Category Archives: Photography methods

dog photography in kingston upon thames, surrey

Dog Photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Dog photography in my studio in Kingston

Dog photography is one of my favourite things. I photograph dogs in my studio, and also on location. Running, playing, or just being in a natural environment. I will even mix sessions so you can have some time in the studio and some time on location.  However if we are going to mix photography in the studio with shooting on location, we will always start in the studio. That is to say, with a clean dog!

Check out the pet and dog photography gallery on my website for some samples.

How can I photograph a dog in a good pose?

That is potentially a problem. Although it does depend a lot on the dog, and the relationship between the dog and it’s owner.

Now if you have four dogs, the problem is raised to the power of four!

Or is it?

The solution is…

The solution is to make a composite image.

From the moment this potential client first told me on the phone that she wanted a photograph of four dogs all together, so she could have a large picture of them to hang on her wall, I knew I was going to take four photographs – one of each dog – and put them together in a composite image. But it is important you plan ahead, and do this the right way. Because it is possible to make life difficult for yourself if you don’t remember a few good principles.

Photographing dog number 1

“Tilley” is elderly in these photos. She tends to hang her head. And like most dogs, she doesn’t find a camera particularly interesting so she is more likely to look anywhere else.  Most dogs tend to look toward their owner (or handler) for guidance. Well, I am guessing it is for guidance. It may be for guidance, or reassurance, or “am I allowed to do this?” So if you want a dog to look towards the camera, it can help to bring the owner close to the camera. But only works if the dog is really well trained to stay put – otherwise the dog will probably just walk up to the camera!

So it is partly a matter of being patient, trying to catch the dog’s attention, and taking photos until you capture some good candidates. It usually doesn’t take very long.

Here are some of the photos I took of Tilley. File file number 8947 is the one I decided to use.

dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Photogaphing dog number 2

Same problem. The dog is interested in everything but the camera.

Of course I have a few squeeky toys. But these usually only attract the dog’s attention for a few moments. So you have to have your hand ready on the shutter.

Image 9036 is the best for my purposes.dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Photographing dog number 3

Dog number 3 was the most energetic of the spaniels. But I wanted to have this dog lying down so I could compose a more pleasing group photo. I did not want all the dogs to be in the same pose – I was aiming for some variety. It was also necessary that all four dogs could be fitted in close to each other without wasting space in the final image. Therefore it seemed a good idea to have this dog lying down in front of the other dogs. Overlapping but not obscuring.

Not rolling on your back though! Silly dog! There are a number of interesting shots here. But my client has a very specific agenda – she wants to buy one picture for the wall that includes all four dogs.

So image 9068 is the one I will use. Notice how I have brought this dog further forward on the studio floor – ie closer to the camera than the other dogs. Thus the camera will be “looking down at” this dog more, in comparison to the other dogs.

Because I have kept the camera in the same place, with all the same settings, this dog will appear to be naturally in front of the first two dogs in the final composite image. I am also using a very deep depth of field so all dogs are sharply in focus, even though some are significantly closer to the camera than others.

dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Photographing dog number 4

Not a spaniel this time.

It is important when photographing several animals for a group composite photo that the image as a whole looks consistent. Therefore I shot with the camera on a tripod. I was using a zoom lens but I did not change the focal length of the lens throughout all the photos. That means dog number 4 is smaller in the frame than the other dogs. He is also the smallest dog. But I resist the temptation to zoom in on him. I want all four dogs to be located in their own positions in the final shot. I also want them to be the correct size relative to each other. For this reason also I leave the camera in the same place, at the same focal length for all the photographs.

I am using a relatively small aperture so I have a deep depth of field. So once again, the final photo will look consistant across all four dogs.  Image 8993 is the one I selected for the final composite image.dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

So here are the four final images in their “before” and “after” states

Now it is just a question of stitching the photos together. Each dog has his or her own layer in Photoshop. It is also necessary to make some masks (this is not the place to describe any of this).

dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Here are the four individual dog photographs

You just gotta love them! I am sure no dog lover can look at these images without smiling!
dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surreydog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

And here is the final composite image

I had to make some masks so I could place the lying down dog in front of the other dogs. Making masks is usually the most time consuming part of making composite images.

dog photography in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

 

 

Would you like to book your own dog photography session?

There are links on my website describing how to book a photo shoot, and other stuff like terms and conditions. I book dog photography sessions just like other photography sessions.

