Saturday, December 26, 2020


The most exciting kinds of artificial lighting are those that mimic natural light. It’s not easy to recreate nature’s subtle, atmospheric qualities. Beginners make the common mistake of throwing way too much light at what they’re shooting. Whether you’re shooting people or products, less is more. The more focused the lighting, the more interesting and visually compelling it becomes. If there’s light everywhere, there’s no direction for the viewer’s eye to follow. If there’s a scarcity of light, the areas that are illuminated become the focal point. We see this kind of subtle light in nature.
Lighting geeks like me love nothing more than watching the way sunlight behaves as it streams through a narrow opening, moves across the sky or scatters into beams of light as it breaks through clouds or strikes the leaves of a tree overhead. It results in unique shapes and patterns. These magic lighting moments give me pause and remind me how powerful light and shadow can be in creating mood and atmosphere.
In photography, we recreate these effects using tools known as “go-betweens,” aka “gobos.” These are typically a piece of wood or metal with a series of shapes and/or patterns cut into it. A gobo goes between the light and the subject to cast a shape or pattern onto it. There are also constant lights and strobe modifiers with built-in mechanisms that allow shapes to be created with light and also permit the definition of those shapes to be varied as desired.
The concept for this “Slash of Light” shoot was the result of a collaboration between local model Laurel Mona and me. We connected via Facebook, where I always post new work, which is a great way to cultivate new relationships with creatives interested in collaborating. Laurel sent over a series of sample images of concepts she was interested in shooting. Several of the images reminded me of a concept I’d been wanting to shoot that was inspired by the striking patterns and shapes created every day on my walls by the afternoon sun streaming through my windows.
This warm, defined, dramatic light changes its shape and angle with each passing hour. We settled on this concept, and over the next few days, Laurel followed up with multiple wardrobe and accessory options. Nailing down many elements before the shoot helps assure everybody is on the same page and working toward the same creative goal.
Styling is a big part of the equation. Ideally, the colours of the background, wardrobe, and hair and makeup should work together to support the overall look and feel of the concept. We chose a warm-toned wardrobe and accessories to help accentuate her auburn hair, a mottled-gold background and the look of afternoon sunlight.
One of the best tools for creating shapes with light is Profoto’s Pro Zoom Spot. With this focusable Fresnel and a strobe, you can create a beam of light that you can adjust from zoom to spot and soft to sharp.
Popular Fresnel models are available from Bowens, Elinchrom and several other manufacturers. What differentiates the Pro Zoom Spot from the crowd is its four built-in user-adjustable blades that can create an endless variety of shapes. When you combine this shape-making capability with the Fresnel’s ability to create anything from soft edges all the way to super-crisp shapes, things get really exciting. The Pro Zoom Spot acted as my key-light and is responsible for the slash of light you’re seeing in these images.
The new model, with its built-in 4,800-watt-second strobe, wouldn’t make sense for me at its prohibitive price tag of £8,000. But the legacy model I use, to which you add your own Profoto Pro Head, can be found on eBay for around £300.
I have seen people get close to this effect using a speed-light. In this method, a cardboard tube is attached to the speed-light. At the front of the tube, two strips of gaff tape are used to create a rectangular shape with the light when the flash is fired. Lastolite makes a set of gobos with which you can create shapes and patterns with speed-lights. You won’t achieve the same degree of crispness on the edges of the shape, but they offer a cool, inexpensive way to get close.
The shape created by the Pro Zoom Spot was confined and hard-edged, with no falloff to illuminate Laurel’s body or the background. This resulted in a flat look that lacked separation, layering, and dimension. So I added two fill lights, one at a time, to better judge their contribution.
These additions needed to be extremely low-key or I’d risk destroying the subtle effect created by the key-light. I needed a kiss of light on the backdrop to create separation and bring in its gold tones, and an equally low level of light on Laurel’s body to provide detail and avoid everything falling into black.
To illuminate the background, I used a Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe with a 20-degree grid spot. This created a subtle circle of light on the background, providing the separation needed to create more depth in the images.
To add detail to Laurel’s body, I added a second Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe modified with an Elinchrom 14 x 35 strip box. I varied the strip box’s height and horizontal and vertical orientation for ground and standing poses and positioned the fill lights. For the tighter portraits, I used the gridded strobe camera left as a hair light and angled the strip box slightly toward the backdrop to maintain separation.
Word to the wise: This is not a forgiving style of lighting like clamshell, which we might use when shooting beauty and portrait work. This light has much harder qualities that accentuate every line and blemish. Expect retouching to be more laborious and time-consuming, but the payoff is beautiful dramatic images. For retouching, I used my go-to Beauty Retouch Panel by Retouching Academy, an inexpensive Photoshop plugin that takes care of many of the repetitive tasks required in retouching.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


After 12 years working as a professional photographer, I realise now more than ever the value of having working relationships with industry vendors. We all have a job to do, we all want to be successful, we all want to make money. I see a lot of businesses take an isolationist approach, which can be detrimental to the success of your business. Instead, I find ways to foster mutually beneficial relationships with vendors.

