General, Photographs



Model: Erin                   Location: Wiltshire, UK

One of the aspects I want to capture in this B&W portrait series is a kinda candid feel. That not all of the pictures are staged and posed. To be honest, for a model and photographer, these more ‘relaxed and natural’ shots are probably amongst the hardest to capture. It’s like setting up a video camera and being told to ‘walk normally down this road while we film you’. As soon as you think about how you walk ‘normally’, you can’t.

The reason I think, lies in the fact that you don’t think, you just do it. As soon as your conscious brain takes over, it becomes hard to be natural. It’s why most of us really struggle to act well or perform simple ‘natural’ poses when being photographed.

From a photographers perspective, the key to getting these shots is to create as relaxed a shoot as possible. However, for different sitters this will mean different things. What is relaxing and natural to me isn’t necessarily the same for your model. Judging and reacting to your sitters character, attitude and even mood during the shoot can be vital in achieving the results you want.

I have no idea how a model like Ezzie manages to make this look so easy. I know it takes a lot of hard work and I also know she sometimes mentally puts her mind in a situation that invokes the look she’s after. Beyond that I’ve no idea and just marvel and am in awe at the seeming ease she is able to transform from one look to another.

All that said, for me, shooting with Ezzie means none of the above applies. Over the couple of year’s we’ve worked together we’ve become friends and her full time job is an actress. We have to occasionally remember we have work to do and have to literally drag ourselves away from tea drinking, chattering and laughing in order to do some serious work!

These shots were achieved with one strobe/beauty dish and during a moment we were either taking the piss out of each other or performing our huge array of fake accents that always revert to Irish for some reason neither of us has yet fathomed!

The technicals are Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 50mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the top image and Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 70mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the bottom.



Another week, another shoot

General, Photographs


Having done a few shoots in and around Wiltshire I decided it was time to travel a bit further afield, so I headed for the south coast. My reason was to hook up and work with with wonderful Milly Jean. We hadn’t worked together before so its always a bit nerve-racking meeting someone for the first time and then trying to get the most personal and intimate photographs of them.

I needn’t have worried as Milly’s just a lovely, down to earth person and a perfect subject to shoot. She has a look that changes depending on the smallest shifts in pose and considering I’m shooting portraits, thats pretty impressive.

For this project it’s also extremely helpful as it makes scrolling through the photographs in post production much simpler. My technique for this crucial stage of my processing is to put on some mood music (usually something that fits emotionally with my project intent) and scroll through the images one by one. For this work, I convert them all to B&W and boost the contrast so that I get an overall ‘feel’ for how they’d look converted properly. I then make the selection of the shots I’d like to ‘investigate further’ by flagging them in Adobe’s Lightroom Classic CC. If while doing this I come across a shot that takes my breath away, I also add a colour tag so that I can identify it when I return.

When I’ve gone through all the shots I’ll then be quite brutal and change my viewing mode to “Flagged only” and then go through my chosen frames one by one making more shot specific alterations such as cropping, exposure and tonal changes. All this is just to get an overall impression of how the final image might look if I decided to edit it fully. Usually, any technical problems with the photograph itself such as focus misses or exposure problems, I’d remove the flag and move on, however, for this particular project, I’m less concerned with technical perfection and more concerned with ‘mood’. Having done this I’ll walk from them and re-visit the folder on another day. It’s amazing the difference a day makes when editing! Sometimes a shot that you believe is a world beater and work on for hours can the following day look nothing special at all so time is my friend here.

Milly’s shoot was a joy. We spent as much time chatting and laughing and getting to know each other as we did shooting which certainly helps for a more intuitive and successful shoot. I’ve edited a whole bunch and still haven’t decided quite which one I’ll use as my final choice. The impressive thing is, I have a number to choose from which isn’t always the case!


General, Photographs

Every once in a while we are asked to do a shoot that is slightly different and a few weeks ago we were asked to take some images of a newborn baby. Well, she was 10 weeks old and as usual, we were looking for a photograph that pleased the family as well as our own artistic bent.

We arrived at the proud parents house together with our mobile studio consisting of a couple of Elinchrom 500’s and light adapters. My fave is of course the beauty dish given the lovely soft and even light this gives portraits. We discussed the options and then looked around their house for the best room to shoot from and settled on the newly decorated and importantly daylight flooded Nursery.

Gary and Kylie were perfect models and parents, not too fussy, happy to entertain our silly ideas and immediately everything was conducive to a nice relaxed shoot. We started with just some natural light shots that got everyone into the swing of things including the delightful little Olivia and managed to grab some great shots of her while the sun briefly flitted in and out of the clouds giving us changing light conditions.

