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.
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.
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“.
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.
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?
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” 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!
Luke Clampitt and Yulia Volosnikova as Hollywood stars
Yulia Volosnikova transformed into Hollywood star by Hollywood lighting
“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 organiser and guru Samantha Akasha Beck, photographed in “film noir” style
“Hollywood star” Yulia Volosnikova with “Magician and Illusionist” Marcus Phoenix Godfrey
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
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.
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.
Technical photo info
I am not a professional wild life photographer, and I only take wild life photographs as a hobby.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Styling” for this model portfolio photo shoot was a collaboration between the model, Yollanda Musa, and make up artist Caroline, from C Walé Hair and Beauty.
“The outfit was made for me, for the “Miss Pride of Africa UK 2016″ beauty pageant. I wore it for the Nations parade round . I co designed the outfit with a Zimbabwean Designer. I chose colours to represent the Zimbabwean flag colours . So I told the Designer what I wanted and she sketched the idea. I wanted a modern mix in the design so I asked for the ballerina skirt. I then got the hat designed in South Africa – it is a style that is worn by South African women. I combined the different components. Caroline worked well to match the makeup to my outfit”.
Caroline’s own words;
“The purpose of this model portfolio photo shoot was to have a colourful and vibrant representation of Africa.
“Every piece of the attire had to be eye catching. The hat and jewellery was from South Africa, and were provided by the model.
“This makeup look was about keeping everything calm and going bold blue with the lips with tribal designs. It’s always great to either focus on beautiful intrinsic colours on the eyelids with eyeshadow, or dare to be bright on the lips.
“It’s always important to use primer before applying your foundation to reduce shine.The eyebrows were shaped neatly with a dewey foundation base. To make the eyes pop it’s always a great idea to use beautiful eyelashes.
“Once the makeup was done, the whole look came together when the outfit was worn”.
As Caroline stated above, our aim was to create images that give a “colourful and vibrant representation of Africa”. With this aim in mind, and having seen the clothes, I decided to use a red background. However I did not want the images to be overwhelmed by a bright red background, so I “underlit it” (even a white background will look black if there is no light on it).
My next question was; “how do I want to light the model?” Yollanda is blessed with beautiful bone structure and a beautiful face. So naturally I wanted my photos to be “beauty shots”. So I decided, for this model portfolio photo shoot, to use one of my favourite lighting modifiers for “beauty photography”. This is a 550mm beauty dish fitted with a grid, and I used this as the main light source on the model. These modifiers are relatively expensive (mainly because of the grid), but they provide a light source that can be extremely flattering.
I say “can be”, because this type of modifier provides a relatively “hard” light source. That means the shadows have relatively hard edges, with a lot of contrast between “light” and “dark”. While this kind of light can beextremely flattering on slim faces (if positioned properly), it is unlikely to be flattering on round faces.
I just had a look at this beauty dish and it doesn’t have a manufacturer’s name on it. Nor is the manufacturer’s name written on it’s box. However I can say I bought it from Veiwfinder.
White or silver beauty dish?
In general I prefer beauty dishes that have a white reflective surface, as opposed to a silver reflective surface. White surfaces give a “more forgiving” light source in my opinion. Especially if there is any degree of shinyness on a face.
Using coloured gels
Recently I published a blog post about using coloured gels in studio photography. Yollanda’s bright blue lips inspired me to add some blue light for some of her model portfolio photo shoot. In some images I have used a blue light as a fill light. This overlays a subtle “blueness” to her images, making her skin appear a touch “cooler”, and making the shadows a bit blue. You can see this especially in the whites of Yollanda’s eyes, in some of the images.
Later I moved the blue flash to behind Yollanda. So instead of being a blue fill light, it has become a blue rim light..
All the images have a rim light coming from the opposite direction to the main light (ie pointing towards the camera from behind the model). Sometimes the rim light is white, and sometimes it is blue. But it is always there. The purpose of rim light is to separate the model from the background, so you can see the outline of her body.