Recently I was looking at where my fashion portraiture referrals were coming from when I noticed that a venue I used to shoot at several times a year had completely fallen off my radar. We had not shot a wedding there in almost five years. How could that be? We picked up the phone, scheduled a meeting with their team and did something about it.
Below is how we went from an afterthought to front-runner—and rebuilt a relationship and our portfolio along the way.
Know what you bring to the table. 
We are creatives. All businesses need creative talent. They need graphic design, photography services, video services and also someone with vision and the ability to execute ideas.
There is great value in what we bring to the table, and we have to parlay that into a winning situation for ourselves. That’s why we are doing this. Be transparent. I know I was.
We offered to stylise a commercial fashion shoot and promotional video in exchange for premium placement in this venue’s salesroom. It was a lot of work to commit to, but in the end, it was a great way to position the studio as a premier partner. I was doing something no other photographer was willing to do. I bet correctly that the images we produced would drive new business to our studio and galvanise our relationship with the venue.
Think about what your vendors need. 
Anyone involved in this project needs something. We are all in business to make a profit. Most vendors don’t have time to help you with a stylised shoot if there is nothing in it for them. We all need to be a little selfish here, and that’s ok.
So, what do they all need? Updated images for their marketing. This includes social media, print advertising, and billboards—all of which require images. It’s easy to just photograph for yourself and not think about the other vendors involved. That’s a huge miss.
For this shoot, we delivered new prints for their sales room, a multipage flyer highlighting both the venue and my photography to be handed out, and a video commercial. Of course, I got some incredible images for my portfolio to showcase at the next show.
Own the concept and idea. Every piece of it. 
This is your idea. Own it. If you want to just be a heartbeat with a camera, then let someone else run the show—but all you will have accomplished is to prove you are nothing more than a nerd who knows how to use a tool.
Instead, own the concept from beginning to end and showcase yourself as the director, producer, and vision of the project. You will be bringing incredible value to the team. Who wouldn’t want to work with a rock star? Once the word gets out that you and your team pulled this off without a hitch, you will be received with open arms by any vendor on future projects. Screw this up, and, well, you know what will happen. But hey, no pressure.
We owned the entire concept from beginning to end. There are a lot of moving parts to something like this, and you need to stay organised.
Bring in your tribe. 
We all have vendors we like and who we have a good relationship with. Involve those people. This is the trifecta. You now add and galvanise your relationship with existing partners who want to be part of everything you do: florists, limos, tuxedos, models, hair and makeup.
We expanded the shoot to include a bunch of vendors we have relationships with. This shoot had a little bit of everything, so we needed help from our partners. In return, they got imagery. See how easy this is?
Deliver on your promises. 
Don’t you dare come this far and screw this up? You better deliver on all your promises, and deliver fast, none of this six-month delivery time. We had our images ready in two weeks from this shoot. We were sharing and tagging vendors in less than 24 hours after the shoot. Do not half-ass this. If you do, the resulting negative publicity will not be forgotten anytime soon. These are vendors that you have to see week in and week out.
Invest the time and energy needed to complete the project. Hire someone, outsource if you need to, but do it right.
Stay connected to vendors on social media. Thank them for their involvement. Share behind-the-scenes images and stories. You are doing this to keep the excitement and momentum going post-shoot. This is something everyone invested a lot of time and energy into, and you need to do everything in your power to make it worth their while and ensure no one leaves with a bad taste in their mouth. If they do, they will never do it again.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Is it a lot of work? Yes, but trust me, the results are well worth it. Once you find your rhythm and formula, repeat it all over again.
Dominate your local market.


Many photographers dream of working on location in incredible places where one might encounter the occasional giraffe or dolphin. A few years ago I was exposed to the dark side of destination shoots when I was invited by my good friend Brian to shoot inside a vast abandoned country house in West Yorkshire erected before the Civil War. Since then, I’ve had the urge to visit destinations where I am more likely to get tetanus than to see a family of elk.
There is a strange allure to working on location in these abandoned buildings. Part of it is the architecture and history of the building. But to be honest, I’m mostly into it for the spooky factor. At the house, my mind was free to ponder the 100s souls who died there. When I walk through the halls of places like this, I let my mind wander to the history. I also think about the architectural workmanship of those who are long dead and forgotten.
In the nursery room, the name of a nurse was carved into the concrete floor. That gave me an odd, ghastly feeling. Perhaps I was feeling what those gizmos adorned with a lot of blinking lights measure on those ghost hunter shows.
Most of the subjects I enjoy shooting fall into two distinct categories: those that complement the place and those that oppose it. Shooting high-fashion and artistic nudes contrast strangely with the destruction all around the subject, and that dichotomy is interesting to me. The other category embraces the nature of the place, and that is where I get into my arcane mood and work on somewhat disturbing images that evoke an emotion. I am not into gore or blood, but enjoy the more subtle ways of giving those little hairs on the back of the neck a workout. Creating spooky images and seeing the proper response is more natural than some other forms of art where pretentious people come up with all sorts of wild reasons you made an artistic choice. In this case, they just drop their glass of wine and freak out, and you know your mission is accomplished.

