Shoot what sells (and a little of what you love, too)

There’s not always an overlap between what you want to shoot and what your client will buy. As always in life and business, there’s a compromise to make. Imagine a Venn diagram, with ‘what you love to shoot’ in one circle, and ‘what sells’ in the other. I know of many full-time portrait photographers who prefer nothing more than shooting landscapes and wildlife. Unfortunately, they struggled to make a living from them, Please log in to view this page. If …

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 …

Shooting portraits in direct sunlight: 3 tips

Many portrait photographers shy away from direct sunlight. The common wisdom is that you can’t capture beautiful portraits in harsh light but that’s simply not true. Any lighting source can be used to create either beautiful or unflattering portraits. It’s not the light; it’s what you do with it. Sometimes, I don’t get a choice about when or where a shoot takes place. If a midday shoot is the only time my client can do, then I risk losing the …

Action gymnast portrait in the studio

There’s specific studio lighting know-how you’ll need if you want to try your hand at catching an athlete mid-air with an arc of powder around them. Read on to find out what you need to do. Oh, and this shot comes with a warning, too… Isibel’s family came in for a regular shoot together, but with one additional request. Isibel asked if she could be photographed doing her favourite pastime: gymnastics. We’d agreed to this in advance, so she brought …

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 …

A Portrait of Two Halves

When Liv and Hannah turned up in opposite-coloured tops I had to adapt from my usual tendency towards portraits with narrow tonal ranges. Getting forced out of your usual habits can result in some of your most creative images, so use it as an opportunity to experiment. When all else fails, you can always exaggerate differences for creative impact. Liv and Hannah came into my studio as part of a project for MasteringPortraitPhotography.com. I prefer harmonious colour palettes when it …

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 …

Outdoors Sprint Portrait For A Local Gym

An everyday location, some high power flash and a little bit of luck all came together to create this fitness image. This was taken during a commercial shoot for our local gym, Fitlife. Most of the session took place indoors, but on the way in I noticed this industrial-looking garage door. I mentally filed it as offering an interesting potential location for an outside shot. I started working with Lawrence when my mind went back to the garage door, so …

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 …

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. …