Category Archives: Portrait

Edinburgh Fringe Festival – More Portraits

During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you can have a truly multicultural experience. From UK based comedians to theatre and dance companies from Korea and Japan.

In August on the Royal Mile, you can see amazing costumes from all over the world. The lovely young lady in the photograph below was quite eager to pose for the camera.

Portrait of young Asian lady wearing a red dress and black hat

When I saw the trees behind her, I knew their colour would nicely contrast with the red coloured clothes she was wearing. I positioned myself and waited for her to notice me and smile at the camera.

Portrait of young Asian lady wearing a red dress and black hat

She was very playful and gave me some wonderful portraits. Who ever you are, thank you for this brief but fruitful collaboration.

Some of the head gear worn by these artists and performers was simply stunning. The photographic challenge, as always during the busy Fringe Festival, was to find relatively clean backgrounds in order to avoid distracting the viewer from the beautiful head gear.

Portrait of young Asian lady beautiful white head ornaments

This young lady immediately caught my attention. I must say I took a lot of pictures of her, because I really wanted to make sure I had at least a good one.

Young Asian man wearing red head gear

I don’t know what theatre company he belongs to, but you got to admire the elaborate costume.

And the Royal Mile just wouldn’t be the Royal Mile without a King:

Young Asian man in a King costume

The sunlight was coming from my right side and so I had to wait for my subject to turn his head towards the light to avoid distracting shadows on his face.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Portraits

Most of the characters promoting shows on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe festival are quite colourful. Literally and figuratively. For example, how often have you come across a smiling zombie?

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 zombie

I can’t remember which show this young lady was promoting, but she was very cooperating and gave me a nice portrait.

But not everyone liked to pose in a friendly manner. I got a number of rather scary looks.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival scary bald orange and white character

While sitting on a kerb, this gentleman gave me some of his best scary impressions, You got to love the makeup.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015  Feline Tiger makeup

He was part of a group of theatre students from London if I remember correctly. Very friendly bunch, even though you couldn’t tell from this photograph!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 man in top hat with blood on his face

I guess I’d be grumpy too if I had blood all over my face.

While the scary/zombie theme is quite popular, at the Fringe Festival, you are just as likely to meet some real gentlemen.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 Distinguished Gentlemen by Out Cast Theatre

The show “Distinguished Gentlemen” was described as an outrageous tale of lust and lunacy.

Well, may be not! In any event, the sight of a man in a wedding dress promoting the show “This Much (or an act of violence against marriage)” from the Moving Dust Company definitely cheered me up. Only at the Fringe!

Man in wedding dress promoting the show "This Much" by the Moving Dust company

I was not going to pass on this wonderful photo opportunity. The real challenge was getting a nice expression from the subject with no people n the background.

Statues are also an integral part of the Fringe Festival, and they come from all over the UK.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 Lutrek Statues and Clowns

Lutrek Statues and Clowns are based in Bristol and London. They travel all over the UK and the World, according to their website.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 statue

Patience really paid off. I had seen this statue a couple of times as he was leaving the scene, and couldn’t manage to get a good pic. But the third time proved to be a charm.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 statue

The colour match between the statue and the background is what caught my attention here.

And no festival would really be complete without some clowns. I was really drawn to the colourful outfit.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 clown

I really like his outfit. Especially the hat. Don’t you?

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Portraits – Black & White

Every August in Edinburgh, Scotland is festival time. And the Fringe Festival gets bigger every year it seems. According to the official stats, this year’s festival consisted of 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues. An estimated 2,298,090 tickets were issued. Not too bad for a city of about 500,000 inhabitants.

During the day, artists promote their shows on the Royal Mile, wearing their stage attire. There are also countless busking musicians and statues. It is quite a sight and replete with photographic opportunities. Most of the characters are quite colourful, but that will be the topic of the next blog posts. For a few of the pictures, it was clear to me that they would look better in (toned) black & white.

Seymour Stiffs the Undertaker posing for the camera during the Edinburgh Fringe festival

Seymour Stiffs, the gregarious undertaker, was more than willing to pose for the camera

Seymour Stiffs the Undertaker photographed on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe festival

I hung around for a while after taking the previous photograph, and I was able to take a candid portrait of Seymour, in a more reflective pose.

During the Fringe festival, you’ll see some most unusual things. Like the gentleman below in a wedding dress dancing and handing out leaflets. He belongs to the “Moving Dust” company, based in London.  This “emerging company is set up to create ground-breaking  performance projects”, according to their website. I have no problem believing that!

Actor from company Moving Dust promoting their show This Much on the Royal Mile during the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh

Gentleman from “Moving Dust” promoting the show “This Much (or an act of violence towards the institution of marriage)

Not everyone in a strange attire on the Royal Mile is promoting a show. Many just pose with tourists in exchange for money, like the Alien Monster below and Darth Vader.

Alien Monster on the Royal Mile during the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh

Not sure if this character is from a movie or not, but I found him on the Royal Mile on a few occasions.