I embrace the feeling I get from a specific location. Most of the time, this isn’t going to be a happy one. We might as well call it creepy. As you can probably guess, I love creating images filled with emotion in places like these. Most of mine also include a figure, which might be wearing something that fits the theme, or a beautiful nude. Another common reason for risking entry into these abandoned locations is the sheer wealth of goodies for compositing. I have found unique textures and scenes that just don’t come along frequently, and capturing them adds a unique character to my images.
You’re probably wondering if I believe in ghosts. I don’t, but I have been in many places that should be on any respectable ghost’s list of places to haunt.
Now that you know the reasons I enjoy it, you are probably ready to grab your camera and find some busted house for your next photo session. Before you do that and end up in jail, or worse, let’s talk about some of the things you need to know before you venture forth. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I am not an expert like some hardcore “urbex” photographers.

Don’t Go Into Basements

There are structural concerns in most of these places, and being on the bottom of the pile doesn’t give you the best odds of survival. Secondly, if there are ne’er-do-wells, wild animals, crazy spiders or exploding fungus, this is where they prefer to live. Bring a sword and a torch or two if you plan to venture down those stairs alone because I am not coming with you.

The Opposite of the Basement Is the Roof

The roof is often the weakest part of the structure for load bearing. Walking on an old roof is a riskier dice roll than the band of stupid adventurers that went into the basement.

Don’t Go Into Houses

Houses are where people are likely to be living (duh). After the last legal residents have moved on, homeless people often take their place, and they don’t much care for visitors. Unless you are an aspiring crack dealer or have a death wish, just stay out of houses. They also have some of the weakest floors and decay much more quickly than their commercial counterparts.
One of the phrases I have heard uttered is “Breaking and entering is a felony, but trespassing is a misdemeanor.” Now, I am not condoning you enter places illegally, but keep in mind that you are probably breaking a law or two in most cases. Be especially careful at federal properties, like abandoned post offices—entering those places is a felony even if the front door is wide open or even missing.

City Permits and Safety

There are plenty of abandoned buildings you can enter for a small fee and enjoy a day of photography without fear of being hauled away in handcuffs or face a hefty fine. Contact a city’s film and television office and ask about an urban explorer pass or permit. They often have lists of locations and descriptions of the safety of those spots.
Just because you have permission doesn’t mean you are safe from those willing to do you harm and take your camera gear. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and don’t go alone.

Wear Proper Clothing 

Many of these places are downright dangerous. Wear safety shoes to protect your feet from rusty nails, strategically hidden poo and other scary things you probably should kick before they bite you. Change your shoes after you leave the building. You don’t want to track whatever you stepped in all over anyone’s house or car.

Don’t Do Damage 

Even if you are in a place that is filled with graffiti, you are there to explore and document, not to alter the location. Be a ghost. Don’t disturb anything. Every time you move something, you stir up dust that can contain a lot of things you probably don’t want to breathe into your lungs. Consider wearing a mask. Fungal spores, mold and lung-shredding particles of asbestos are often prevalent. Depending on your research of the location, any or all of these safety precautions are things you should consider. As I have said before, use common sense.
Many of the most exciting places are those off the beaten path. Most cities have buildings that might still have their original furnishings and equipment or be in pristine but an aged condition. These are goldmines that are closely guarded secrets among those who discover them. A little research can open a door (literally) that would not otherwise be available. Having a robust portfolio of work can also talk you into locations where they know you will respect their property. That portfolio can get you out of a situation with the law when they can see your work and know you are not the type of person they would want to arrest. Of course, all of this goes out the window if you happen to be in a place where the owner of the property wants to wreck your life and sue you to set an example.
Keep all of these things in mind. Have a plan, do your research and work quickly. The less gear you take with you, the better. Best of luck if you choose to follow this path, worthy adventurer.

Friday, September 25, 2020



One of the most common questions I see on social media, especially just after somebody’s posted an image shot on location with flash, is “How do you stop your light stands from falling over?” – which isn’t an unreasonable question to expect. When it’s just you and your subject, how do people stop their light stands from falling over?

Well, you could carry a bunch of heavy sandbags around with you, or make sure to hire an assistant for all of your location shoots, but photographer Wayne Speer has another idea – especially when shooting in locations with soft ground. He uses tent pegs and rope.

It’s a great way to keep your stands pegged down – quite literally – so that they don’t fall over due to being top heavy or during a bit of a breeze. I’ve been using this technique myself for about a decade now, although I strap mine down slightly differently to Wayne.

You can see in the images above that Wayne ties his around the upper locking mechanism where the three legs connect to the centre column and then uses two pegs to hold it down. I’m overkill when I do it – but then I’m usually on location with a 4ft octabox. I use six pegs and tie-down each leg individually using 2 pegs each along with bungee cord – a bit like this terrible diagram I just made in Photoshop.

I use bungee cord rather than rope because I’d rather it have a little bit of give, instead of risking bending and snapping the light stand’s centre column. They’re usually pretty strong, but when you’ve got that much weight on there, that’s a lot of force. I use them in this position because it helps to keep that centre of gravity pulling against the wind much lower to the ground. And I put it on all three because this is Scotland, so the wind can switch direction at a moment’s notice. So I want to make sure all three are well tied down while I’m shooting.

The disadvantage of using six pegs with bungee cord rather than Wayne’s two pegs with rope, however, is that it takes longer to tie it down and then to remove it again without risking the bungee cord snapping back and hitting you in the face. But usually when I’m setting up a light this way on location, I’m not planning to move it for a while anyway.

