Category Archives: Modelling

Maria at the Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh

In people photographs, you should never underestimate the importance of the background, even for close-up pictures.

Smiling model with Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh as background

Maria probably is the most photogenic person I’ve ever had in from of my camera.

The Innocent Railway Tunnel in Edinburgh is one of my favourite locations for photo shoots. This locations has lines, shapes, textures and with the proper white balance setting on the camera, colour. In other words, shooting at the Innocent Railway Tunnel allows you to incorporate a lot of the elements of design in your photographs.

Introspective model with Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh as background

Since we’ve done a number of photo shoots together, I trust Maria do give me many different expressions for each set up.

I had promised Maria that we would shoot there someday, and after a longish wait, it finally happened. Since it was rather late in the evening and the place was therefore relatively quiet, I could really work my subject and try as many poses and framings as possible.

Model with Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh as background

Finally, a more serious expression showcasing Maria’s blue eyes.

So I tried vertical as well as horizontal frames, and symmetric (see below) versus asymmetric (see above) compositions.

Model with Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh as background Close-up shot using a 400mm telephoto lens.

I had to use the symmetry of the location to frame my model Maria for a whole series of picture. This photograph was taken with a long telephoto (400mm focal length).

My 80-400mm zoom lens allowed me to quickly shoot quite a few variations on the composition above. Starting with a close-up and then zooming out for a couple of different looks. Note that I also had to ‘zoom with my feet’ but there was no need to interrupt the flow of the shoot by having to change lenses.

Smiling model framed by the arches at the Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh

Zooming out allowed me to show more of the interesting background.

I also had to take a full length photograph to complete the series.

Full length photo of model at the Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh

Close-up, medium shot and full length to complete the series of vertical compositions.

While a vertical composition feels more natural with the model and background as in the pictures above, it is always good practice to find a horizontal composition of the same subject.

Horizontal composition of model symmetrically framed by the Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh

Similar pose as above but framing the subject horizontally gives one an extra option.

Horizontal composition of model smiling and symmetrically framed by the Innocent Railway Tunnel, Edinburgh

We did poses with and without the jacket on, so it was time to try a variation without the hat on.

Note that for all of these variations, the model and camera only had to move a few meters. A great location like the Innocent Railway Tunnel can give you many options.


Beauty Shoot – Evolution 10 Salon

Women love to look their best, and for this reason I very much enjoy doing beauty shoots. The model is pampered: good makeup and impeccable hair. Add  beauty lighting to makes her shine in the photographs. Being able to give someone a picture of themselves looking fabulous is a wonderful feeling.

Beauty show of model holding a champagne glass in front of white background

I really like props. They give the model something to do. 

Beauty show of model holding a champagne glass in front of white background

Summer really relaxed when she was given the champagne glass, and sort of “forgot” she was being photographed.

I don’t know how many shoots Summer had done before, but I’d guess not very many. Working with an inexperienced model takes some patience. More than anything, she has to trust you are going to take good photos. A great advantage of digital is you can show the models some of the pictures on the LCD screen of your camera when you explain to them what you’d like them to do. And they can also give you feedback on what they like. I found it was a good way to establish trust, to show the model you really want to make them look their best. And it is fun to watch them gain confidence as the shoot progresses.

Beauty show of model holding a champagne glass in front of white background

At this stage of the shoot, I could sense Summer was more comfortable modelling for me.

I then switched to another set-up I like. A black background. It totally changes the mood of the photographs. In this set-up I have the usual beauty dish flat-lighting the model, but I also like to backlight the model’s hair. By then, Summer was having fun in front of the camera and it was too bad the shoot had to end. I look forward to the next one.

Beauty photograph of model holding a can of hairspray in front of a black background

Fun with hairspray!

Beauty photograph of model holding a can of hairspray in front of a black background

Notice how different the mood of the photographs with the black background is compared to the pictures with a white background. Relatively small change in the set up, but big difference in the look of the final image.




Light Painting in the Forest

In my previous blog post, I talked about trying a number of new techniques on location, in the forest of Blackford Hill.