I can photograph your dog, or dogs, in my studio or on location if you prefer actions shots. We can even mix the two together.

If you are bringing your dog to my studio for a photo shoot, please make sure the dog(s) are clean! If it is raining we can dry their paws when they come indoors. There are no parking restrictions in my road, so with luck you won’t have far to walk from your car to my door.

My recommendations for composite dog photography

If you are a photographer and want to try your hand at composites like this one, it helps to bear a few simple principles in mind to make your life easier;

  1. I recommend making sure every dog is photographed in the spot (on the floor) in which s/he will be in the final composite image. Thus the relationship of the camera to each dog is consistent for all the animals. It makes your life easier if a dog “on the back row” is photographed “on the back row”. You might be tempted to take large photos of each dog and stitch them together in Photoshop. And you could do that (especially if you hope to sell individual photos of the dogs). But if you do this, you will have to estimate how large each dog should be in the final image! You might get it wrong, and the owner will notice. If you place each dog “on his/her own spot” for the photography, you won’t have this problem. Because the size of each dog will have been captured correctly in camera.
    Thus, in this example, the spaniel lying down is at the front. I shot him in that position, nearest to the camera. The two spaniels further back were further back on the floor.
    Working this way also guarantees that the shadows look consistent for every dog, because they are all being lit by the same lights.
  2. Use exactly the same lighting and camera settings for every photo. Choose an aperture that allows a deep depth of field, so every dog is sharp no matter where s/he is located on the floor. In this example I was shooting at F14 using a full frame camera.
  3. A plain background definitely makes your job easier when it comes to stitching the photos together.

Shooting a white subject against a white background

When shooting a white subject against a white background it is important to get your exposure correct. It is essential that you avoid overexposure, because this bleaches out all the detail in the highlights. For example, you need to see the texture of the dogs’ hair. It helps if you have some black sheets or boards to the sides of your subject. This reduces the light falling on the sides of the dogs.

Post production

To make the composite, first you need to edit all the images so they are totally consistent with each other. In this example the background has to be the same shade of white. Contrast, saturation and colour balance (etc) are all consistent.

You will need to put each dog on his or her own layer in Photoshop. Masks need to be made where their bodies overlap in the final composite image.

The wee brown dog

The wee brown dog adds a quirky “something”. And he is after all an equal member of the family!

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).

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

model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty

Model portfolio photo shoot

Model portfolio photo shoot

Styling for this photo shoot

“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.

Styling

Yollanda writes;

“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”.

Make up

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”.

Photography methods

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).

Beauty lighting

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..

The blue light was created by a Nikon SB900 speedlight fitted with a blue gel from HonlPhoto. Read my blog post “using coloured gels with photography” for more information about using coloured gels.

Rim lighting

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?

See all the other images from this model portfolio photo shoot in this gallery.

model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty, blue coloured gel model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty model portfolio photo shoot, Yollanda Musa, African styling, C Walé Hair and Beauty

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.

Yollanda’s links;

Visit Yollanda Musa’s blog and learn about her experiences as a petit model, and read her advice to aspiring models.
Get in touch with model Yollanda Musa by emailing yollandamusa@outlook.com
You can also join Yollanda’s network on LinkedIn.

C Walé Hair and Beauty

Find Caroline on facebook here: C Walé Hair and Beauty

 

 

 

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

Coloured Gels in Studio Photography

Using coloured gels in photography

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.

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

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.

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

 

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

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 photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

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.

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

 

 

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 in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

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).

using coloured gels in photography, Ian Trayner, photographer in kingston

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.

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photographer of dress showing movement

Commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale

Commercial fashion shoot for Trendhood Royale

The creative team

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.

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commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé

F8, 1/200, iso 200

commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé

F8, 1/5, iso 200 (different lighting to the preceeding image)

commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up artist C Walé commercial fashion shoot with Trendhood Royale, model Yollanda Musa, make up and hair by C Walé

 

 

 

How to balance flash with tungsten lighting

How to use flash to supplement tungsten lighting?

I am writing this for keen amateur photographers who would like to take professional looking photos using a flash gun, or speedlight, indoors in a house that is lit with tungsten bulbs. I have “kept things simple”. Best I can.

Remember that the three dimensionality of the scene will be controlled by the shadows, just as much as by the light.