Make sure you get tent pegs or spikes suitable for the ground you plan to shoot on. Wayne says that he plans to use sand spikes when he does his beach photo shoots. And, of course, if you’re on concrete, you should probably stick to those heavy sandbags.

How do you stop your lights from falling over on location?

Disclaimer: If you do this, you do so at your own risk. Don’t blame us (or Wayne) if you use the wrong pegs, or the rope snaps, or your light comes crashing down to the ground for some other reason. This is the way we do it. If you choose to do it as well, that’s on you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


The Key to Basic Beauty Lighting
Let’s talk about the word “beauty” for a second to get our journey off on the right path.
The definition: “A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” Seems pretty straightforward—we see something beautiful, and we admire it because of those elements mentioned above.
As a photographer, ask yourself this question: how often do you break down a session into those key elements? Our creative path is usually inspired by other images we see, images that evoke the desired adjective of “beautiful” and also conjure the phrase, “I want to shoot something like this too!” You get all the necessary components together and start photographing. But are you replicating what you saw as your inspiration, or are you returning to the basics of beauty—the definition of the word?


To define shape, we can, of course, think about the pose of the subject, but the lighting pattern that we choose can alter that pose and create an interesting new result or something that doesn’t hit the trifecta of what a beautiful image is. A common lighting pattern to use in beauty imagery is Butterfly Lighting. This involves using one light source that is placed directly in front of your subject, then raised up into the air, so it is slightly above your subject’s head. Now the light has to be tilted downward, at a 45-degree angle, so a wealth of light will actually fall on your subject. Because the light is in front of your subject, higher than them and tilted down toward them, it will cause shadows to form under all of the protruding elements of their body. This creates shape and helps to sculpt your subject. It also evokes a feeling, more so than just a flat light pointed directly at your subject with no elevation or tilt.
The butterfly moniker derives from the shapes caused by the shadows the light produces, specifically under the nose of a human subject. The shape of that shadow resembles a butterfly and evokes that sense of beauty, adding a touch of drama to the image. Their jawline will also gain a significant shadow, helping to define and sculpt your subject.
In the first reference image of our model Kiarra, you can see that the shadow under the jawline is strong, and this helps to frame her face and give it shape. The shadow under her nose is not as strong, because I had her turn her head slightly away from the light and therefore it fell off a bit.
This first image is a decently dramatic beauty image with a lot of great, defined shadow—my preference for any beauty work that I create as a photographer. This can be achieved with one light source; in the case of this image, I am using a single strobe with a 47-inch octabox attached to the front of the light. The diffusion provided by the octabox gives the light a softer quality and controls the direction of the light, and that is the key. You can produce similar results with a continuous light source like an LED or a lamp if you don’t yet have your first strobe or flash unit. However, the control of the light will vary, and that is why modifiers are absolutely essential in sculpting light to help define shape.


I love introducing shadows into any image, as they define shape and create mood, but they can also produce some major issues when it comes to retouching the image in Photoshop. The first area where butterfly lighting can cause an issue is with the subject’s eyes. If their eyebrow ridge is too pronounced or if they have large, heavy eyelashes, then the light coming from above will cause too much shadow to fall into the eyes, and you’ll lose too much detail. It can be recovered in Photoshop, but to varying levels of success, making it sometimes too risky for the shoot. This is where you need to introduce a second element to the lighting setup: a reflector or eye lighter.
In this second reference image of Kiarra, I have placed an eye lighter directly in front of her, just out of view of the bottom of the frame. This U-shaped device is essentially just a reflector, and the shape helps to “point” light back toward your subject. If it were flat, then a lot of reflected light would be lost out to the sides; the curve helps shape the light back toward your subject. As you can see in the image, the shadows are reduced significantly under her jawline and around the other areas of her body. They are not eliminated but rather reduced to a point where we can see more detail and the image becomes brighter, which changes the emotion. I also chose to use the soft white material for the eye lighter, rather than the silver material indicative of a typical reflector. The white material reflects a softer light into the scene and doesn’t cause as many specular highlights as a silver piece of material can.
This effect can be produced by other methods beyond using an eye lighter. You can set an actual reflector under your subject, place a small table in front of them with a piece of white poster board, or even bring in another light source, down low and pointed up toward them (the mirror opposite of your main light) to create a lighting pattern called Clamshell Lighting. As long as the light being directed into the shadows is minor compared to the power of light from above, and you’ll gently fill in the areas of the subject where detail may be lost.


As you’ve noticed by now in the images, colour plays a large part in associating the word “beauty” with the image. I chose to have Kiarra wear an oversized sweater because the temperatures in Phoenix have dropped a bit, and it’s quite cold (for us) in the mornings and evenings now. When she arrived on set, she had a maroon sweater and I made a choice as an artist to choose a background that stayed in that same colour family.
I challenge you again—do you think about the colours of the clothing and the background you photograph your subject against? Do you think about the colour harmony you are introducing into the image with those choices? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, and your choices are your own. However, making strong choices about associated colours is just as vital as the camera, the lighting, and anything else that goes into this beauty image.
I could have chosen a grey paper to photograph her against, something so neutral that her sweater would become vibrant and draw focus. I asked myself, “What feeling does that evoke in this image—will it be too bland?” I then looked at the colour wheel and looked at the opposite colour of red and immediately declined, because those two colours are often associated with the winter holidays.
Her sweater is maroon, though, and not a base red colour. Maroon is created by red inching ever closer to the blue side of the spectrum. So, I considered in my mind’s eye what a blue paper would look like behind her. My assumption was that the image would become too “busy” and the viewer’s focus would be torn between looking at the model, the maroon sweater and all of that blue pushing against it. Blue is my favourite colour though, so it was hard to not try setting it up.
In the end, I chose a deeper red paper for the background because I trusted that with all of the red of the scene being in play, the viewer would then take in Kiarra’s face and pose faster than they would from the other choices.