Darth Vader on the Royal Mile during the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh

I guess no self-respecting summer festival would be complete without an apparition of Lord Vader.


Newborn Photography

“A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there — even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity.” – Robert Doisneau

I really subscribe to the idea that in photography “light is everything”. After all, photography is derived from the Greek “photos” (light) and “graphos” (drawing). It literally means drawing with light.

However, I believe there is an important exception to this rule. If you manage to capture a special moment in time, you can get away with less than ideal light.

I kept that in mind when I was asked to photograph a newborn. One week olds don’t respond well to direction, so there would obviously be no way I could fine tune my lighting. I would have to focus on capturing special moments. Such as the bond between mother and child in the photograph below.

Close up of mother feeding new born baby

Got in close for an intimate portrait of mother and newborn baby.

The baby was woken up by the activities surrounding the shoot and was a little cranky as a result of this. But I was nevertheless fortunate enough to capture some wonderful expressions.

Newborn baby in cot looking into the camera

I waited for a while for the newborn to look into the camera. Fortunately, I was ready when he did.

Newborn baby with tongue out

Well, I guess he’s probably not the last client who doesn’t like how the photo shoot is progressing! But I doubt I’ll ever get the same expression!

Newborn baby in cot with right hand on his chin

This is one of my favourites. I just love the gesture with the right hand. Already pondering the meaning of life?

These pictures will undoubtedly be looked at very fondly many years from now. Less than a second snatched from eternity.

Chamberlain-Haywood Promo Shoot

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by accordionist Paul Chamberlain regarding doing a promo shoot for a new duo he formed with saxophonist/violinist Michael Haywood.

To my delight, they chose the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh as the location for the shoot. It is a wonderful place to take photographs. In fact, my first model shoot, about four years ago took place there.

The main reason I like to work with musicians is that they are generally looking for creative pictures and are willing to experiment. The photograph below was the last set up of the shoot and is my favourite from the day.

Michael Haywood with a saxophone soprano and Paul Chamberlain with an accordion, photographed back to back using dramatic lighting.

The wonderful thing about lighting is that it allows the photographer to completely control the light and come up with images that would be very difficult if not impossible to create using only natural light.

The reason the experimental set up was the last one is that I always want to make sure I have some pictures the client can use. I also need to warm up at the beginning of the shoot, so I always start with tried and tested set ups and get some nice pictures in the bag. Once I know the assignment is completed, I can feel free to experiment if there is some time left and the client is up for it.

When I saw the black, shiny table, I knew there was a picture there, because I could get some nice reflections. They always add a wonderful element of interest to your images. The colour scheme also worked very nicely. Mostly black, with a touch of colour from the violin, the musicians’ faces, the other instruments and the background. Surprisingly, perhaps, even though the photograph is mostly monochrome, it works much better in colour than in black and white.

Paul Chamberlain and Michael Haywood with their instruments sitting at a table in the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

I knew the reflections I would get from the shiny black table would add a key element to the environmental portrait of the two musicians.

For the first set up, I took individual portraits of Paul and Michael. With artists, these portrait sessions can go in unexpected and wonderful ways. This time was no exception and I really like this picture of Michael Haywood.

Portrait of Michael Haywood with a saxophone soprano,  looking up, taken at the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Michael Haywood is a dreamer.


Light Painting Comedienne Juliette Burton

Last December, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph Juliette Burton.

Juliette is an award-winning actress, writer and performer, whose last show “Look At Me” received raving reviews in the national press at the Edinburgh fringe festival 2014.

At the time Juliette was about to move to London and wanted some photographic memories of her beautiful Edinburgh flat. I was very happy to oblige because I relished the challenge of light painting a new type of environmental portrait.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton in her Edinburgh flat, sitting in a chair

Juliette wanted to be photographed in front of this wall. I really liked the two open doors and the story they tell, so the framing of the photograph pretty much worked itself out.

I really love working with artists. They are very engaged during the shoot and it makes my job as a photographer easier. In all the photographs, there are a number of items included whose true meaning only Juliette knows!

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton sitting in front of  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

Juliette particularly liked the fireplace in her flat. This is my favourite of the four set ups we tried.

But the beauty of photographs is that you can interpret them in your own way, even if that isn’t what the subject and photographer intended. And I’m sure you can create your own story with each of the photographs shown here.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton standing by  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

This is my second favourite of the fireplace setups. The wall was rather bland, and you may have notices that I overlaid a texture on top of the photographs to make the wall a bit more interesting.

Juliette was a joy to collaborate with. A subject is always vulnerable in front of the camera, and she/he must trust the photographer to do them justice. Juliette and I first met on the photo shoot and I was very grateful she trusted me from the beginning. That is why I’m really delighted she likes the results.

Light Painting Composer and Audio Producer Frankie Lowe

This instalment of my personal light painting project had me working with composer, audio producer and musician Frankie Lowe. I was fortunate to meet Frankie through one of my previous light painting subjects, composer and cellist Atzi.