We then pulled the curtains and set up the lights with a good plain background and took some more posed shots with the parents and Olivia proving to be real stars. Things all took a turn for the worse when we tried to get some shots of Olivia in her birthday suit cuddled up to Dad but we decided to abandon that idea as it seemed to distress her somewhat! Quite right too I hear you say…

Olivia then decided that she had used up all her energy reserves and promptly, as babies do, conked out and fell to sleep. However, these occasions sometimes pull out the best images and it is during this time at the end of our shoot that we grabbed this shot that to me, is guaranteed to melt even the hardest of hearts.

…and, relax

The image, once on screen instantly became my favourite one. Babies can be  so cute that to catch them when they are looking so sweet and innocent is the trick we all endeavour to pull off. The fact she isn’t fully in view only adds to the shot as often, less is more.

In post, we simply applied a warming filter and added creamy highlights to a gentle mono conversion to give the image a more calm and dreamy feel. The crop also adds to the gentleness leaving space for the image to breathe and feel light and airy.

The couple have decided upon two of our other images but for me, this image captures the great trusting and comforting overview of parenthood.

Lazy Dayzzzzz………..


Well, not done much in the last few days. Been far too lazy…!

Done some processing testing for the shoot this coming week and have confirmed model (the gorgeous Sarah), Hotel, assistant (Alma) and we are in the process of ordering some good weather! The ideas we are coming up with are going to look good and we will have to just think on our feet regarding the location (which is going to be awesome). Once we get into it the different shots themselves will flow. We have a few set shots we want to do and then we will ad lib from there.  With the number of ideas and brains we have there we will not be short of ideas!

The big power pack arrived in the week and it is everything we hoped it would be. It is small enough to be portable but at the same time it carries enough juice to fire the Elinchroms with quick recycling times. It is important to obtain a power source that is consistent and pure so as not to expensively damage the internal delicacies of the flash head itself.

On Friday I visited an agency that I hope will provide some really good and important work for us in the coming months. The future for both them and us looks really exciting and I can’t wait to start working with them soon.

On my way back from that meeting I received a call from the big retailer in London to confirm they will be in touch in the next couple of weeks to finalise the photography required by them in launching their new range later in the year.

Having had a big night on the sauce last night in Bristol with some lovely people, we decided that today was a fried brekkie and British Open on the telly day. Brilliant to see such a true gent and sportsman as Darren Clarke win such a major prize so late on in his career. Never has one man deserved such a sparkling win. To maintain such cool for so long was a true achievement in itself. Hats off and bottoms up to you Mr C!

Further tests of retro processing

Fluffy Cats!


Yes, I know, I resisted the obvious slap and tickle headline here but I do have standards ya know!

Yesterday was an early start to get to the Studio on time and make sure that we had everything we needed. My ‘Assistant’ for the day, Ian, arrived ahead of schedule and we set off at 7am along the M4. Why do so many people have to be somewhere so early in the day in this technological age? Anyway, the dreaded jam only started just as we were about to leave the motorway so any hassles were duly avoided.

The studio was already open at 8.20am so we duly entered and made ourselves a lovely cup of Earl Grey. Refreshed we set about organising the lighting for the first shoot. We were shooting tethered so we tested that out and as I suspected, the 5D and Lightroom 3 don’t gel on the cable front. So, we switched to Capture One as our RAW capture software for the day and all was pretty seamless.

The guests and the animals arrived right on schedule at 10am and we immediately began shooting for the main and most important ‘Hero’ image. Our cat model was an absolutely gorgeous ‘blue’ fluff ball that was startled every time by the flash head recycling ‘beep’. Having turned them off we attempted to reduce the noise in the studio despite there being quite a throng developing with video producer, animal handlers, models, end clients and agency personnel. However, all were well behaved and realised the need for slow movement and quiet while we were shooting. The ‘Hero’ took a while to settle and then began to get into his stride (so to speak). What is required is a great deal of patience and gentle coaxing from a brilliant handler, Liz. The shot we were after was a cat looking very chilled out and relaxed having received wonderful treatment at the vets, and meaning it can lead a happy, contented life again. After a while, we began to get the shots we needed. The lights were great and on quite low power as we needed a tight depth of field for the shot itself. It was great to work with top ‘profoto’ heads and quality modifiers. The quality of light is consistent and very honest, meaning little messing in between shots when a sitting is taking place.

