Photographing both light and dark skin tones with a single studio light

Sometimes photographing multiple clients at once is pretty straightforward. If the people in front of your camera have similar face shapes, similar heights and similar skin tones, then there’s fewer challenges to consider when creating flattering portraits of them together. But sometimes there’s a height difference that you want to minimise or exaggerate. Your clients might have different face shapes that require different lighting patterns to flatter their features. Or they could have different skin tones that you need to …

Flattering Faces: Broad and Narrow Lighting

Different face shapes benefit from different lighting patterns. Read on to find out how to slim down a wide face or fill out a narrow one by changing just small thing – the angle of your subject’s nose relative to your main light. According to the people who measure these things, there are seven basic face shapes: oval, round, square, diamond, heart, pear and oblong. For our purposes, however, we’ll use a shape sorter with just two categories. The first …

Composition for book design

When book author Sarah Virág commissioned a set of headshots for her new book, I had no idea how her book designer would use them. In addition, her web designers would also use the images online, and they would be looking for something different. All I knew was that designer-friendly composition was key. Sarah is a confidence coach and writer. Her book and coaching business focus on helping people to have more confidence and live their lives to the full. …

One-light low key studio portrait

You’ve got one light. One subject dressed in dark clothing. And one dark paper background. All the ingredients for a perfect low key portrait. This is Alan. He wanted some portraits he could use for his business profile which is a fairly straightforward brief. However, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it as best I can! I loved Alan’s dark suit and thought it would suit a dark background, so I had this shot in mind …

Award-Winning Portrait Of A Modern-Day Explorer

When an extreme adventurer came into our studio for some commercial clothing shots, my favourite picture happened when we ventured outside of the brief… Alex Bellini is an adventurer, speaker and ‘mental coach’. He’s rowed 35,000km solo across two oceans, walked 2,000km through polar routes and ran for 20,000km on different terrains. He’s an absolute legend, and an all-round nice guy, too. Alex booked in for some images earlier this year, but little did I know that they would turn …

Lights, Fans and a Seriously Fit Spin Class Instructor

The creative part of a portrait photographer’s job is to look beyond the obvious shot and create something that makes people look twice because it is so striking. In this shot, some creative lighting makes all the difference. Oh, and a whole load of fanning. This was a commercial shoot for Fitlife, our local (boutique) gym. My wife Sarah and I attend a spin class at the gym, and we’d noticed that our instructor, Iona, looked calm and serene. This …

Studio-Style Rim Light With Two Windows

You don’t need flash to create a studio-style portrait like this one; you only need a little lighting know-how… One of the highlights of our year is spending a few weeks on a luxury cruise ship… working, of course. We’re taken onboard as the lead photographers, with a remit of capturing beautiful images of their clientele in the stunning surroundings of the ship (with no cheesy printed backgrounds in sight). On one particular cruise, we were looked after by a …

Lighting Up An Ancient Lecture Theatre For A Science-Themed Portrait

This shot was about fire, camera and action, as part of a commercial commission to create a visually striking portrait of a chemistry lecturer. The Royal Institution (RI) is an independent charity that promotes scientific understanding. They put on Christmas lectures every year and in 2016, the lecturer was Saiful Islam and the theme was energy. Saiful is a Professor of Chemistry at Bath University, and I spent a day with him during which I captured about a dozen shots. …

Telling Stories with Composition

Shooting families with young children? Accompanying everyone on a walk allows you to capture relaxed shots like this one, with everyone being themselves and interacting naturally. It also means you are likely to end up getting muddy… Twiggy, mud-splattered clothing is now an expected part of my appearance after an outdoor shoot. I spend a high proportion of my working day lying on my stomach, trying to get the lowest angle possible. In a portrait like this one, a low …

Golden Spiral Curve In Portraits

The Golden Spiral is a compositional tool that helps you create more high-impact portraits. Here’s how I used foreground foliage to create the spiral’s curves. The Golden Spiral is a compositional guideline that helps you place key elements of your scene within naturally powerful areas of the frame. In portraiture, that key element is typically your subject’s face or eyes. The Golden Spiral is based on an ancient design principle that found a ratio of 1:1.618 is the most visually …