In my opinion there are three important things to consider;

  1. Getting your flash off the camera (ie “off camera flash”)
  2. Calculating the correct exposure
  3. Matching the colour balance of your flash to the ambient light from the tungsten lighting

Getting your flash off the camera

Why?
Because a photographer needs to control how the flash complements (or even compliments!) the ambient lighting in the room. Getting the flash off the camera allows you to point it in the direction you want, so you can control where the light falls, and how shadows are created on your model.

If you use a flash mounted on top of your camera, you have much less control over the spread of light. If you point the flash directly at your model, the lighting on him/her will be very flat and (probably) uninteresting. Alternatively you can bounce the flash off another surface, by pointing it’s head in that direction. Here you will be limited by the availability of suitable surfaces, and just how “suitable” they are! They may be coloured, and they may not be where you want them. More than likely, by the time the light bounces back to your model, it will have spread out and will no longer be “controlled”. As a compromise, if you don’t own a suitable light modifier available,  you can get someone to hold a white card for your flash to bounce off.

Will I need to use a lighting modifier on my flash?
That depends on the effect you want. A bare speedlight is a very small light source, so it makes hard shadows. If you want softer shadows, then you need to use an appropriate modifier. I am not getting into different speedlight modifiers here, but have listed the modifers I used in this shoot below. One thing a bare speedlight is good for, is keeping the area the light hits very small.

How can I control my specific brand of flash gun?
It is not the scope of this article to explain how to control whatever brand of flash or speedlight you are using. You need a method to trigger the flash, and  you will need to control the brightness of the flash. I am assuming you already know how to do these. If you don’t, you can find out in the relevant manuals, or finding online instructions.

How to calculate the correct exposure

If you are going to start using off camera flash often, I strongly recommend you invest in a light meter, because it will help enormously. If you don’t already have a light meter, you will have to adjust the brightness of your flash by trial and error. This isn’t so bad if you are only using one flash head, but it gets complicated if you are using several.

Experienced photographers already know what follows, but if it is new to you, it will indeed be very worth knowing!

You can consider a photograph that is taken using flash as a superposition of two independent exposures

One exposure is that due to the ambient light, and this exposure is controlled by the aperture and shutter speed (and whatever iso you are using).

The other exposure is due to the flash, and the shutter speed is irrelevant. This is because the shutter is open longer than the duration of the flash.

Caveat – If the shutter speed is too fast you may get an underexposed band down one side of your photo. Many cameras allow a shutter speed in the region of 1/250s when you use off camera flash in this manner, although much faster shutter speeds can be used if the flash gun is mounted on top of your camera. But I am not getting into that here.

Start by setting the exposure on your camera for the ambient light

The first thing I will decide is what aperture I want to use for the style of image I want to create. Usually this decision is made according to the depth of field I want (the larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of field). If this aperture obliges me to use an unrealistic shutter speed, I will adjust the iso appropriately, and maybe use a tripod (I often use a tripod anyway).

Most rooms have several sources of ambient light, and I will consider what lights to switch on, or even move, if appropriate. If there are windows and it is daytime, one can add light from the windows too, but I am not considering that now, because this blog is about matching flash to tungsten lights.

Should I use a light meter to decide how to expose for ambient lighting?
If the amount of light is fairly uniform in a room, I might measure it using a light meter.

But if the light is not uniform, I usually use my camera to help decide what exposure settings to use. That is to say, with my camera already set to the aperture (and iso) I have decided to use, I switch it to full manual control. Now I will take a few shots and adjust the shutter speed until the camera records the room the way I want it to appear in the final image. I use the image on the back of the camera, and the histogram, to guide me. In this particular scene, it was important to show that the standard light was on, but not so bright that it overwhelmed the images.

At this point I am not using the flash at all, but experience gives me a pretty good idea how the addition of flash will change the image. This is affected by which light modifier I have decided to use. You will acquire this experience with practice.

If your subject is stationary, you can use any shutter speed that gives you a sharp image. If you are using a tripod, that can be quite long. If you are holding the camera by hand, it will depend on the focal length of the lens you are using, the steadiness of your hand, and whether you have any kind of stabilisation built into your lens or camera body.

Now that your camera is set to full manual control, with iso, aperture and shutter speed selected, it is time to add your flash.

Adding the flash

Oops! Actually this is when we add the model
This is when the photographer really starts taking control of the final image.  Decisions must be  made. The photographer has to decide what kind of light s/he wants. How hard? How soft? Where will the flash be positioned? What will be it’s direction? How much does the photographer want the light to spread? And so on… This is not the place to get distracted by most of the decisions that must be made in portrait photography!