This final element of the definition of beauty is perhaps the most vital—and, I would wager, usually where most of us struggle with our photography. There are so many rules about what is proper for a good pose, especially in the world of beauty imagery. Don’t show the back of the hand—no wait, don’t show the palm of the hand. Okay, fine … don’t show their hands at all, but you need to be able to see their hands. You should be able to see all five fingers on both hands, not just the leading one. One-shoulder should be higher than the other and the lower one should connect to the hip that is popped.
I’ve heard so many theories of what is “right,” and they can conflict quite a bit. Rather than trying to remember an entire library of “do’s and don’ts” for every shot that I take, I fall back to feeling. I guide the model to a feeling and give them a subject to connect with and convey their emotions to. This, of course, adds to my workflow in the session, but it also helps the model connect to the shoot and sets a goal that we both have to achieve. By the end of our session together, the model feels a sense of achievement rather than just being told, “Okay, do your poses ‘n stuff and I’ll just take a bunch of pictures.”
A source of pride that I take in my work as a photographer comes from this collaboration. Many times in my travels, I have had models (both new and professionally signed talent) tell me, “I love the way you direct onset—it gives me a path to follow.”
When the right feeling is found and the model evokes it, I take a brief moment to stop and evaluate the image in front of me. When you do this, minor things suddenly begin to jump out at you. You can only see four fingers instead of five. Their palm is turned too flat toward the camera, and a minor rotation of the wrist will lessen it and create more mood. Follow your feelings in the image-making, and the model will do the same.
With that being said, if you have the chance to work with a professional model who is signed with an agency, then you can expect that they will have a library of poses that they will flow through during the session. Explain the lighting pattern you have chosen, the colour choices you have made, and the feelings you want to capture. They will know how to play to the light, how to secure the right poses to create the emotion, and you can sit back and just worry about the camera, the lights, the Photoshop work, the deadlines, etc.


In this last example, I introduced a third light source by placing another strobe above Kiarra’s head, using a 27-inch beauty dish that was positioned so that most of the light would fall behind her and illuminate the background. The rim of light that fell onto her head helped separate her a bit from the now brighter background, and I had her alter her pose to add to that effect.
I also brought in two V-flats to the scene and placed them as barriers on either side of her. This has the effect of pushing any available light from the strobes back into the scene, to further soften the shadows and illuminate the subject. V-flats are wonderful tools to have in your kit as a photographer and are relatively inexpensive. They can block light in outdoor scenes or guide light strategically back into your image. Reflectors can do the same job, and depending on the material used, you’ll get a wonderful variety of results.
Beauty imagery always relies upon those core elements in the definition—shape, colour, and form—to create a foundation that, with a bit of guidance from you, will make a beautiful picture.

Friday, July 10, 2020


There is a recipe in everything we do as human beings, one that incites some type of emotional response no matter where we are and what we are doing. It involves the senses—whether a single one or multiple at the same time.
In the artistic realm, part of the goal is to generate a response based on a recipe that engages sight. This requires a process that will make your vision come to life—from formulation to actualization in creating images that inspire and elicit joy when viewed.
The creative process and the steps we take to achieve a goal are similar across many genres. In this case, they are similar to the process of a chef who specializes in a specific set of culinary delights. This is how I approach creating my images, whether in a studio or out on location.
There is more than one recipe, of course, but I will go over the five key steps that structure how I approach creating my own imagery.
There are several factors to take into account: Location, Lighting, Color, Material, Makeup, Subject, Editing, and most of all, Mood. For me, the approach is fairly simple and relatively organic. It’s organic because I do not particularly use measurements or the classic light patterns as we understand them. What motivates you? What inspires you to create? For me, the biggest influencers are Color and Material.
With those as a base, let’s take a look at a common recipe for creating the imagery I produce:

1. The Base – Subject and Location

It’s important to know the subject before you start to put your vision together. Why? Because it is the foundation to creating your image, much like a chef whose dish begins with poultry, beef or fish. You need to understand what you are working with in order to begin. I like a dramatically elegant feel, so it is important for me to know first whether I will be shooting outside or inside. If inside, will it be in a studio, where I will have to build creativity from a blank canvas, or at a location, where I will have to play off the environment provided? I start by deciding whether this will be a beauty image, a portrait, or an editorial set—whether I will focus on details, on a specific subject, or on trying to tell a story.

