Last week I had the pleasure of doing another shoot for Grace Model Management. I’ve done 2 shoots for them before, and both times I’ve got some awesome images for my portfolio, so when they emailed me to ask to do another shoot, I figured that it would be a great idea.
Also, I’d just (finally) brought a speedlite that I really wanted to use for a shoot.
I brought the speedlite so that I could challenge myself with using flash in my outdoor work. I came to this decision after sitting down, looking at my portfolio and really considering what it is that I like about my work. Also, I went through my photography “inspiration folder” to figure out what kind of images I’m drawn to and what it is that interests me.
Having looked through my portfolio, these images of mine really stood out to me:
Edith @ Grace Model Management
Considering them, I really thought that they all have quite dramatic lighting, or, at least, there is something about the lighting that adds to the image. One thing I love is drama, and, as every one knows, shadows always add drama, so I considered how I could make my work a bit more dramatic and buying a flashgun seemed like a great idea.
Another thing I wanted to think about in relation to my work is the technical aspect. I love watching videos and researching new lighting setups. I really miss shooting in the studio, and, as I don’t have the money to hire out studios, I’ve been thinking about how to utilize the great outdoors to create images that look like they have been shot in a studio.
Anyway, getting onto the shoot:
I was in London about two weeks ago for a shoot for a client, and it happened to be in Moorgate. Luckily I got there a lot earlier than expected so I took the time to wander about. I’d never been to Moorgate before but I was sure glad I did! I found some awesome locations to shoot, and I knew that as soon as I had the chance, that I wanted to come back and shoot:
Initial Location scouting images.
The photo shoot with Filip went very smoothly, as he was very comfortable in front of the camera.
I decided to start off with a few quick test shots and then I decided to get out my flashgun and figue out how it works.
I’d brought a TTL wire for the camera, but it proved to be way too short for my liking, so after a few frames of shooting TTL, I decided to stop and use the ambient light for the rest of the shoot. This proved vital; I knew that I wanted to shoot more with the flashgun but there would be plenty of time for that; for now I just wanted to make sure that it worked!
Here is the only “final” image I shot with the flash:
Although I like it, I’m aware that it’s not perfect; the flashgun should be raised higher so that the left hand side of Filip’s neck is in shadow, rather than there being such an odd looking shadow. Also, I realized that the tripod I was using was not high enough for my liking, so I know that I have to buy a “proper” flashgun stand!
After shooting with the flash, I knew that I really wanted to continue shooting images that weren’t flat and evenly lit so we took a wander around, trying to find small quiet backstreets that would give us:
a) a quiet and mostly deserted place to shoot. Sometimes model’s can find public spaces intimidating, especially if they haven’t had a lot of experience.
b) the kind of lighting I was after. I was looking for a thin alleyway that had a solid ceiling with a wide doorway, so that I could position Filip in a spot where the ambient light filters in. By shooting in a place with a ceiling, it meant that some light would be blocked, creating shadows that I could control by asking Filip to move. Also, this allowed me to think about shooting different looks and how I could maximize the time we had shooting by trying out different lighting techniques.
After shooting these two images, we took another wander (the whole shoot was quite a constant wander, of the best kind) and found another interesting location where the light filtered in from one direction. Havig shot mainly headshots for the last few images, I thought that this would be ample opportunity to shoot some full length shots, which are very much required in a model’s portfolio! Also, I really liked directional lighting in this location, as it allowed for a much more dramatic image than I could have shot in the middle of the street. I also paid very careful attention to the background, which was already quite dark, and I knew that shooting against this would add more of a variety to the images. I shot most of these images in this location in black and white, because I knew that was I was going to edit the images:
We then decided to shoot another image literally 3 steps away from the last location and we ended up shooting this image:
As you can see, the image is vastly different in mood and atmosphere. With a little post production, this image has more of a vintage feel, and the split lighting adds a good contrast to Filip’s face.
It’s super important to be aware as a photographer about how you can use the environment. Look around you in all directions and see the world in shapes, textures and patterns. What will happen if you position your model in front of a textured wall and shoot with a wide aperture? How will this different from shooting below the model and using the sky as the backdrop? What kind of mood will each location add to the image. Do you want a dark background because the model is wearing something bright? Or perhaps your model is wearing black and you want to shoot in front of black wall so that you can pick out details of the clothes using rim lights. The location can really help or hinder an image!
