Monthly Archives: June 2017

Dance Photography at Dance for All: Kirsty

A while back, I met with Kirsty for a dance photo shoot at Dance for All, on St Stephen Street in Edinburgh. The main studio was a little different from what I was used to as it was surrounded by mirrors and windows. Mirrors are a real challenge when lighting a subject, and also limit your shooting angles since you usually don’t want the photographer to appear in the shot.

Dancer at Dance for All, Edinburgh, lit from both sides and slightly behind

I asked Kirsty to look in the direction of one of the lights, in order to avoid nasty shadows on her face. I loved the lights in the background and I think they really add to the composition of this image.

In the photograph above, I deliberately underexposed the background to hide the clutter in the studio. I had two speed lights on the left and right of Kirsty, slightly behind. This is one of my favourite lighting set ups.

Light painting of dancer in front of mirror at Dance for All, Edinburgh

I chose to warm the colours in the photograph to complement Kirsty’s top and shoes and provide good colour contrast with her blue shorts.

As the studio could be made dark enough, I couldn’t resist doing some light paintings as well. I first tried a variation of my ‘lone dancer and the mirror’ image, with Kristy turning her back on the mirror rather than facing it. I added a bit of ‘grit’ in Photoshop and I’m quite pleased with the final result.

Light painting a dancer on a chair, facing away from the camera. Picture taken a Dance for All, Edinburgh

I really like this pose, but next time I’ll make sure one can see the dancer’s hands

I had only done our last set-up once before, and I therefore was looking forward to getting some more practice. In hindsight, I should have asked Kirsty to wear something more colourful, as the black clothing doesn’t provide enough separation from the black background, in my opinion.


Light Painting Dancers Chanelle and Charmagne

I’ve been light painting dancers for some time now, and I believe I have honed my technique for a few set-ups, as in the ‘lone dancer at the bar’ one you can see below.

Light painting dancer at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

I really like this set up and most dancers like it too. The reflection in the mirror adds visual tension to the image.

Light painting dancer at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

The challenging bit of doing such a light painting is getting the back light (highlight rim on the hair) right. You’ll definitely know what I’m talking about if you try it.

The light painting technique gives my images a distinct look that helps the photographs stand out amongst the deluge of pictures we are exposed to every day. I can therefore give my clients an edge in getting noticed.

I’m always looking to expand my light painting repertoire. It is quite the obvious step to experiment with light painting two people instead of one.

Light painting two dancers at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

Eventually, I figured that the best way to light paint this set up was to first light paint Chanelle (in front), then ask her to move away so I could light paint Charmagne (at the back)

Usually, I ask my subjects to stand against something, sit on a chair or hold on to something firm, as it helps them stand still while I light paint them. During that light painting session, we experimented with removing any of these ‘helpers’ to see what happens. The light painting session was nearing its end and I knew I already had some good shots. Under these circumstances I like to try something I’ve not done before, to see what happens. Chanelle and Charmagne held hands as they stood away from any walls or chairs.

Light painting two dancers standing  in the middle of the Dance Base studio while holding hands

I left the pose up to the dancers as it is their domain of expertise, while I concentrated on the light painting.

As could be expected, without anything to lean on, both subjects moved more during the light painting than what I’m used to. But thanks to the uniform dark background, it was relatively straightforward to fix this problem in Photoshop. The next step is for me to figure out how to do that with a more detailed backdrop. I look forward to trying this out.



Dance Photography: Shadow Dancers

The word photography has greek roots and means ‘drawing with light’. But shadows can be your best friend. In fact, it is the combination of light and shadows that creates compelling imagery.

dancer and shadow on a light coloured wall at Dance Base, Edinburgh

This is one of my two favourite images from this set-up. I really like the fact the shadow comes really close to the left edge of the frame, as it creates visual tension.

On this dance photography shoot with Charmagne and Chanelle, I decided to explore the use of shadows. With a light coloured wall, it is possible to project a distinct shadow of the dancer.

dancer and shadow on a light coloured wall at Dance Base, Edinburgh

In this image the dancer’s body shape is very similar to the one in the previous photograph, yet I don’t think this image is as strong. I believe it is because of the different spatial relationship between the dancer and her shadow.

Dancers can create very photogenic shapes with their bodies. The combination of the dancer and her shadow, as a form of visual echo, creates a more three dimensional feel to the photographs.

dancer and shadow on a light coloured wall at Dance Base, Edinburgh

Like in the first photograph of Charmagne, at the top of this blog post, this image of Chanelle has her shadow close to the left edge of the frame. It is probably no coincidence that this is the other of my two favourite pictures from this set-up.

I wish we had more time to explore this set-up, because I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance sometime soon.

dancer and shadow on a light coloured wall at Dance Base, Edinburgh

The shape of Chanelle’s body is very appealing from the graphic standpoint. The triangle shape formed by the legs and the implied triangle formed by the arms. But somehow, the combination of that shape and her shadow isn’t quite as compelling as in the previous photograph.