2. Ingredients – Items, Materials and Props

Once you have your base, it’s time to enhance. This can be as simple as a scarf, a piece of jewellery, or a makeup concept for beauty. In portraiture, it is the environment and subject matter. What is your focus in the portrait? I focus on making the person look regal, so paying attention to the outfits and dresses is key. With bridals, I showcase the dress or a fashion image. With editorials on location, you look at the environment to guide your vision. Sometimes, this has to be done on the fly.
After driving into an abandoned nursery for a photo walk, some people left, because all they saw was junk. What I saw was this lone doorway standing there with shredded plastic. I knew I had a male model with pants and a jacket, and a female model, along with a vintage wedding dress that was part of the available wardrobe.
Next came the placement of the models and the light. Thinking about the angle and distance of the shot can change the whole scene. By shooting low and through tall grass, you kind of get a Gone with the Wind feel. In the studio, it’s a bit different—you need to add ingredients. Last year, I conducted a two-day workshop on lighting. The first day focused on studio lighting, and the last segment involved building a set from a few pieces of fabric and some wooden barrels. Some of the attendees didn’t understand what I was doing. As I was setting up the shot, one attendee told me, “I ain’t shooting that crap.” When everything was set and I took the sample shot, you bet your ass he picked up that camera.

3. The Spice – Mood, Expression and Color

With the main parts of your vision beginning to bring it all together, here is where you can start to enhance it, where it elevates to that next level. The expression has to work with the concept. For me, I want to convey sensuality, power, and elegance, and not necessarily intense, but passionate emotions in my imagery. When I started, the common theme was that you have to see the eyes. Why? Because that’s the only way to express connection? Not always—a model looking away or with their eyes covered can show expression with proper and intentional posing. Hand placement, facial expression and body angles can all convey something different with a subtle change. Especially in beauty photography, a slight parting of the lips can turn a pouting look into a sensual, powerful one. A model looking down one side of her body gives a sense of self-awareness, peace and tranquillity. I look at bone structure—angles can be powerful. The collar bone, shoulders, chin and cheekbones all play a part. The sharper the angle, the more impact in the final image. In my portraiture and editorials, I will find a way to add movement. Whether it is small or grand, on the subject or part of the background, that is a much-required touch. Without that in the previous image, we’d have a whole different feel.

4. Temperature – Lighting

Lighting—it is key. Do me a favour: repeat that, and then repeat it again, about 10 more times. No matter how well planned or thought through the vision is, lighting will make or break your image. There are so many ways to light a photograph, and nowadays, you are not reinventing the wheel but rather tweaking it to suit your style and vision. From loop light to Rembrandt, split, broad, short, feathered, or hard light, it’s all a starting point for how you want to light your image, and then you can tweak it from there.
I generally like to feather no matter the setup or base technique. I tend to stick with a darker colour pallet, one that is contrasty, yet soft. I like to open up the shadows in a multiple-light setup, which generally means I’m using three lights and sometimes a v-flat or bounce card. This is where the feathering comes in. My favourite tool is a three-foot-deep octa pointed straight down in front of the subject with a white bounce card or reflector underneath for my creative beauty. The reflector will be flat, with a slight angle at best. The idea is that I am lighting with all fall off. If you don’t understand what I mean by fall off, consider it using the edge of the light instead of the light being dead on. Better yet, think of fanning yourself. The farther away your hand is from your face, the softer the breeze.
I will then add some fill and rim light to the image, though not too strong. I am just trying to create some separation using a strip box as a backlight and a large white umbrella for fill to achieve dimension in the shadows.
When it comes to both portraiture and editorials in the studio, I will use the same setup the majority of the time. And I use this thought process in my portraiture as well. One will be directional, one will be fill, and one will highlight or edge the subject. I use the term directional because I believe that describes more of what I am using the key light for. Most photographers put the light source at a 45-degree angle left or right in an octa or umbrella and just throw it at the subject, and that’s their key light. I want to carve out the face using shadows that are deep, not hard. The key here is subject placement. It is a game of inches, and you have to direct them to get the desired effect. One inch in the wrong direction with this approach could make the image useless.

5. Presentation – Final Edit

The final edit ties it all together like a garnishment, a finishing touch. Let me just say—I hate to edit. I am by no means a Photoshop expert, and I always want to do the least amount of editing possible. This is why the first four steps are critical and especially lighting. With that being said, editing is what takes your image to that final level. The edit is a mark of your brand as well. I tend to do subtle edits, building them up to create a major impact. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop to complete my images.
I’m going to close with a favourite quote of mine from Sal, one that I think helps wrap this all up: “You have to have the bones, to begin with.”