Filip and I then ended up in front of this really cool building (after wandering again), which was a community centre for young adults. I really like the oldness of the location, and the fact that it was full of texture. Also, there was a lot of space for me to back up and shoot, so I knew thart I could get a decent full length image of Filip here. I asked him to sit down on the steps, as I was aware I hadn’t shot any images of him sitting down (variation!). I also like the composition that the door gave to image, which, for me, balanced out the frame:
Just as I was about to go, I noticed this wall, that I’d been standing perpendicular to, and I knew that I wanted to shoot here. Because the wall had a lot of different textures, I asked Filip to put his black jacket on, so that it would separate him from the texture. I had originally intended to shoot this image in black and white, but when I put the image into photoshop, I noticed that Filip’s hair merged too much with the darker stones, which was sorted by editing the image in colour:
After shooting here, we ended up wandering around Liverpool Street, trying to find a backstreet where I could shoot something a little more dramatic. We ended up in a really thin alleyway, which was perfect for what I had in mind, especially when I saw some dark green shutters.
I knew that these shutters would be really easy to turn to black in photoshop, and, as light was only filtering in from above this little alleyway, that the light would hit Filip in an interesting way, almost giving a studio like effect that could be accomplished with snoots. I was aware that this image would end up being quite dark and contrasted, but I thought that it would make a great variation on all of the other images we’d shot so far:
All in all, I had a great time shooting Filip, as it really gave me a chance to experiment with ambient light to create different moods and lighting patterns. Also, I got to test out my flashgun (which I’ll totally be using a lot more of!) and I got to create images for Filip’s portfolio!
If you have any questions or comments about my shoot, or to ask about how I did anything, just ask!
I was going through my archive of textures the other day and, as I don’t really use them much nowadays, I thought I’d share some for other photographers to use with no restrictiions!
Here’s the link:
Please keep in touch, I would love to see what you do with them!
Have a nice day!
2014 was a great year for me as I managed to do a lot of super cool stuff such as shoot posters for the Birmingham Clothes Show 2014, get an editorial published in Like A Lion Magazine and even managed to do a test shoot for a modelling agency, which was actually one of my goals for this year!
Although these are just some of the best bits of last year, it goes without saying that doing things and getting such opportunities has not been easy. Also, as a photographer, there’s so much to learn, so here are 7 things I’ve learnt so far in my journey towards becoming a photographer and the best pieces of advice I can give in my current position:
7. Update Your Portfolio
This one sounds like a no-brainer right?
You would think that people who label themselves as photographers would surely be running around doing nothing else, but you would be surprised! I feel that in our current age, with so many photographers, there’s nothing more important than updating your portfolio regularly. I’m not saying that you should do a photo shoot every week (it gets pretty exhausting!) but you must be aiming to update your portfolio at least every month to 2 months depending on the type of images you shoot.
Think about it: when was the last time you did a photo shoot that you were proud to attach your name to?
It’s also pretty important to shoot some stuff that isn’t portfolio material only if you are testing a new technique out but if not, you should consider the difference between the percentage of images you shoot vs the percentage that you show.
6. Get Technical
I think that it’s extremely important for a photographer to have a thorough knowledge of how work both in the studio and outside on location. It super fun to do either and they both provide you with different range of challenges and effects.
A year ago, I was scared of shooting in the studio. I thought that it looked way too technical and that I’d never understand how to use all of the different equipment but once I learnt how to use it I realised that it is actually really easy to use. It’s no different for you!
Also, don’t just get technical with the knowing how to use the studio; get used to all of the equipment. Do you know what quality of light you get from a beauty dish as opposed to a softbox? What situations would you use them in? Would you use them together? How would that work?
What about the sun? How would you utilise the light from such a large source if you had to shoot a model on a blindingly sunny day? What equipment would you use to get the best possible images?
Remember, you can achieve countless effects with even the most basic equipment, but it is how you use the equipment to shape available light that is the key to a successful image! It is not about having the most expensive equipment; you can be a great photographer without ever having to step foot in a studio; but just the possibilities that learning that could open up!
Furthermore, don’t just stop at the physical technicalities. Learn about colour theory, retouching, light balance, make up, composition etc. All of things will add to your overall knowledge of photography.
