choice. We can opt for continuous lighting or flash. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is a large choice of technologies available.

Some photographers who want to specialise in “Hollywood lighting” invest heavily in specialist lighting. But most phtoographers who wants to emulate this style will probably want to use equipment they already own.

I am going to describe a method whereby a photographer who uses studio flash can emulate Hollywood lighting very simply. The trick is to use reflective dishes fitted with grids. Incidentally, this is one of the very first things I learned from Damian McGillicuddy, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. I have learnt a great deal over the years from this thoroughly decent chap.

Using grids to emulate fresnel lighting

In the classic days of black and white Hollywood films, fresnel lenses (pronounced fray-nel) were often used to control the spread of light. Fresnel lenses act by collimating light produced by a bulb. Let me explain that; light spreads out in all directions from a bulb, but if the emitted light goes through a lens that makes the light rays travel parallel to each other, that is collimated light.

A grid performs a very similar effect. It doesn’t achieve it by changing the direction of the light, but by restricting the amount it can spread out. It does this by forcing the light through small tubes – the grid. Grids vary – some restrict the spread of light much more than others.

The models in these photos were lit using a 21cm Elinchrom refector dish fitted with a grid. If you aren’t a professional photographer and you follow that link, you will probably be surprised by how much these things cost; “that much for just that?” But grids are not that easy to manufacture. Still, the cost is a small fraction of what you have to pay for proper fresnel ligthing systems.

“Classic” black and white photography

It wasn’t just film studios that used “Hollywood lighting”. Many portrait photographers have used, and even specialised, in this style of lighting. A quick Google search will pull out many examples.

That is so cool! I just did a Google search to verify my last sentence, and was delighted to see six of my own images appear in the search results. Result!

Hollywood lighting, Yulia Volosnikova, Luke Clampitt, location photo shoot

Luke Clampitt and Yulia Volosnikova as Hollywood stars

Hollywood lighting, Yulia Volosnikova, beauty photography

Yulia Volosnikova transformed into Hollywood star by Hollywood lighting

Hollywood lighting, Yulia Volosnikova, beauty photography

“Hollywood star” Yulia Volosnikova

Using Hollywood Lighting to sculpt faces

Because Hollywood lighting is collimated – at least to a degree – it is very “hard”. That means it creates relatively hard edges to shadows. This lighting flatter thin faces, but can be very unflattering to people who have round faces.

Furthermore, because Hollywood lighting is conducive to area of strong shadow, it can help an experienced photographer flatter certain types of subjects.

Consider the image of Yulia Volosnikova (above). I have deliberately shot her as a “Hollywood star”. Let us briefly look at the important points;

1. I have used a main key light on her face to flatter. The position of the light source relative to the model is critical. Notice the strong catch lights in Yulia’s eyes, and consider how they contribute to the image. The main key light was an Ilux Summit 600 fitted with an Elinchrom 21cm dish plus grid.

2. There is a rim light coming from behind Yulia, to the right as we look at her. This defines her left should, and also her right cheek, neck and throat. The position of this light also is critical. (By “critical” I do not mean there is only one exactly correct position, but rather that small changes in position cause major changes in the effect the light has on the model). this light was provided by a speedlight.

3. While I was shooting this series of images, in this location, I also had a fill light pointing at the model, behind the photographer’s right shoulder. This light was turned off for this particular image. The intensity of the fill light can be adjusted to change the darkness of the shadows.

4. One of the nice things about modern digital cameras is you can inspect the photographs you have just taken on the back of your camera. Looking at Yulia’s images, I decided I need to shine more light on her hair, from both sides. I acheived this using two more speedlights, one on each side of Yulia’s head. It was important that the light from these did not spread out and ruin the shadows elsewhere on Yulia. I found I could achieve this simply by using the speedlights withour any lighting modifiers.

In summary; the above photo of Yulia was captured using FOUR lights;
(a) main key light
(b) rim light
(c and d) two speedlights on either side of her head.

Sultry “Hollywood starlet” Serena

PortraitX, Hollywood lighting, Samantha Akasha Beck, film noir

PortraitX organiser and guru Samantha Akasha Beck, photographed in “film noir” style

Hollywood lighting, film noir, Yulia Volosnikova

“Hollywood star” Yulia Volosnikova with “Magician and Illusionist” Marcus Phoenix Godfrey

Credits

Models:

Yulia Volosnikova, make up by Rhian Gillah
Serena Fox (black silky dress), make up by Jade Memphis Hunt
Samantha Akasha Beck (filing cabinet), I think did her own make up
Luke Clampitt
Marcus Phoenix Godfrey (magician)

I am grateful to Empress Design and Print for the location, and PortraitX for organising the shoot.

One to one photo tutoring

Are you a budding photographer who would like to get some personal one to one tuition on a PortraitX photo shoot? If you are then contact me.

Behind the scenes (BTS) video

Video captured and edited by Matt Tress of Shinzou Media

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

Jackdaws and Red Deer in Richmond Park

What is the relationship between red deer and jackdaws?