We then introduced the two models to a different cat for some Vet/Owner/Pet shots and these worked very well indeed. Eve and Ruth were very willing and able models giving us exactly the scenario, looks and style we were after. We ran through quite a few poses, cats and dress to achieve a look and style the client and agency were happy with. We took loads of shots as the animals were quite skitty (to be expected) and moved heads, bodies and eyes very very quickly making each shot much more likely to fail on one count or another.

The old saying of ‘never work with animals or children’ may well be true in most cases but in this one, whilst we had to be more patient than normal, we were just as successful.

The day went really well and we had some spare time so we decided to shoot some other more spontaneous shots with the models and the cats themselves. Ending up with some cat portraits which was quite good fun and a little less intense towards the end of the day. We stopped shooting at around 5pm meaning a full day in the studio. We were however very productive producing about 1,100 images and over 24gb in total. Of course, of those images a huge number are ‘binners’ due to the fact the cat blinked, moved its head, body, paws etc into a strange or non-photogenic position. Looking and reviewing the images there are many that are very good quality indeed and we are delighted with the outcome from this shoot. We think the clients will be too and that at the end of the day is the very important factor in all of this.

The day was enjoyable and we hope those present enjoyed the shoot too. We look forward to seeing the video when it has been produced!

iPhone capture of the studio, set up and some videoing!

Ooohh Ooohh!


Well a great end to the week was had when we we realised that we had made our client happy on the agency shoot we had completed earlier in the week. I converted all the acceptable images taken into a funky black and white format as the Agency had stated they wanted and personally dropped them off. The Agency aren’t far away and I was out that way anyway. The Director seemed to be pleased with them and also said that images like those helped them to decide how best to market the company as it often helped to draw out the character of the individuals and assisted in the creative process. I had never thought of it that way but I agree entirely. Business is all about people, selling your skills is all about people so anything that really captures what you and your business are truly about has got to be a really positive thing!

The other piece of good news was that another company we have done work for liked an idea we put to them a week or so ago for one of their products. It was something I worked on with a friend and between us we came up with a funky idea and a cool approach for an advert. The client have put it to their sales team and they are quite interested. We find out more on Tuesday. We also were given another brief and I did get some professional help for these with ideas and ‘scamps’ coming from a really good friend and acquaintance. Well, he came back with 3-4 ideas of which one is really really cool! It captures everything we would want it to, would be applicable to totally different audiences in different ways and would be so much fun to do! I meet with the client as I said on Tuesday this week so fingers crossed on this one. It could be a fantastic opportunity all round to really develop these ideas and shoot some brilliant ads. Whats more, we also have some ways that these could be self funding meaning the budgets of the client will not have to be too stretched if at all!

On a personal note I have nearly finished the processing of the delightful and beautiful Claire Richardson from a couple of weeks back. She has been very patient waiting and I hope to deliver them to her one evening this week. I really hope she loves them as much as I do. One or two are stand out, which is common for me to think, but it often isn’t the images I like the most that the clients do. I suppose it would be weird if it always was but I am sometimes surprised as you do get an insight into a persons soul when you shoot for 4 hours or so. It never ceases to intrigue me how well you can read a persons whole attitude to life by watching and observing their postures, demeanour and candour during a shoot. Some appear terribly nervous at first but may display deep inner confidence and determination when you get into the shoot. Others appear full of beans and even cocky but underneath you spot a lot of self doubt and gestures and glimpses that don’t match the obvious character they are displaying. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying you become a mind reader and can tell everything about somebody but if I do the job well and a shoot goes well, I feel I have connected with the sitter. If I have connected, then I have become closer to them than most others would in a much longer timeframe! A bold statement but a true one I think. I am sure there are studies about these things but I expect I am not the first to say this.

Anyway, I took a few shots of Rob who was lounging around at the same time and was keen and up for it and he really liked the aggressive ‘Dragan’ effect processing on images. Well, I took an appropriate, simple, one light shot and processed it like the great Polish master himself. Wowee, it is an awesome effect indeed! Incredible. I loved it so much I even processed this image in a similar style to see if it worked with a younger subject and I think it does. Again, maybe there is a beauty here that only I am seeing but I am going to experiment with this some more! Fully blown up images in this style simply stun the eye with their detail. They are cool and gorgeous to look at in every way. The eyes of the subject tear through you, the viewer, with an intensity that is difficult to get in other portraits.

Mack Ellis


Click the image and view at full res for an eye popping experience!