Are you a fashion photographer? Then read about fashion! What is the difference between bohemian and hippie styles? How has fashion evolved in recent years?
The more you learn, the more you are informed about what you are shooting, which will help you to define what makes a good image and, ultimately, a good portfolio.
5. Spend your time on the internet wisely
It is no doubt that the internet is a great tool for a lot of things, but it is also a major distraction. As cool as it is to watch cat videos on youtube or to spend time browsing pinterest, ultimately, they are not helping your business to flourish. When you’re on the internet, you should ask yourself how much you are helping further yourself and your business. Instead of watching a video about cats, why not watch a video about lighting setups or a BTS video of a shoot by your favourite photographer and note down what makes the video interesting for when you make your next BTS video?
Rather than browse pinterest just to browse the internet, why not look for models to photograph (if you shoot people) or start a pinterest board with ideas for your next photoshoot?
There are probably 100,000,000,000,000 things you could be doing on the internet, and whilst it is great to browse the internet occasionally as a way of relaxing, really consider how you could be utilising it to help yourself.
Where are the best places to find models? If I was a client and asked you to arrange a shoot within a week, where would you go to get a MUA, model, stylist, assistant, the equipment? Where would you go to get all of these components from?
Being a photographer is not just about taking awesome images, you have to spend time researching/ learning techniques, meeting clients & collaborators, location scouting, doing admin for your business, archiving/printing images, post and pre production. That’s not considering the fact that you may have a full time job to focus on as well!
4. Patience is a virtue
You need patience to be a photographer. That’s a must. You need patience to wait on replies from models/companies/collaborators, whilst bearing in mind that you are not everyone’s priority and some people may never contact you back.
As a side note, you should acknowledge that a photoshoot is never set in stone, even when you are actually at the shooting stage. During a shoot, the model or assistant may offer up an idea that is completely different to that pinterest board you made a month back but you should roll with it. Just make sure that you are still in control. After all, you need images out of a shoot as much as anyone else (if not, perhaps more if you’ve planned the shoot and are going to edit them yourself. Further more if you are looking to get them published with your name attached to them!) so make sure that you’ve still got portfolio enhancing stuff! Also, if you are planning on getting images published, just be aware that you may have to wait around 3 months (and possibly longer!) for you to be able to release the images online.
You need patience to plan a photo shoot, which is not the easiest or hardest thing to do ever (depending on the amount of people involved and the scale of preproduction). There’s no set way to do this and you have to make sure that everyone you are working with is on the same page and that everyone is clear as to what they shall receive from after the shoot is done. Are you doing a TFP shoot? Or is it a test?
Lastly, you have to be patient when finding an audience for your work. There is no magic formula for attracting a large audience that all want to pay you for your work and there’ll be days where nothing happens, but you shouldn’t worry and stress that no one’s looking at your work. Just double your efforts to market yourself or use this time to learn a new technique. People who are interested in your work will engage with you.
3. Be Practical
This is probably my most vital piece of advice. Being practical is essential. Knowing your own (often physical) limitations is super important. I’m very sure you’d love to shoot that high end clothing editorial in that abandoned location. So would I, but practically, are you really able to do that? Do you have the funds to get everyone together (having fully paid everyone’s travel costs of course!) to that location? Sure it is great to have goals and ambitions but really, look around you and see what you can do right now to further yourself.
Maybe you are a sports photographer in need of some new portfolio images. Why not go down to your local sports centre and ask them if you can shoot some images of their sports classes? Tell them that they can have a few images for advertising purposes (as long as you are fully credited of course) so that way you both win! Or maybe you are a landscape photographer who lives in the city. Why not switch it up and shoot some cityscapes and then alter the colour in photoshop? What if you overlayed your previous landscape images onto the cityscape image and look at the degradation of the rural environment?
I think that no matter what you do, there is always a way, not necessarily clear cut, to do what you want to. It’s up to you to use your photographic vision to find opportunities where it looks like there are none!
2. Study Images
Right, this is a piece of advice I am guilty of doing a lot of and I could probably write up a whole blog post about it so i’ll keep this pretty short. No matter what area of photography you are shooting, look at other photographer’s images to do 2 things:
- i. To get an idea of how people are selling this particular area of photography and how “professionals” /create/compose their images.