I took these photos in Richmond Park, where red deer (Cervus elaphus) and jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are very common and easy to watch. Although it is very common to see jackdaws standing on the deer, I am not sure why they do this, although they certainly appear to be looking for something in the deers’ fur. A quick online search suggests the jackdaws are eating ticks and bugs, in which case they will be doing the deer a service. But do the deer know this? The deer certainly seem very tolerant of the birds, which clamber all over their heads and ears. No matter how often I see this behaviour it always amuses me, and it makes me feel good.

It has also been claimed that jackdaws pluck loose hair from the deer, and also loose velvet from growing antlers on the stags for nest material. Seems like a very reasonable suggestion, and it has probably been witnessed too.

Usually the deer hardly react to the jackdaws at all, but sometimes they do. The doe in these photographs only seemed to react when the jackdaw put all it’s weight on one ear. She didn’t shake her head to remove the bird, but moved her head just enough to make the jackdaw move.

If you do a quick google search you will find loads of other photos of jackdaws walking over red deer, and this is very common behaviour.

Soft spot for Jackdaws

I have always had a soft spot for jackdaws. Undoubtedly my personal fondness for these birds started as a boy, when for a few weeks a yound jackdaw became “tame”. It all started in a very hot dry summer, and my father investigated noises coming from our water tub. He discovered a young jackdaw, presumably drawn to the water, desperate for something to drink. The bird was not fully fledged, and was not yet a strong flyer – preferring to walk.

As an example, once one of our cats started heading for the bird, and rather than flying, it started walking towards me as fast as it could – looking a bit worried. Fortunately I reached the jackdaw before our cat did.

I loved animals and natural histroy when I was a boy, so it was bliss for me that the Jackdaw would sit on my shoulder for long periods of time. It was a strange sensation when the bird looked at me, because it stretched out it’s head, and looked “downwards” at me, perpendicular to the line of it’s beak. I realised that the angle of their eyes is perfectly adapted for looking below when they are flying, so when he (or she) wanted to give me a beady eye, he (or she) would turn his (or her) head so as to look at me with binocular vision, looking 90 degrees “downwards”.

Like many members of the crow family, Jackdaws are considered intelligent for beings with bird brains. They are also quite playful. I was also touched to read “males and females pair up in their first year of life, but they do not begin to breed for another year”.

Jacdaws “nibbling” eyelashes

The young jackdaw I befriended as a child like to “nibble” at my eyelashes. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it was quite unerving having that big hard beak immediately next to my eyes. But s/he did it with great care. This behaviour is reminiscent of the way they poke around on the faces of the deer, where they often seem to be looking for something near the deers’ eyes. I don’t think “my” jackdaw found any ticks or bugs around my eyes. What I am saying is that this kind of behaviour seems to be instinctive to jackdaws.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

 

 

Technical photo info

I am not a professional wild life photographer, and I only take wild life photographs as a hobby.

Camera: Olympus OM-D EM-1 mark 2
Lens: Olympus M-Zuiko ED 300mm 1:4 IS PRO
F4, 1/125s, iso 400
Tripod mounted
Although in many respects this camera is a technical marvel, I am reluctant to use it at a higher iso than 800 because of the noise that starts creeping in.

 

Ring collared parakeet

Is this ring necked parakeet drunk?

Photographing parakeets

Have you ever watched someone who is very drunk walk? They tend to wobble and hold on to objects for support. I was out walking with my camera and saw something that reminded me of that. It was a ring necked parakeet walking along a branch.

So I took a few snaps. It seemed a good opportunity to test my 300mm Olympus lens.

I have always thought there is something “comical” about the faces (expressions?) of parrots. The ring necked parakeet is a beautiful bird. Even if it does make a lot of noise and is a pest to fruit gardeners.

By association… one of the sounds they make closely resembles the beep made by studio flash heads after recharging. I was walking through Richmond Park once, and wondered why there were so many flash units going off in the woods all round me.

Slideshow

But I digress.. I took a few photos of the parakeet and made a slideshow. I hope you enjoy it (1minute 47 seconds). (I have a license for the music). NB Once the video has started, you can right click and view the video at it’s proper size.

You may be wondering why I didn’t capture the bird’s behaviour with video?  I am a stills photographer, and haven’t gotten around to fiddling with video yet. On the good side of course, because these are a series of still images, one can tell that the parakeet really does walk with his beak. To be honest I am not certain if the parakeet actually grips something the first time. What do you think?

