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.
“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.
“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?
An “equine beauty” photo shoot is a “model experience” photo shoot with a horse.
There isn’t really an accepted convention for what to call these photo shoots. One could call it a “model experience” photo shoot, or a “glamour shoot with a horse”. But I tend to call them “equine beauty” photo shoots. There is a risk people will think it is the horse that is meant to be beautiful. But of course all horses are beautiful!
But whatever you call this type of photo shoot, the aims are always as follows;
To capture the young lady looking good
To show the relationship between the young lady and her horse
To show the horse looking good
To do all this safely
The photos in this blog post were taken at the stables where the horse lives, in Sussex.
Equine photography needs special skills. Some photographers become specialists who only do equine photography. Many of these photographers are horse riders themselves, so they are immersed in the subject, and understand exactly what the client is likely to desire in the postures of their horses.
It is necessary to understand the conventions that govern whether the horse “looks good”. For example, it is considered very important that the horse’s ears are directed forwards, as in all the photos shown here. This often causes problems, because horses are “prey animals” and their ears are constantly reacting to noises that come to them from all directions. One can try making unexpected noises in order to attract the attention of the horse’s ears, but it seems most horses rapidly acclimatise to new sounds. Furthermore, there is always a risk that a nervous horse will be upset by unusual sounds.
Showing the relationship between the horse and “model”
Usually, but not always, the “model” will be the person who owns the horse. And because of the investment of time and money involved, and the importance of capturing good images, I always recommend hiring a professional make up artist for this kind of photo shoot.
Speaking in general, photographs that “tell a story” work well. One of the aims of this type of equine photography is to show the relationship that exists between the horse and (usually) it’s owner.
Many people who own and ride horses have photographs, but it is relatively unusual to get “glammed up” in order to have photographs taken of you with your horse! So this type of photo shoot becomes a special experience as well.
So we want the owner to be “glammed up” according to what they feel comfortable with, we want to capture the relationship between the owner and the horse, we want the horse to “look good”, and we want to do it all safely.
Health and safety
There are also significant health and safety concerns, because horses are very heavy and immensely stong animals. They can quite easily break the bones in your foot if they step on it for example. So one has to be careful. It is also wise for a photographer to check that his professional public liability insurance covers him to photograph horses.
The two photographs of the model against the sky were lit using battery powered studio flash. Actually I used the trusty Ilux Summit 600, which happens to be the type of unit I own.
All the other photographs were taken using only natural light.
Incidentally, some horses are totally happy with flash, but others are not happy. Horses vary a great deal in their personalities. Some horses are much more nervous than others, and even the appearance of a lighting modifier sitting atop a tall stand will spook some horese.
Personally I prefer to shoot horses using natural light. So it is important to position your subjects so the light upon them is flattering.
The aim is to give a client a complete “model experience”, but without the pressure to “perform” that a real model might have to deal with. I want your experience to be relaxing, memorable and enjoyable. You can even bring your own music (speakers are provided). In addition of course we will create some beautiful professional images.
Because I only book one “Model Experience” photo shoot per day, I am able to spend as much time as necessary to create some beautiful images. I don’t like watching the clock too much when I am shooting, and I would rather spend a little more time (if necessary) to capture something excellent. In general I allow up to three hours shooting time, but if things are going well, and we both want to continue, I won’t necessarily cut off the shoot until we are happy. You would be surprised how quickly three hours disappears if you are working with different looks, especially if the shoot is split between the studio and a location.
What if I don’t know “how to model”?
Most people aren’t born knowing how to be a good model. Don’t worry, because I will guide you if necessary.
All my photo shoots also include a pre-shoot consultation, during which we will explore what you want to get out of your shoot. We can call upon all my experience, and work in various styles. Have a look at the “Fashion Style” section (with it’s submenu) on my website for inspiration. You can also show me photos by other photographers at your consultation.
Make up by C Walé Beauty
“Model Experience” photo shoots make use of the skills of a professional make up artist. I work with several professional make up artists, all of whom I know and trust. The make up artist on this particular shoot was Caroline of C Walé Beauty. It is always a pleasure working with Caroline. She is a very reliable make up artist, who works wonders with make up and hair styling. She also has a facebook page here.
In this photo shoot, Caroline created a traditional Nigerian look. Twice. And it should be obvious that in this particular shoot, the model’s hair was not the focus of Caroline’s attention! I did not realise how much is involved in getting those head scarves to look really good.
Would you like to book me for your own “model experience” photo shoot?
Commercial fashion photo shoot for Mimi Florence Designs
Mimi Florence Designs is run by a gifted mother of three beautiful kids. She loves to crochet and make jewellery. Each item is custom made for the client. We set up a commercial fashion photo shoot to provide high quality images for her.
Personally I would describe designs from Mimi Florence as “extremely flattering for ladies who have lots of self confidence”. I mean particularly women who feel good about their bodies.
But look at my images from the photo shoot, and judge for yourself.
Technical info about setting up this commercial fashion photo shoot
Shooting high key in the studio
For the high key shots I used pretty standard high key lighting. I used two flash heads for lighting the white background, one on each side. These were each fitted with a tall slim softboxes. For the key light I used a 1m deep octaganol softbox with grid. I angled the key light with care so that it gave (a) flattering directional light on the models and (b) a good spread of light on the ground at their feet.
Yollanda’s hair obliged me to move the key light to the “less convenient” side of my studio, that is to say the right hand side, looking at the model from the camera. This side is less convenient solely because of the shape of my studio, and there is less room for putting lights on the right than on the left. If I had not done this, I would have been struggling with a shadow on Yollanda’s face from her hair (because her hair has a parting on her left, which is the right as you look at her from the camera).
Shooting outdoors using natural light
When we went outdoors I used only natural light. The location is the garden at the back of my photo studio in Kingston upon Thames. If you look at the very last photo, Michelle’s eyes are looking more or less in the direction of the sun, which was already quite low in the sky. Michelle is the model with slightly wavy hair, who is wearing the pink top. The models were sitting in dappled shade under a tree. Because sometimes the sun threw displeasing bright patches of light on the models, I had an assistant (actually it was Venus, the make up artist) hold up a semi-translucent screen between the sun and the models.
Also, because I needed more light coming onto the models from camera left, I had another assistant hold up a large white reflective screen (by large, I mean something like 6 feet by 4 feet). This threw just the right amount of light back onto the models faces. This combination gave a very pleasing natural light effect. Unless you were an experienced photographer, you probably wouldn’t notice that the ambient light had been “modified”.