- ii. To know what not to do! Why would you want to copy another photographer’s work? Use what you see as the foundation for you to build upon. Consider what this person’s photo has that your photo doesn’t. Is it the colour? The composition? The lighting? Consider how you improve that area in your own images rather than copy what you see!
1. Re-contextualise Your Genre
This is quite a controversial piece of advice because photography is notorious for their industry standard, particularly if you are shooting fashion or beauty where you “have” to follow the rules that define such genres. I’m not saying that you ignore the rules. You should totally learn and create by them, but just be aware that they aren’t the end all and be all of an image; what looks good to one person will always look bad to someone else.
Also, consider what you are shooting. Are you just shooting the same images as everyone else? Other than you shooting it, how is your work different? What are you saying with your work? What is the bigger picture? Remember, as photographers, we are creating the images that will aspire the next generation in the same way we look at the work of other’s!
So, that was a pretty long post but I hope it was helpful in someway to you and your practice!
If you think that someone else could benefit from this blog post, please share it! Also, please leave a comment with your social media info so everyone who reads this can connect!
Here are mine:
Today I went location scouting for an upcoming shoot I have yet to schedule and it really got me thinking: What do I look for in a location?
No matter the genre, I think that location is one of the main components of any shoot and I’m really trying to experiment more with shooting outside, particularly in my fashion work. I love using the studio, and have a few shoot ideas planned, but right now, I prefer the interactivity outside locations provide.
Most of the locations I shot are either of wide expansive spaces or of geometric, colourful buildings. I’ve realised that I love to shoot in places that have a lot of character. Here are a list of things that I look for in a location:
Because it’s cool and great to experiment with!
Width and depth for both portrait and landscape shots. Or establishing shots and mid shots, as directors would refer to them as!
The space is very important as if you are shooting an editorial, you have to consider where the text is going to be, so you’ll need to make space for that. Also, you have to consider how far the model is going to be from the camera and, ultimately, how much detail of the clothes you’ll be able to see.
The shapes that the building/locations make and how I can contrast that with shapes the model/clothes make.
Which is an integral part of my work as I most often think about what the post processing is going to be like when I visit the location. I try and finding buildings that are either vibrant and will look amazing with a model wearing neutral clothes or building that are neutral that will look cool with models who are wearing vibrant clothes. I most likely will have a certain colour in mind for my shoots that will be the ‘main’ colour upon which I shall base the colour scheme around.
As you can tell, I take colour very seriously! 🙂
Which is probably an obvious thing to think about but it is something I constantly aware of. When I’m at a location I ask myself:
How much natural light will this location give an image I shoot here?
Will this mean i’ll need to bring external lighting?
How can I bounce/diffuse/change the light to create a variety of images in the same spot?
I would totally suggest for everyone to go and shoot in the sun. I used to be afraid of doing that and I would wait for days when it was overcast (quite often here in Great Britain!) but i’ve realised that as a photographer, you able to control the light through your camera settings.
It’s such an obvious thing to say but how many times have you shot an overexposed image (in raw) when it was sunny and thought that you’ll fix it later in post production only to find that the overexposed areas go a weird dark beige colour….
Anyway, that’s enough about me, tell me, what do YOU look for in a location and how important do you think that it is to an image?
When I shot this image, I wanted to create this story about a character that was trapped, his past behind him and his future in front of him. I wanted the image to be that in-between moment of indecision. Should he go back to the house and stay there or should he venture out into to the unknown where it could be dangerous or potentially harmful? I called the image The Eleventh Day because I wanted to insinuate that the character has taken a long time to consider what they are going to do and they have left it to the Eleventh Day to decide.
In terms of editing, I looked at a lot of film stills to give me an idea of cinematic grading. I had a specific colour palette in mind- blues and greens- and I stuck with it but I added a few colours that I hadn’t intended to. What I like most about my post processing is that it is such an organic process. I start out with an idea of which colours I would like to use and a general idea of what I want the end image to look like, but I’m extremely open when it comes to editing my images. Sometimes the end result is completely different to what I had anticipated.
Here is my editing process for my image, The Eleventh Day. As you can see, I use a lot of curve adjustment layers, solid colour layers and a few textures. The stormy sky was added right at the end on a whim. I’d never planned to put it there but I felt that the image needed a bit more drama and I like to think that the storminess of the sky reflects the character’s clouded mind.