If you are interested in lighting, watch out for rim lighting on TV, especially on higher budget films. In dark spaces rim lighting is used very effectively, and because our attention is on the “story” rather than on the “lighting”, we probably won’t notice on those occasions when the rim lighting “doesn’t make sense”! In other words, there may not be a natural light source in “the story” to provide that rim lighting! Having said which there often is,for examjple provided by lights on a ceiling. But in reality they are often lights on boom arms, just out of shot.
Would you like to see all the images from this model portfolio photo shoot?
The creative team for this model portfolio photo shoot
Model: Yollanda Musa
Yollanda Musa is an award winning UK based model. She was awarded a “Women Of Purpose Award” in recognition of her hard work and determination as a model . Yollanda has represented Zimbabwe in pageants. For example “Mr and Miss Black Beauty”, and “Miss Pride of Africa UK”. In the latter she won the title of “Southern Region Princess”. She also won the Sports Award title at “Miss Hertfoshire 2017”.
Yollanda is not just a pretty face; she bravely learnt how to box to raise money for Cancer Research UK. She even won her bout!
Yollanda is 5 feet 2 inches tall. This is not a typical height for models. Nevertheless Yollanda caught the attention of newspapers, such as Hemel Hempstead Gazette and Welywn and Hatfield Times. She has also been published inmagazines such as Effuse, Le Blanc and Secret Eden.
Visit Yollanda Musa’s blog and learn about her experiences as a petit model, and read her advice to aspiring models.
Coloured gels can be used in a number of ways in photography. “Gels” are thin sheets of coloured plastic that go in front of light sources to change the colour. They are used with flash and continuous light sources. Make sure gels are secured firmly, and check they are not going to melt and burn if you use hot lights!
In this post I hope to demonstrate the following;
Coloured gels can be used to change the colour of any object in an image. I guess this is obvious, but I want to draw attention to the fact you can change the colour of your subject, the background, or any other material elements in the image (for example smoke).
Coloured gels can be used to make effects that are dramatic or extremely subtle.
Coloured gels can be used to separate a subject from it’s background.
Using coloured gels to add drama in photo shoot
I have used some of these images (but in black and white versions, not colour) in a previous blog post. I always intended to write a post about using coloured gels, and these are good examples.
Adding a splash of colour
My model is Clarissa Holder. The key light in the next image was provided by a studio flash in a soft box, without a gel (ie it was white light).
I also added a light with a coloured gel from behind. This served two purposes. One was to show the shape of Clarissa’s head and separate her head from the background, and the other was the “artisti” decision to add colour.
Do not be confused by the colour of Clarissa’s translucent cap. It was in fact the colour it appears to be in this image. In fact I chose to use the specific coloured gels I did, specifically so they would be consistent with the colours of Clarissa’s clothes and props.
Coloured gels for more drama
I am not suggesting photographers use coloured gels all the time; they are just one of the tools in our arsenal.
If you look at the following image, you will see I have removed the white key light. Now the blue and magenta of the coloured gels dominate the images. Clarissa is illuminated by a blue light on the left, and a red light from the right (our left and right, as we look at the image). Both lights also shine on the background, which is a roll of black paper. It is worth noting that when you shine a blue light on brown skin, it appears reddish.
You can use gels to change the colour of smoke
If you want to add colour to your smoke, it is most efficient to backlight the smoke (ie put the light source on the far side of the smoke, and point it towards the camera).
Using coloured gels in a more subtle way
In the next portrait of Clarissa, I have added quite a subtle red fill light. It was a simple speedlight with a red gel. The effect is to subtly enrich the colour of Clarissa’s skin, making it more “exotic”. To make the effect less obvious, I removed the small red highlights in Clarissa’s eyes using Photoshop. I also desaturated the image a bit, because the colours were getting a little too vivid for my taste.
The colour balance on the camera was set to “flash”, and a white flash provided the key light to camera left. Another flash with a soft box provides a soft white light coming from behind the model (to the right as we look at her). This is the light that is responsible for highlighting the beautiful lines of Clarissa’s neck, jaw, collar bone and shoulder. This soft box was angled sp that it also cast light on the background.