Real Estate Photography: Stockbridge, Edinburgh

You always want to put your best foot forward. If you have a property to let or for sale, you want to showcase it in the best possible light (photography pun intended). A photographer who specialises in real estate will produce images of a quality you are not going to achieve taking the photographs yourself, even if you have a very good camera.

Living room in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Beautiful living space. Bright and spacious, lovely view to the outside and featuring a gorgeous Moroccan rug.

A while back I was asked to photograph a property in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. It was clear that the most attractive room of this lovely flat was the living room, shown in the picture above. Spacious, with a gorgeous Moroccan rug and lovely view to the outside. This was used as the cover photo to market the property.

Living room in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I needed to show the lovely fireplace I could not include in framing the previous photograph.

I obviously took a few photographs from different angles to showcase all of the features, such as the fireplace in the above photo. The dining area can be seen behind the couch in the leading image and I clearly needed to show it in more detail.

Dining area in living room. Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I felt this was the best angle to showcase the dining area.

Dining area in living room. Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I consider this to be a ‘documentary’ photograph, because it’s purpose is to show the dining area from the other angle, so the real estate agent knows what’s in the property. The previous picture was used for marketing purposes, not this one.

It is also important to showcase the bedrooms. After all, we spend a good portion of our lives asleep.

Bedroom in Stockbridge property Edinburgh

My favourite photographs are those that are backlit, with the window in the frame. I love the mood backlighting creates.

Master bedroom in Stockbridge property, Edinburgh

I absolutely love the pastel colours in this master bedroom. This was the strongest photograph of the bedroom and the one that was used for marketing purposes

Master bedroom in Stockbridge property, Edinburgh

A ‘documentary’ photograph of the master bedroom to show the storage area. This photograph wasn’t used in the marketing of the property.

Single (or child) bedroom in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Once again, the strongest image of the room turned out to be the backlit one. This is the photograph used in the marketing of the property.

Single (or child) bedroom in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

The ‘documentary’ photograph used to give the estate agent a complete view of this bedroom.

Potential tenants or buyers will get their first impression of your property from the photographs on your website. An attractive looking property is likely to get more visits. Because of the limited supply, there is just one property like yours, an increased interest or demand is going to lead to a higher sale price. A mere one percent increase in the price will more than cover the cost of hiring a professional photographer.

Guest room of Stockbridge property, Edinburgh

Another room in the flat that can be used as a living space or guest bedroom.

The bathrooms and kitchen may not be the most important rooms of a property in many people’s mind. But showing immaculate bathrooms and kitchen should not be overlooked. Would you move into a property with an unsanitary kitchen and/or bathrooms?

Kitchen in Stockbridge flat, Edinburgh

Well designed and spacious kitchen, looking immaculate.

Bathroom in Stockbridge flat, Edinburgh

First bathroom. Absolutely spotless.

Bathroom in Stockbridge flat, Edinburgh

Second bathroom. Looking great.

Most of the time, my picture of the hall doesn’t get used in marketing the property, as halls tend to be rather dull. This flat was a notable exception.

Hallway in Stockbridge flat, Edinburgh

I framed the photograph this way because I really liked the striking effect of the red wall.






Spring Colours Impressionism

A bed of flowers is a good subject for impressionist photography techniques. I love to hold the camera by the lens’s zoom ring and rotate my DSLR during a quarter of a second exposure. It produces a nice twirl effect. I call it the Bryan Peterson twirl, since I learned this technique from world class photographer and instructor Bryan Peterson. It takes a bit of trial and error, and you can see two of my favourites (out of about 20 attempts) below.

Colour twirl obtained by rating the camera while holding the zoom ring.

I spotted this white flower and tried to keep it at the centre of the twirl.

Colour twirl obtained by rating the camera while holding the zoom ring.

The challenge with this technique is holding the camera steady enough during the zooming, to get as regular a twirl as possible.

Another technique for creating colour abstract is to simply pan the camera over the subject during a long exposure. The movement need not be in a straight line. It’s fun to experiment with that. Note you’ll also have to experiment with how long an exposure you need, as it typically depends on the subject, the speed of your camera motion and the focal length of the lens you have. In my experience, a quarter of a second is a good start, but you may want a longer or shorter shutter speed. Try a few and see what works best for you. In the digital age, it’s easy enough.

Colour abstract obtained by panning the camera over a bed of spring flowers

In this photo, I used a panning motion from left to right while moving the camera up.

Colour abstract obtained by panning the camera over a bed of spring flowers

In this case I moved the camera from left to right over all. The upward motion only lasted for about half of the exposure.

Last but not least, the third technique I use for creating impressionist photographs is multiple exposures. I typically use the maximum number of exposures my camera allows (nine in the present case) and move the camera a little bit between exposures. How much should one move the camera and what kind of motion should one use is something that requires a little experimentation. Below are two of my favourite pics from the day.

Colour abstract obtained with multiple exposures of a bed of spring flowers

In this photo I moved the camera a little bit to the right and down between exposures.

Colour abstract obtained with multiple exposures of a bed of spring flowers

For this photograph the camera movement between exposures was a little more random.