Light painting is the last technique I tried on the shoot with actress/model Electra Gouni. We had to wait until light levels in the forest got sufficiently low because the technique involves lighting a dark scene with a light torch by hand. Since it is difficult to illuminate the whole scene during a single exposure, a number of exposures were taken and then combined later in Photoshop. This also allows greater flexibility in constructing the final image.

light painting of actress and model Electra Gouni in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I needed to set up this shot  before the forest got too dark, so I could properly compose the image. We then water until the forest got dark enough for my torch light to be brighter than the fading ambient light. The final image is a composite of may images, each one with a little bit of the scene revealed by the light torch.

I first learned of this technique from world class photographer Dave Black and I’ve been experimenting with it for a while, mostly with still subjects. So wanted to experiment a little bit more with people. This poses a challenge in that the model has to stand very still while he/she is being lit by the torch light.

I really like the surreal and moody atmospheres one can get from light painting. In this day and age where we are being inundated with imagery, it is important to be able to create photographs that stand out from the crowd, and the light painting technique offers plenty of opportunities in this regard.

Model Video: Amelia Court

Here are a few fun YouTube facts, taken from the YouTube statistics web page:

-More than 1 billion users visit YouTube each month

-Over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month – that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth

—80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US

—According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

—YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of mobile devices.

The widespread availability of mobile devices makes consuming video content easy and popular. Video should be an integral part of any business’s marketing plan.

Young ladies and gentlemen wanting to work in the modelling industry would work with professional photographers to produce a book of quality images they would show to potential clients. I believe that video is going to be a necessary component of a model’s portfolio. Leading model management companies, such a Premier Model Management from London, are using video to showcase their modelling talent.

With the increasing demand for video content, there are going to be more and more opportunities for models. And I’m sure the casting directors would like to see how the models look on video beforehand. After all, actors have showreels and the purpose of a model’s portfolio is to show potential clients how the model looks in photographs.

About a month an a fall ago, I teamed up with fellow photographer Hervé Mudry to produce a photography and video package for model Amelia Court.

Hervé took care of the photography aspect and I was behind the video camera. I found it was much easier to split the photography and video duties than try to do both at the same time.

Why I Learned To Love Good Makeup Artists

Rebecca from Superior Model Management beauty portrait

Rebecca from Superior Model Management. The makeup artist and I loved the colour contrast between the model’s hair and her eyes.

A few weeks ago, I did a beauty shoot with Rebecca from Superior Model Management, a modelling agency in Glasgow. In the above photograph, you may notice the nice colour contrast between the hair and eyes of the model, and the flattering beauty light. You may hardly notice the makeup (save the lipstick). Yet, the makeup is just as important to the quality of the beauty portrait as the model and the lighting.

You might argue that the photograph looks the way it does because the model is a young lady from a modelling agency. Well, that’s what I used to think too. Now don’t get me wrong, a young lady with good skin is a must for a beauty shot like this, but there is a lot more than meets the eye.

I learned this when I first worked with a good makeup artist, a couple of years ago. Looking at the files on my big computer screen after the shoot, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The skin looked beautiful and there was very little retouching to do (a few skin blemishes here and there, but that was it).

Rebecca from Superior Model Management beauty portrait with heavier makeup

A change in the hair style, makeup and head tilt can significantly change the appearance of a subject.

The makeup in the photos shown here was done by Maria Carmela Chierchia, who has been in the beauty industry for a number of years. It is not readily noticeable, yet it is a very important reason why the pictures look the way they do.



Portrait Photography and the Importance of Makeup

According to a New York Times report, a new study reveals that women who wear makeup (without overdoing it) are perceived as more likeable, competent and trustworthy. Not surprisingly, the study also reveals that makeup increases a woman’s attractiveness.

In a previous blog post, “Business portrait, the why”, I gave a number of arguments in favour of having a portrait of yourself on your website, LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. You wouldn’t buy something from someone wearing a mask, and if there isn’t a picture of you for potential online customers to look at, you are effectively wearing one. A photograph subtly tells your audience you have nothing to hide and makes you more trustworthy.

Beauty shot of model with professional makeup Edinburgh

Professional makeup by Maria Carmela Chierchia and beauty lighting

All of these observations indicate that it is definitely a good idea for business women to have a professional photograph with good makeup on their website, LinkedIn profile or Facebook page.