Changing to a white background
The background cloth was removed for the next image, and the rear soft box was turned off. The wall is white, but it appears to be slightly coloured due to (a) a red speedlight acting as a fill light (it was located just behind the photographer’s right shoulder) and (b) a flash fitted with a blue gel shining on the wall from the camera left (and behind the model). In fact, if you look carefully you can see the shadow that Clarissa casts from the red fill light, because that area of the wall appears more blue than the rest of the wall. The wall was approximately 2m behind Clarissa’s back. I deliberately turned off the soft white rim lighting from behind Clarissa, because the wall is now pale and even in colour, so a nice dark shadow works very well to separate Clarissa from the background.
You can also see the red fill light reflecting off Clarissa’s “turban”, but once again I have used Photoshop to remove the red highlight in Clarissa’s eyes. You can see the redness on the whites of her eyes though.
Using coloured gels for rim lighting
The first and final images in this series show examples of rim lighting helping to separate a subject from the background. The final image (below) shows the creative team (minus photographer). Note the red rimlight coming from the left of the image. It is providing quite a strong red colour, although only over very small visible areas. The rim light was provided by the same speedlight with a red coloured gel that I had used in the last image as a fill light. I just moved it from the front to the rear (I can’t remember if I adjusted the light intensity).
From left to right the team members are make up artist Donna Harris, model Clarissa Holder, and stylist Evelyn Tolu (aka Miss Goodliving).
The brighter a light source, the less effective a coloured gel will be
The brighter the light source, the less a gel changes the colour of the light. This may seem non-intuitive until you think about it. But when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Translucent gels appear coloured because they selectively reduce the amount of light getting through at different wavelengths. For example a bue gel allows blue light through, but reduces the passage of other wavelengths, such as yellow and red. Gels that are more saturated will allow less light through. So if the light source is not very bright,the gel will block most of the non-blue light.
With a brighter light source, the blue light still gets through. But there isn’t enough dye to totally block the other wavelengths. So the brighter the light source, the more light of other wavelengths passes through the gel. This means the transmitted light starts to look more like white light.P
Probably the best way to get a feel for what happens is to do your own experiments. Sometimes it is quite fiddly getting the balance of colours you want. But like all photography, the more you practice, the better you will get at it.
The Beer-Lambert Law
If anyone wants to look it up, the Beer-Lambert law is the one that describes how light is absorbed when it passes through translucent materials. This law is usually used to describe how light is absorbed when it passes through a coloured solution, but the same principles apply when light is transmitted through a tranlucent gel. Here is another relatively simple description of the Beer-Lambert law.
Would you like to book your own photo shoot using coloured gels?
We did this photo shoot in my studio in Kingston upon Thames. The creative team were; Yollanda Musa (model), Caroline from C Walé (hair and make up) and myself as the photographer. The dress was designed and made by Trendhood Royale.
We got through a lot on this shoot, and this post is just about the dress. This is a dress which Yollanda wore to one of the numerous award ceremonies that she keeps getting invited to.
Trendhood Royale – dress designer
Trendhood Royale is a new business that is starting to make a name for itself. I have copied this text from their facebook page;
“We are poised to delivering exceptional contemporary pieces to women looking to brighten up their wardrobes with vibrant colors, unique patterns and styles. Trendhood Royale fuses design,quality and utility in every of our pieces while celebrating african prints and western unique fabrics.TR pieces are timeless and classic which guarantees a perfect thing to wear and will last for years to come. We promise u ” an image to remember” always”.
The dress in these images was designed specifically for Yollanda’s first ever beauty pageant, Miss Pride of Africa UK, for the evening gown segment. The design was inspired by Disney princess gowns, because they didn’t want to go for a more typical pageant gown.
Yollanda Musa – model
Yollanda is “small but perfectly formed”. I have worked with Yollanda on a number of occasions now, and I have lost count of how many awards she has won (and been nominated for) in the few years that I have known her. She has enormous energy and seems to be everywhere. She is definitely one of the most professional models I have had the pleasure of working with.