The only setting we need to concern ourselves with now is “how bright do we want the flash”? The brightness can be adjusted empirically of course. But if you have a light meter, the job becomes fast and easy. All you have to do is measure the amount of light (in F stops) at the tip of the model’s nose, and adjust the power from the flash until you get the F stop you want.

This will usually be the F stop to which you have set your camera, or slightly brighter. Remember that we have adjusted the ambient exposure to give a slightly dark room (see images 2 to 4). But there is no “right” or “wrong” here. This is one of the decisions a photographer makes according to the end result that is desired, and you are free to make adjustments along the way if you are surprised by the results you get.

Using these images as examples
I wanted a fairly “soft” look for my photo of the model leaning against the white pillar (image 1). I did not want much contrast, and I wanted only a gradual transition of brightness  across my model’s face. A photographer might choose this approach if s/he wants to minimise the signs of ageing on a lady’s face, for example. In this example, I set the flash to give just one stop brighter than ambient at the model’s nose. For this image I used a 36″ DMLS modifier from Damian McGillicuddy, fitted with the “vertical slit” front diffuser. You can guage the position of the light relative to the model’s face by the shadows on her face, and the position of the highlight in her eye. I would have raised the light source higher, but I was prevented by a low ceiling in this room. In fact there is significant bouncing of the flash off the ceiling, which contributes to the relatively even spread of light across our model.

In the other three images (images 2-4), I wanted the room to be a bit darker than the model. This is because I wanted the photos to be about her, rather than the room, and I wanted it to obvious that the standard lamp is on. So I used a smaller softbox; the 19″ DMLS modifier from Damian McGillicuddy, fitted with the front diffuser. It was actually quite fiddly getting the lighting just right, so the model is nicely lit, and the standard lamp is obviously turned on. In a situation like this I would have been grateful for a small softbox with a grid. Another option would have been to add a gobo, to further restrict the spread of light, but this wasn’t necessary.

For images 2-4, the flash is giving F4 at the model’s face, and this is approximately 2 stops brighter than ambient light at the models face (obviously the amount of ambient light varies in different regions of the room).

Once you have set up your flash to give the correct amount of light on your model’s face,  you can easily adjust the overall effect by changing the shutter speed. This will make the background darker or lighter, at your “artistic whim”. Just to be clear – changing the shutter speed will NOT affect the exposure due to the flash, but it WILL have a significant affect over the background.

I remember that it was quite fiddly adjusting the variables so you can see the standard light is on. It was necessary not to swamp it’s light with light from the flash. So the brightness and spread of the flash had to be controlled quite precisely, and balanced with how the shutter speed affected the background.

Matching the colour of flash to household tungsten light bulbs

Speedlights have a colour temperature (white balance) that is similar to daylight, while tungsten bulbs are very yellow by comparison (especially as “seen” by a camera). Therefore one needs to make the light from the speedlight more “yellow”. This is easily achieved by fitting a CTO (colour temperature orange) filter (or “gel”) over the flash head. Many speedlights come with a rudimentary set of coloured gels, and if they don’t, coloured gels can be bought.

 

off camera flash - balancing with tungsten lighting

Image 1, taken at F4, 1/125. iso 800

off camera flash - balancing with tungsten lighting

Image 2, F4, 1/60, iso 800

off camera flash - balancing with tungsten lighting

Image 3, F4.5, 1/60, iso 800

balancing flash with tungsten lighting on a location photo shoot

Image 4, F4.5 1/80, iso 800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technical photographic information

All four of these photos were created usinga single off-camera flash (speedlight) to supplement the ambient light in the room, which was provided by standard household (tungsten) bulbs.

These are the light modifiers I used. Unfortunately they are no longer being sold, although Lesley McGillicuddy told me that Elinchrom may start selling the 19″ modifier at some point in the future.

19 inch DMLS modifier designed by Damian McGillicuddy (I recommend this link if you are want to learn more about using off-camera flash on location, and using coloured gels over the flash).

36 inch DMLS modifier designed by Damian McGillicuddy

Useful links

An instructive article by Damian McGillicuddy, in which he describes using his 19 inch DMLS light modifier, and also coloured gels on speedlights.

An article about using CTO gels, written by Jared Platt.

Would you like to hire me for a professional photo shoot?

Then please visit the “booking a professional photo shoot” page on my website.