Saturday, February 15, 2020


It is so important that, as artists, we finish our final images before delivering to our clients. The images we create are more than just a snapshot in time; they are truly a representation of how we see the world around us. These images will live on for generations to come. Shouldn’t we polish them before we deliver them to our clients?
Now, in the world of post-production, we tend to see two camps. There’s that of purists, who believe in just delivering images as they were captured, reminiscent of the days of film before we had Photoshop. And then there are those on the other end of the spectrum who believe in using software to shape, alter, and polish their images before presenting to their clients. I’d like to think I live somewhere in the middle, which I am sure many of you can relate to.
What I would like to do here is explore how the right amount of post-production can help you and your business stand out.
First, let’s start with this idea of being a “purist.” I love when I run into these people. “Not me, bro. I’m straight out of the camera,” they claim. They go on, “It’s like the days of film—you didn’t have all this photoshopping, you had to get it right in camera.” Really? You do realize that even in the days of film, they were implementing post-production strategies, right? This is usually where I start scratching my head and question intelligence levels. Don’t get me wrong—if you are all about minimal retouching, I support you. I believe we all need to find our style and create a consistent brand, but please, know what you are talking about.
Even in the days of glass plate negatives, altering a photo was a thing. Darkroom techniques included dodging, burning, masking, skin smoothing, toning, body shaping and more. The “skinny” tool existed long before Photoshop. So, it’s laughable when people believe they are delivering on this nostalgic concept. Add to that the silly idea that in the world of digital, “straight out of camera” is delivering a real and natural image. I’m trying to be nice here, but for crying out loud, get your head out of your you-know-where. If you are using a camera, applying a camera profile, etc., you are altering the image. The difference is, instead of using Photoshop, you are allowing the camera’s processor and software to do the editing for you. But make no mistake, you are in fact manipulating the image.
Now, look, I’m saying all this to drive a single point home. We have to finish what we start. As photographers, as artists, we have a vision before we clicked the button. I am of the mindset that we need to use the tools available to us to create and finalize the image we see in our mind’s eye.
The single most important piece of advice I can give you regarding your images is to finish what you started. Post-production is without a doubt how my photography studio has stood out in a crowded market. You don’t have to shoot like me or edit like me, that’s not the point. The point is we must deliver a polished final image to our client. If we do not, we run the risk of our images looking and feeling like everyone else’s.
Here is my philosophy:

Software is a tool

It’s as simple as that. Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture 1, and others—these are all tools. No different than a hammer in your garage. And just like a hammer, each can be used to build something or destroy something.
To ignore the tool is to ignore progress. I don’t believe we can truly do our jobs without software. Photoshop, actions, presets, brushes, etc. are all there to make us more efficient. They are not meant to be one-click solutions to finishing our images.
Software is a large piece of the puzzle. Driving this home, your camera choice, your lens choice, your lighting choices, and your post-production choices all work cohesively to deliver on your final vision. Can you really do your job without all the pieces?

Post-production is a spice

Season to taste. If you cook, you know what I am referring to here. As a cook, you can pick any recipe and tweak it to your personal preferences. A little bit more of this, a little less of that. The next thing you know, you have created your own masterpiece. Is photography any different? I say, no.
I’m not here to tell you how much is too much or not enough. I am driving the point home, aggressively I might add, that we must finish what we started. I want you to realize something. The images you place on your site or your social media, the ones you print for your salesroom—these images are a reflection of how you see the world and of your brand. This is what people are hiring you for.
Be consistent with your application. Some will love your work, and some will hate it. Who cares? Focus on the people who gravitate to your work. A consistent portfolio will make it that much easier to find them.

See the final image before you click

Over the years, I have come to realize that the more work I do before the shot, the easier the post-production becomes. I’m not saying I know what it will look like every single time I take an image. However, what I like to do is try to see the final image in my head. Is it a high-contrast shot? Will it look better in black and white or in colour? I know this sounds like a trivial thing, but it can make a huge difference to start thinking this way.
This doesn’t only apply to colour toning. If you think about the final image, you will also start to see details that can’t easily be fixed in post-production. I start to look a lot closer at hand placement, hair (have you ever had to edit hair? It can be a nightmare), bad makeup, etc.
Looking for what is wrong before you take the image can save you hours of time in post-production. Spend the ten seconds before you click looking at the details and thinking about the final shot. You will thank me.

Finalize to your specific brand and vision

This is all about you and your brand. Find your style. This is so important. Over the years, we have put a lot of energy into our style. Love or hate my work, you know it when you see it. Mission accomplished. Look, I can’t expect everyone to love my work, but trying to be everything to everyone is just not a realistic goal. Instead, my mindset is to create an image that people are passionate about, one that brides and teens love. They don’t like it—they love it. If you can do that consistently, then you will stand out in the world of photography. Your clients will find you, and they won’t haggle with you over £50.
When it’s all said and done, use the tools available to you to finish the image you started. Just like a carpenter might use finishing nails and trim to dress up their final project, we need to use the tools available to us to complete our final vision.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


If you want to work as a model, it is extremely important to build a modelling portfolio. Then you will be able to show what you can do to your potential clients with ease. You will need to pay attention to several important factors when building your modelling portfolio. Here is a list of useful tips that you can keep in mind when building your modelling portfolio to get the best results out of it.

1. First of all, you need to determine what kind of model you are. In fact, modelling can be divided into several categories. Lifestyle, promotional and fashion are some of them. It is up to you to analyze your skills, outer appearance and preferences before making the decision. The decision you make here will create a tremendous impact on your future as a successful model.

2. When creating your modelling portfolio, it is important to think about quality over quantity. That’s where professional photographers can assist you with. In fact, the photographer you hire has the ability to help you get noticed as a model among clients. Sometimes you will only be able to afford a few quality shots. They are always better than getting a lot of pictures that are not of good quality. Therefore, you will have to do some research and look for a reputed photographer in your local area to get the portfolio photographed.