C Walé hair and make up
Caroline from C Walé does hair to an exceptionally high standard, as you can see in my photo of Yollanda’s hair.
How to photograph the dress?
My aim was to show how the dress looks in movement, because the way it hangs and moves is very striking in real life. I decided to do this by freezing movement, and also by blurring the movement.
These images were shot in my photo studio against a red background, using (mainly) studio flash;
Freezing the image
Freezing the image is very straightforward for this speed of movement. I asked Yollanda to swirl the dress around, and it’s movement was frozen by the studio flash. I do not know the duration of these flashes, but they are a lot shorter than the time the shutter is open. So the dress is frozen in movement.
The key light was a reasonably large soft box with grid in front of her (camera left). The fairly subtle rim light was provided by a tall think softbox with grid behind her (camera right).
Each photo is different, and it is difficult to “position” the dress precisely. It is hit and miss, So it is just a matter of taking photos until you are sure you have captured what you want.
Blurring the dress
Any photograph that is captured using flash is effectively a superposition of two exposures. One is the exposure captured with however much ambient light is present, and the other is the exposure due to the flash.
So if a photographer wants a moving dress to appear blurred, he has to use a relatively slow shutter speed, and have sufficient ambient light on the moving part of the dress. I achieved this using an LED light panel that was aimed primarily downwards towards the bottom of Yollanda’s dress. The intensity of light given off is adjustable, and it has “barn doors” to help limit the spread of light. So by brining the light close to Yollanda, pointing it downwards, and using the barn doors, I was able to keep most of it’s light off Yollanda’s head. Some light was spilling onto Yollanda at head height, but I decided it was not enough to interfere with the effect I wished to create.
In addition to the LED light panel, I directed an additional flash, fitted with a beauty dish, towards Yollanda’s head. The trick is to balance the light intensity of both light sources. This can be done by trial and error, but it is much easier if the photographer uses a light meter to measure how much light is being given off. The photographer can adjust both lights to give the same amount of light , or different amounts of light if that is called for. Bear in mind that the amount of ambient light depends on the shutter speed, and you don’t need to worry about the shutter speed when measuring the intensity of light from the flash (because the burst of flash light is much shorter than the length of exposure).
So if you have a light meter, it is very straightforward balancing your light sources.
Another important thing to consider is the colour temperature of the two light sources. These should match reasonably well, unless you want them to be different for artistic reasons.
Would you like to hire me for commercial photography?
Flour makes a terrible mess, and I don’t use it in my studio for this reason. These photos were taken in my garden out back.
Smoke doesn’t make any mess, but it doesn’t have as strong a relationship with the dancer as flour does. Smoke seems “passive” while flour appears to be more dynamic. Both are somewhat unpredictable and difficult to control.
Smoke is more susceptible to the vicissitudes of the wind than flour.
Michelle is a self-taught dancer, and she was able to pull off leap after leap, as we tried to get “the perfect shot”. There is a lot of “luck” inolved in getting pleasing images, when one is working under such tight constraints. I mean limited space, wind, and not knowing exactly where the smoke or flour are going to go! It is a challenge.
I used three flash units to light Michelle.
Two were tall thin softboxes with grids, placed on either side of the model, and slightly behind her as viewed from the camera. These were to light Michelle’s body with rim lighting, from head to toe, even when she was leaping. They also functioned to light the flour and smoke from behind, which is a lot more dramatic than lighting it from the same side as the camera.
The third light was a beauty dish which was positioned to shine a flattering light on Michelle’s face. I had to get this up high, and it was on a boom arm, almost above Michelle’s head.
Booking me for your own flour photo shoot (or dance photography)
A flour photo shoot is like a standard photo shoot, except I charge an extra £20 to cover all the cleaning up I have to do after! There is no extra charge if you want smoke, or dance photography. Visit this page for details about my standard photo shoot.