Category Archives: Strobe Tips

What to do when plans don’t go exactly as you would like

I had the pleasure of shooting with Kimberley yesterday. We had discussed a latex outfit and doing a studio shoot but I really fancied the latex with a backdrop of street graffiti. I edited an image I had taken of some graffiti in Volgograd.

I arrived at Kim’s house using my trusty Sat Nav and during our initial chat it became obvious that a location shoot would not be appropriate as she was just over the flu and it was a little chilly outside. She has a well equipped studio with Bowens lights, just what I am used to. Remembering the lighting from my graffiti, I set up a soft box low on her right and used a beauty dish on her face to the left. Beauty dish a stop brighter than soft box.

Here is the result and the graffiti

Volgograd Graffiti and Studio Shot

Into Photoshop and using the select colour range tool I selected the background, with the quick selct tool I refined the edges and created a new layer masking out the background. Copy and paste the graffiti below my masking layer and blended.

Here is that result.

Street Latex

I also wanted to try out my new Lencarta Ringflash. I had used it at Studland but only for fill so not mounted on the camera. This time I used it as it should be and was very pleased with the results and the ease of use. Nice and light and the battery recharges quickly. Also you have good control over the power with an easy read LED.

Here is the result and you can see the distinct halo effect with the shadow which is what ringflash is known for.

Ringflash Portrait

And here is another example but this time in contrasty black and white.

Ringflash contrasty black and white

A Day – one on one

Another good day yesterday doing what I enjoy so much – lighting.

I gave a one day “one on one” course to Judith who was on day two of basic lighting. In our first session we positioned Greatchen, my rather well endowed mannequin, against a white back drop and using one light went through a number of different modifiers without changing the position of the light. It was also demonstrated how a soft box wraps around the subject. Judith was taking photographs of each change. We then went into the office and sat down and reviewed them on the larger screen.

Day two was to be a subject of Judith’s choice. When she arrived she admitted she hadn’t though it through and so off I went to find a suitable object. It’s spring and the daf’s are starting. Three were chosen and dutifully presented to Judith.

You should have seen the frown on her face and the smile on mine. She admitted she had tried on many occasions to photograph daffodils but to no avail. They always looked like blobs was her remark.

Into the studio we go. Judith wanted to produce a soft image against a black backdrop. She chose to use a soft box for her key light which was positioned close and at right angles to the flowers with the back edge lined up with the back edge of the flowers. She took a few images and then we reviewed the. After spotting the shadow on the right of the image we returned and placed a gold reflector on the opposite side from the key light and pointing up. More images and return for another review. The flowers look a little flat and I suggested she throw in a back light. Back to the studio and we set up a light with a snoot diffuser shining from again the opposite side from the key. The reflector had to be moved up and pointing down to eliminate a harsh shadow on the center bud.

Voila, this was the final result of Day 2 with Chris.

Day 2 - Still Life

What does a Deluxe package get me?

The title is certainly one of the most asked questions but it is generally followed by and how much more will it cost me?

I can answer both of those questions easily. To the first, read on and to the second….not another nickle or dime.

The best way to tell you what a model gets with the Deluxe Package is to give you a recent case history.

Subject: AnnieMoya (be warned if you follow this link that the subject matter is not for kids)

Annie Moya

Continue reading

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance


The Studland shoots are always worth being involved with. The location is stunning with a magnificently furnished house, a greenhouse and grounds that go on forever down to the beach.

I was booked in for this shoot on February 1st and decided I would try and challenge myself, working with two models instead of concentrating on one. I felt I would be able to handle 5 set ups on the day and wanted to use a different light for each. Wanting to get the best from the day I worked up some ideas into a brief.

The story for the day was to be Harmony (With Nature). We live on this planet for a short time and seem to have “Not a care in the world”. We continue to make “Mistakes” while others watch on. With the internet we have lost our “Innocence” and should know better. It is our “Arrogance” that makes us attempt to better Nature. Why cannot we strive to be in “Harmony” with Her instead.

I knew I would need the help of a stylist and immediately contacted Nikita Sablier whose work I had been following with interest. She was as keen as mustard to get involved and the models were very happy with my ideas. Working with Nikki was a joy and we didn’t need the 3 months.

The Game was afoot… Continue reading

Balancing Tungsten to Daylight

Today I am using another set I shot with Amie Dodgson in The Old Inn in Holton.  The challenge on this was to balance daylight and tungsten. I chose this first image because I love the illusion that it creates. It may be just me but it looks like she is resting her elbows on her knees, whereas it is just a reflection.

The Illusion

I wanted to see the effects of the tungsten spots on Amie but I didn’t want the colour cast to dominate the image. The light coming in from the window was quite dim and needed boosting. I used my SB900 with the soft box modifier from Interfit Strobies. On manual I set the speedlight to 1/4 stop under the reading from the tungsten spots. This allowed the tungsten o her arm to come through but also gave a true skin tone overall.

Here are a few more from the set


Won't anyone buy me a drink?

Guinness gives me strength

Raunchy, Risky and Rude?

