It’s a shot from a test set-up for a product shoot in which I was aiming for a low key look with lots of contrast to separate the subject from the background. I also wanted to get a lighting set up which would freeze the action but also be fairly even.
I achieved this by using flash positioned to the right of the subject as we look and, instead of using a reflector as fill, I used a mirror to throw back an almost equal intensity of light. I used a black backdrop and set the subject far enough in front of it to get the most benefit of the inverse squared rule to make sure I kept the background black.
Rather than put my signature watermark on the image itself, I’ve chosen to put it on a border which I think looks less intrusive in this case, I created the border by adjusting the canvass size in Photoshop then adding a white layer.
It’s a fine balance set against delivering on a brief, but I believe that one of the added values a professional photographer should bring to work for a client is creative input. So, let me share the story of this one of a set, which I really like.
This is Sharon who asked me if I could do some head shots of herself and the staff at Healing Hands Wellness Centre in Glenrothes. Sharon was looking for photos that would be an improvement on the ones already in place and was thinking of the standard head shot approach. There’s nothing wrong with that but I wondered if she might be open to someting a little more creative which said something about the centre.
I felt that “Healing Hands” was significant in the centre name and ought to be reflected somehow in the head shots. I also have a personal preference to show people in context as much as possible. I had the idea of creating a background shot which illustrated healing hands and put together a mock up of the concept to see what Sharon thought of it. I was pleased when the idea met with her approval and so we agreed on details for doing the shoot.
Each of the head shot images is constructed as this example, with the same background and here’s how they were shot and constructed.
First of all, we shot the background. This involved Sharon and one of her team. The room we shot this in was quite compact and I needed lighting in there along with a camera, tripod and myself. There was only one configration possible for this, which meant me being on the left of the subject with the lighting on the right. I knew this was the wrong way round for the final composition, but it was an easy enough job to flip the image in processing.
I wanted the background image to be muted so that it was very evident but not dominant in the overall composition, This was achieved in Photoshop where I placed a pure white layer under the background image then dropped the opacity of the background image. This was then used for the whole set of head shots.
The portraits were shot in another treatment room which has a pleasing forest image on one wall. I set up a temporary studio there using the feature wall as a backdrop. The lighting for the head shots consisted of two studio lights – one above and behind the subject to add some highlighting to the hair, and one at about 45 degrees from the front as a fill light. The main light was flash bounced into an umbrella reflector.
The final image was completed in Photoshop by blending the portrait shot with the “healing hands” background.
I’m pleased with the final composition and that we have managed to give a fresh expression to corporate head shots. The moral of the story is that we should always be prepared to offer creative suggestions to clients in the interest of adding value to them. Of course, suggestions might not always be accepted – I have experience of that too – but when they are and come off like this, it’s really pleasing.
It’s a good thing to honour skill and craft and this is the first in what I hope to be a series of portraits of skilled craft people doing their thing.
For a while I have been afraid that the educational system, in highly valuing academic ability, might end up devaluing the development of more traditional crafts and skills so I am keen to photograph skilled craft people and give at least some acknowledgement to the abilities which enrich our lives.
This was rather an opportunistic photograph from a visit to Oxburgh Hall, a National Trust property in Norfolk. Fortunately photography was permitted though with the usual restrictions on flash and tripods. There was some significant restoration work underway on the Hall and as I went round I spotted this conservator at work seated in the light of a window.
Fortunately she said she was happy to be photogrpahed when I asked permission. I suppose I could have just taken a shot but I felt, in the circiumstances, it would be polite to ask. A willing subject is so much better.
I was immediately attracted to the general composition, and epecially to the way the lighting from the window was working and the fact that her notepad was acting as a very useful reflector to cast light back up to her face.
This was shot handheld (no tripods allowed) on ISO 250, 1/125 sec at f5.
Here’s a curious one, which I’m calling a focus folly.
I was in St Andrews to get some photos of their St Andrews Day celebrations, but mainly the fireworks. Walking along the street my attention was taken by these two chaps standing in a doorway having a smoke. My line of sight was across the rooftop of a parked car and the way the light was falling on the raindrops intrigued me as a foreground. I had no time to set up a tripod so getting anything here was reliant on being quick and hand-held with a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. This meant a high ISO of 10000 and the inevitable grain that would go with it. I quickly chose my composition and, using an aperture of f5.6 took two shots – one with the foreground droplets as the focal point and a second with the two men as the focal point. At this time I had no idea what I might end up doing with the shots, if anything.
Getting the shots on screen I really liked the way the foreground raindrops worked with the deep bokeh of the background. The trouble was, that this meant the two men were also out of focus and they really made sense as the subject of the photo. I did, however, have a second image in which they were in focus. At which point I was straight into Photoshop and working with layers and a mask to produce the end result we have here.
Why am I calling this a focus folly? Simply because this is a manufactured effect but I think it works with the foreground leading you directly to the main subject without all the other background distractions.
Now, after all of that, did I get any shots of the fireworks? I certainly did….
What could be more entertaining than a photography enthusiast doing his thing while some railway restoration enthusiasts were doing theirs? That was the joy when I recently had the opportunity to do a shoot at Fife Heritage Railway. This one was especially enjoyable as I regarded it as a documentary shoot – capturing something of the story and it’s context.
Here are some of my personal favourites from the shoot.
Old steam engine
All the photographs were processed in Lightroom with some further, minor adjustments for tone in Photoshop.