Am I following in the footsteps of the photographer Eadward Muybridge? It was he who famously used photography to investigate whether all four feet of a galloping horse are ever all  off the ground at the same time. (I thank fellow photographer Chris for reminding me about Eadward Muybridge at a recent “PortraitX” photo shoot. He also told me that Eadward Muybridge came from my home town, which is Kingston upon Thames). But I am just fooling – what I am doing is not really comparable to that.ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet

 

 

 

Technical

The photos were taken using the Olympus OMD EM-1 mark 2 fitted with the 300mm Zuiko lens. This camera is a “micro four thirds” camera, so the magnification of the 300mm lens (at the focus distance) is the same as a 600mm lens on a full frame camera. This means wobble is an issue. These photos were taken using a tripod. Settings were F5.6, 1/160s, iso 400. I have found that noise starts to become a problem even at an iso of 800 using this camera. This means that if you want to keep the iso below 800, one does not have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding what shutter speed and aperture to use. I was surprised to see so much movement blur in the parakeets feet at a shutter speed of 1/160s! I guess although the body moves slowly along the branch, at moments his wee feet move with lightning speed.

Caveat

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take wildlife photos as a hobby. The main reason I invested in the Olympus camera system was to get hold of a professional quality long zoom without having to buy, or lug around, a huge zoom for a full frame camera.

 

 

 

 

 

photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photographer is Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Photo shoot for make up artist, Alice Edwards

Photo shoot for make up artist (MUA)

Make up artists (MUAs) need good professional portfolios to showcase their work. This post is about a photo shoot I did for a local make up artist, Alice Edwards.

Alice is a freelance make up artist with 2 years of commercial experience. Currently she is studying for a Bachelors Degree in Production Arts Hair and Make Up at Kingston College, in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Alice asked me to take photographs to document a specific make up look she was doing for a college assessment. I have worked with Alice before, and was happy to oblige. My photographs provide a record of her work, and will be included in her professional make up artist portfolio.

I am only including a few of my photographs from this photo shoot in this blog post.

Alice arranged for model Gina Godfrey to help by providing her face.

Alice and I have both worked with Gina before, so we knew we were getting a model who is reliable. In my opinion “reliability” is one of the most important skills a model can possess.

Gina is also blessed with very good skin, and beautiful eyes. So I sort of think Alice was stacking the odds in her favour!

I wanted to provide photographic variety

Taking photographs for the make up artist

My main priority was to make a high quality record of Alice’s skill as a make up artist, that she could use in her portfolio. We would only be taking head shots, so we didn’t have to think about using other props, and a plain background would be suitable.

I needed to photograph the make up in detail, so I had to light my model, Gina, accordingly.

Taking photographs for Gina’s modelling portfolio

But I also wanted to provide some photographic variety for Gina’s modelling portfolio. We wouldn’t have time to make major changes to lighting or location, so I set up some lights that would provide adaptability.

Travelling light (weight) with minimal kit

I also wanted to travel light, so may main kit consisted of two speedlights, a couple of lighting modifiers from Damian McGillicuddy, and the Olympus EM-1 mark2 camera fitted with a 45mm F1.8 lens. Because the Olympus has a micro four thirds chip, a 45mm lens is the equivalent of a 90mm lens on a camera that has a full frame sensor (such as my Nikons). In other words, this prime lens is an ideal lens for flattering portraits. It is also extremely sharp. Incidentally, this is the sharpest lens I have ever used… and Olympus has just brought out a new, better,  45mm F1.2 prime lens. Which costs nearly 5 times as much. Hmmm.

Photographic variety was achieved simply by changing the positions of the lights, and particularly the amount of light cast on the background. The background was a pale grey area of wall. (In fact it was a writing board of some kind I believe). But one can make this appear totally white if it is brightly lit. All the photos I took used the same background. The background appears to be darker in some images because I was controlling how much light fell on it.

setting up the lighting for the background

 

I used a 21 inch DMLS modifier to provide the main (or key) light on the model, Gina Godfrey. You can just see it (in soft box configuration) on the left in the photo.

I also used a foldable Lastolite reflector to empirically control the brightness (and direction) of the fill light. I used a human light stand to hold this (her name is Alice Edwards).

The resulting images (of which only a few are shown here) provide a series of images that show Alice’s make up, and some additional images that are not useful for showing make up, but provide the model,  Gina Godfrey, more variety for her modelling portfolio.

Photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photograph by Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photograph by Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photograph by Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photograph by Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

 

Using Photoshop to give a natural look – detail

I think even the general public is aware that models can be “over photoshopped” so they end up looking, er… “different”, and even unnatural. My personal preference is to retain a natural look that is flattering, while removing temporary blemishes.

You can still see every pore on her skin, and every fine hair on the model’s face. And she still looks gorgeous. Just naturally gorgeous.

As a photographer, I was particularly pleased that you can’t see Gina’s own eyelashes. That is to say they are completely hidden by the artificial eyelashes that Alice has added.

Sometimes, when artificial eyelashes have been added, you can see the model’s own eyelashes underneath. They often don’t look nice, and have to be removed in post production. For example they may be a different colour, and more curly, than the artificial eyelashes. So a second set of eyelashes, which are a different shape and colour from the main eyelashes – well, it doesn’t look good! I am not a make up artist, and I don’t know why sometimes you can see them, and sometimes you can’t. But you usually have to look closely to notice them.

Photo shoot for make up artist Alice Edwards. Model is Gina Godfrey. Photograph by Ian Trayner, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.