3. It is a good idea to talk with your photographer before the photoshoot. The ideas of the photographer become crucial during your photoshoot. In other words, the photographer can deliver useful tips that can contribute to your success. You will also be able to collaborate on ideas during this discussion.

4. During the photoshoot, you need to show different looks. This will assist you to deliver a solid idea about your modelling capabilities to potential clients. Therefore, you should stay away from getting several pictures of having the same look. The photographer that you work with would assist you to figure out the best types of pictures that need to be included in your portfolio. In fact, your objective should be to create a diversified portfolio, which can assist you to get more jobs.

5. While getting your modelling portfolio created, you will have to take the necessary measures to keep everything professional. Always keep in mind that your modelling portfolio can serve as your resume. Therefore, you should only include professional photographs in it. In case if you are not planning to work as a lingerie or swimsuit model, you should not think about including such type of photographs in your portfolio. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the types of pictures that you need to include, you can seek the assistance of your photographer. An experienced photographer would provide you with some valuable ideas, which can contribute a lot to your success.

Model Your Portfolio Pricing Information

Professional modelling portfolio prices vary depending on the package and several looks, models are looking for. Whether you are looking to start a modelling career, update your portfolio or revamp your current modelling portfolio, we offer a variety of packages that will fit your needs and budget. Do you think you have the talent and potential to be a top model or, would you like to experience a high fashion shoot? Book one of our modelling portfolio packages and you’ll be on the right path to make it big in the world of modelling.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

10 Things a Fashion Photographer Should Master

So you’ve shot a few pretty girls, and you feel ready to call yourself a fashion photographer. Fair enough, we all had to start somewhere. However, to live up to the term Fashion Photographer and all of the legends that have worn the label before you, there are a few elementary things you should master, aside from the technical aspect of shooting. To help you on your way to recognition, respect and a following, here are 10 things a fashion photographer should master:

1. History
Know your profession and respect the history of it. Remember, you are standing on the shoulders of giants, and you owe it to your art to study the works of who shaped the industry and brought the art to where it is today. Besides, looking back at what was done back in the day might teach you a thing or two that will take your work to the next level.
You should know how Edward Steichen in 1911 was “dared” by Lucien Vogel, the publisher of Jardin des Modes and La Gazetta du Bon Ton, to promote fashion as a fine art by the use of photography. You should be more than familiar with the works of iconic artists such as Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon or Helmut Newton.

2. Criticism
You need to be able to handle criticism and turn it into fuel that will propel you to the next level. Even though criticism could be scary and hurtful, it can be extremely valuable for your progression as an artist. Seek it.

3. Organization
As the fashion photographer, you are responsible for your productions and your team, and until you can afford to pay someone to help you out full time you will need to stay on top of every little detail. It is absolutely vital that you communicate well with editors and commercial clients, that you always keep your word, and that you deliver before the deadline every single time. No one else will handle your business for you, and in this highly competitive industry, you simply cannot afford to slip up.
Be that asshole with a great attitude who’s always in full control, and people will love collaborating with you and keep coming back.

4. Fashion
It seems as if knowledge of fashion is becoming secondary to aspiring fashion photographers these days. This blows my mind. You are a FASHION photographer. You need to know your fashion. Not only do you need to know what to shoot to stay relevant, but you also need to know how to light different garments in order for them to look great in your shots. Remember, the role of the fashion photographer is to sell fashion, and if you’d like to live off of your passion you better be bloody good at selling it through your photos.

5. Your own fashion style

Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I can tell you this: If you show up to your first meeting with a client or editor wearing a tracksuit, you are not making it easier for yourself. Whether you like it or not, looks and style are important in this industry. The very best fashion photographers live and breathe fashion, whether they look like rock stars or posh prima donnas.

6. Your temper
As mentioned in point three, a great attitude is extremely important. You should also be able to keep your head cool in difficult situations on set and handle conflicts and difficult egos with absolute grace. Don’t ever let anyone work you up, and if you feel like punching someone, secretly sneak out and attack an inanimate object. Never show rage, and never lose it on anyone no matter what.

7. Confidence
Don’t feel confident? Well, start acting it. Feelings follow actions, and if you start acting confident, you’ll feel it soon enough. Confidence is EVERYTHING, and if you have the knowledge mentioned above to back it up, it could be extremely powerful for you both personally and professionally.

8. Knowing yourself and your style
Have a plan for yourself and where you want to take your art. Finding your own style and approach might take some time, but once you get there, stick to it. For branding purposes it is crucial to stay consistent, just look at Juergen Teller, Camilla Ă…krans or Mert & Marcus, I bet you could recognize their work from a mile away.

9. Large workloads

Yep, there are going to be days where you’ll feel completely overwhelmed by the workload. Get used to it, if you’re lucky it’ll only get worse from here.

10. Humility
As mentioned under point 7, confidence is vital, but don’t ever be cocky, and never brag blatantly. You are allowed to be proud of your own achievements, but this needs to be backed by a healthy dose of humility.

The list could go on forever, and that’s without covering your technical skillset as a photographer. However, these are important topics I see a lot of today’s aspiring fashion photographers neglect. As I always stress: this industry is extremely competitive, and you can’t afford to be lazy in any way.


Today I will discuss the importance of background in photography composition illustrated with some examples of mine. Part of a larger series...