The brief was “Raunchy, Risky and Rude – my interpretation thereof” and this is the one that got chosen. Did it achieve the objective?  You could let me know what you think. I have my own opinion which I will share with you at the end.

This is the image in questionFireSecret 241cs5

Fires Secret – Raunchy, Risky and Rude


The model and client is Fires Secret, an art nude model who is bubbly, hardworking and full of enthusiasm. She had made the comment “I’ve been looking at my portfolio lately.. I’ve decided its too tame! I want to branch out into a more raunchy/risky area. (not adult)”. This sounded like a challenge worth pursuing especially as I was looking at the erotic genre in an earlier blog.

The location was Studland House in Dorset and it was to be our last series of the day. Though I had brought my Bowens lights with me, I decided I wanted to use natural light with a little help from my Nikon SB900 speedlight.

Like my last shoot with Amie, I didn’t want the image to be explicit just erotic. I chose an antiques book as a prop, hoping to add a little humour.

Being late afternoon the light conditions were low and so rather than using the speedlight to fill in shadows, I used it to mimic the daylight coming in from the window, placing it about 8 feet from the model and with a beauty dish modifier from Interfit. Not being close to the model the light was harsher but also covered the subject.

I stood on the bed and used my Nikor 18mm – 35mm lens and, in this instance, at 18mm so it’s widest angle. The camera was set to manual exposure and I used an aperture of F8 which gave me adequate depth of field and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec so that, as I wobbled about perilously above her, the camera would detect no movement.

The image was shot in RAW and processed in CS5RAW editor, sharpening and tweaking levels and curves. Final sharpening in Photoshop using an overlay layer of  High Pass set at 8.5.

Did I succeed? Almost is my answer. What is missing? After discussing it with a few other photographers, one, Andrew Appleton, suggested that it was the lack of tension in the muscles. I have to agree with him but I still enjoy the image and so have a lot of you Flickr followers. You have sent it to the top of my most viewed images in a week with 2,313 views. Great job on the part of Fires Secret. If you haven’t worked with her, you should.

Mission accomplished at The Old Inn, Holton

It always gives me such satisfaction to produce an image exactly as planned. Amie Dodgson was my model. I have only worked with her once before and then it was only a half hour shoot. On Friday I had a whole day and the weather was just perfect for what was planned. She shone all day like a shining star, effortlessly posing and suffering the cold with a smile and a joke.  We were able to work through ten different sets and I have some amazing images from each of them. We even gave the postman a thrill on one of the sets. He drove by as Amie was posing topless. He drove by again a few minutes later to which Amie enquired if he would be back, I quipped back that the whole of the south west postal vans would soon be travelling down this secluded lane. If you haven’t worked with Amie you better get in line quick, she is booked solid until November and I can certainly see why. She has also become a photographer and is producing some lovely images already.

My main them for the day was to do a clothed shot in front of a window that was erotic. I had shot something similar with Kyra Mendez at Studlands and someone had commented that it was a great image and almost perfect technically. He was right of course, the balance between the highlights coming from the window and the shadow created by the darker room was not balanced to perfection. The challenge was on, to be technically perfect. I also wanted this image to titillate without being so over and so we chose a soft pastel coloured skirt instead of lingerie.


The image must get the viewer to wonder what the model was reading and what she had been up to.


The Old Inn in Holton was kind enough to give me the run of the place while they were closed in the afternoon

The last time I shot this scene I had only come with camera and reflector. This time I was better prepared. I had purchased an Interfit Strobies kit, light modifiers for my SB900 speed light. The kit contains a beauty dish, diffusion globe, snoot, barn doors and honeycomb. I tried the globe diffuser to start with as a good friend and fellow photographer had said that it was his preference. Not the light I wanted Andrew, sorry. I then moved onto the beauty dish, my preferred choice when in the studio as you will know if you have follow my earlier posts.

I tried the light off camera and in front of Amie but a nasty reflection in the window reared its ugly head and so I positioned it stage left at head height, Amie’s not mine.

Being 3:30 in the afternoon I knew that the light levels were already low, outside light at 400 ISO registered at F11 at 1/60th of a second. I knew that I would get a little noise, even with my D2X but I was prepared to accept that, David Hamilton specialised in it. I was a little worried about the time at 1/60th as I didn’t want to use a tripod, it makes me lose my spontaneity. I would have to rely on the VR lens to reduce any shake  on my part, which seems to be more and more as I get older. I set the speedlight at F8 and had it as close as possible to generate the softest light.

As far as the camera I went completely manual not trusting the automatic. I even used manual focusing as my depth of field was minimal and the standard focus points would not be right to get sharp eyes. So camera at F8 and 1/60th sec, 400 ISO.

The image was processed in CS5 Raw editor, tweaking levels and curves, sharpness and vibrancy. I also reduced the noise a little.

Did we succeed? You could let me know here with a comment. I will say that in less that twenty four hours on Flickr it had365 views, received 52 comments, was favourited by 17 people and was added to 2 galleries. All records for me.

Thanks Amie and The Old Inn in Holton.

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