The pictures in this post feature  Stephanie Buckley, who was a joy to work with. The makeup artist was Maria Carmela Chierchia, who has been in the beauty industry for nearly ten years.

Beauty shot of model with professional makeup Edinburgh

Lighter makeup by Maria Carmela Chierchia for a different look


Portrait photography: adding light

I explained in two previous blog posts, “Portrait photography: finding the front light” and “Portrait photography: finding the back light” how to find natural lighting conditions that are flattering for portraits of women.

But sometimes one has to place the subject a certain way to get a pleasing background, but the natural light falling on her isn’t optimal. And when the subject is oriented such that the natural light falling on her is optimal, there may be distracting elements in the background. In such a situation, one can go with the best composition of the photograph and ‘fix’ the lighting by adding some external light source.

In the photograph below, I really wanted to compose the photograph with the leading lines to the model’s face. But the light was coming from the side and giving unflattering shadows on her face. So I added a soft light source (a small flash in an umbrella) to fill in the shadows on her face and give a much more pleasing portrait.

Portrait of model with leading lines

Portrait of model using leading lines to guide the viewer to the face

And in the two following photographs, I really wanted to use the green door to frame my model. It gave a pleasing composition to the photograph. But the natural light falling on her face didn’t do her justice. So I again added the same soft light source as above to ‘fix’ the light. This way I could get the composition I wanted and good light on the model’s face.

Portrait of model framed  by door

Using a door to frame the model


Portrait of model framed  by door

Using a door to frame the model. Wider crop.

Portrait photography: finding the back light

In my previous post “Portrait photography: finding the front light”, I showed one possible natural setting to make portraits of women shine.
In this blog post, I’m going to show another favorite portrait set up of mine. On a sunny day, it is best to avoid harsh shadows on the face of the model. One possible solution is to find a shaded area, like the location shown in the “finding the front light” blog post. But it is also possible to place the sun behind the model. The light doesn’t hit the model’s face directly and one gets a beautiful rim light around the head to nicely separate the subject from the background. An example is shown below, with the low setting sun on Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, behind Maria.

Portrait of model with back light

The setting sun behind the model, Maria, gives an even and soft light on her and a rim light most noticeable on the left side of the picture

With the sun behind the model and facing the photographer, the bright light can enter the lens directly and cause what is called lens flare. In the above image, I kept the direct sunlight from hitting the front of the lens. It is generally recommended to do this, but sometimes, breaking the rules can give interesting results. In the picture below, I didn’t prevent the direct sunlight from entering the lens and the resulting flare gives the image an ethereal quality.

Model portrait with back light and lens flare

The direct sun light entering the lens gives a low contrast image with an ethereal mood


Portrait photography: finding the front light

In my previous post “Portrait photography: before and after pictures”, I showed the difference studio lighting can make in a portrait.
But the lighting equipment used to take these photographs is quite heavy and cumbersome, and hence it is not always practical to carry along.
The good news is that it is possible to find natural light settings that are also very flattering to women.
For example, one needs to look for something to block the light coming from above,  because that light produces dark eyes, sometimes referred to as ‘racoon eyes’. The model then can face the direction the light is coming from. This front lighting is similar to the kind of lighting used in the beauty studio lighting set up, and works very well for women.
A few weeks back, I did a portfolio shoot for Beth, who is represented by Superior Model Management in Glasgow. The shoot presented the perfect opportunity to use this kind of light.
We went to the Meadows park, Edinburgh, and the pic below shows the location where the shoot took place. The roof perfectly blocks the light coming from above, and thus one gets soft light coming from the sides.

The Meadows, Edinburgh

The roof blocks the light coming from above, preventing the ‘raccoon’ eyes

I simply had my model Beth face the direction of the light, and the resulting portraits are shown below.

Portrait of Model with soft fromt light

Beth from Superior Model Management, Glasgow

Beth from Superior Model Management, Glasgow

Beth from Superior Model Management, Glasgow

Portrait of Model

Beth from Superior Model Management, Glasgow

This location allows one to take nice portrait photographs on a sunny or cloudy day, which is wonderful since the weather around Edinburgh can be a tad temperamental….