I love working with musicians and artists on these light painting projects, because they relate to the kinds of moody pictures one gets with this technique. They also like the novelty factor. After all, light painting does produce photographs one is not used to seeing, and as an artist it is always good to differentiate yourself. Another great benefit of working with artists and musicians is that they are full of ideas, and no two of them are remotely alike. This guarantees a new and interesting experience every single time.

Composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe at the piano light painting

I decided to gel my LED light torch and picked a cool blue to add colour contrast with the warm tungsten light by the piano. Since bluish people look quite unnatural, I removed the gel when light painting Frankie’s face.

The session with Frankie was no exception. I asked Frankie where he’d like to be photographed, i.e what kind of location would represent him and what he does best. I want my collaborators to like the images I produce and use them to promote themselves. It’s a win win situation. They get something out of the project so it wasn’t a waste of their time, and my pictures get exposure.

Frankie chose to be photographed in his recording studio. This posed a number of challenges, given the tight space, amount of recording equipment and number of musical instruments. While light painting a scene, I need to move around and be able to light the various parts of the scene from interesting vantage points. And the number of objects in the scene created some challenges in composing the photographs. Photography is all about problem solving.

Light painting of composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe in his recording studio

I’ve grown to like environmental portraits of this kind. There are lots of things to keep the viewer looking around the frame. And the light painting adds depth and dimension to the scene.

I’m quite pleased with the final results and especially the experience gained in carrying out this project. I was also delighted by the reactions on Facebook when Frankie updated his banner with the studio photograph above. All in all, time well spent.

Light painting of composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe  in his studio playing the guitar.

The last set up of the session. I experimented some more with colour gels.

Light Painting: Edinburgh Vintage Shoot

I have done more photo shoots with Maria than with any other model. Not only does she look fabulous in photographs, but she always has interesting ideas for photo shoots and that makes for fun collaborations.

I couldn’t really believe that it had been nearly two years since our last project. Time flies when you’re having fun. So when I wanted to further explore the light painting technique, I asked Maria if she was interested and if she had any ideas.

Model in a light blue vintage dress and hair against a blue garage door on Circus Lane, Edinburgh

This garage door on Circus Lane, Edinburgh, attracted my attention because of its texture and colour. It also wasn’t lit by any of the street lights, so it was dark enough for the light painting technique to work.

She told me that she had wanted to do a vintage-themed shoot for a long time. Now if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know I’m the opposite of a fashionista. So I had very little idea of what that meant, but having worked with Maria in the past, I knew that I could trust she’d give me some great looks.

I also ask collaborators if they know of some interesting locations. And Maria suggested the area around Circus Lane in Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

Model in a vintage light blue dress and vintage hair sitting on the steps of St Stephen's church, Edinburgh

The steps of St Stephen’s church in Edinburgh may not look like a great location for a photograph. But I recognised two important elements of design, line and pattern. And with light painting, it is possible to make nearly anything look interesting. Adding a  lovely young lady to the image doesn’t hurt either!

One of the reasons I love light painting, is that with this technique, one can make some ordinary backgrounds like a garage door on Circus Lane or the steps of St Stephen’s church look interesting. Such is the power of lighting!

Photographing Children at The Hive Soft Play, Bathgate

A few weeks back I was on assignment taking photographs at The Hive Soft Play in Bathgate, and working with children aged 3 to 11-12 years old.

The Hive Soft Play is an indoor play centre with a spectacular play frame. There is a cafe serving delicious homemade food and treats. The play centre is for children aged 0-12 years. It is also a great party venue offering a variety of party options to celebrate birthdays.

Young girl blowing out the candles on her birthday cake

Blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. Probably my favourite picture of the day.

The shoot was organised by co-owner Sarah Russell to take place late afternoon. I was to showcase as many of the activities the centre offers as possible. I took photographs of the venue, the treats on offer at the cafe, as well as relaxing mothers enjoying a cup of coffee. And of course, I had to show plenty of children enjoying themselves.

I had a great time working with Sarah, the kids and their parents and I’m showing in this blog post a few of my favourite shots taken on the day.

Young girl with her face painted to look like a tiger

Face painting is one of the activities offered by The Hive, and the children really enjoyed taking part in it. I just love the expression on her face.

The saying “Never work with children or animals” is attributed to American comedian and actor W.C. Fields. I can’t say anything about working with animals, but I would respectfully disagree with Mr Fields when it comes to working with children.

Not that photographing kids is free of challenges. They do have a limited attention span, and when a toddler loses any interest in what you are trying to do, you might as well move on, because you won’t get their attention back. So you have to be ready when the moment comes. But then, photographing young children is very rewarding. Unlike us adults, they haven’t really learned to fake it and therefore the expressions they give you are always genuine. I hope you enjoy the images in this post as much as I enjoyed creating them.

And if you have any kids, take them to The Hive in Bathgate where they’ll have an amazing time while you relax.

Two young girls on a small slide

I did not have to direct them to show they enjoyed the ride. But a few minutes later, they had completely lost any interest in this small slide and moved on to other areas of the play centre. Luckily, I was ready to capture that moment.


Branding And The Business Portrait

According to Wikipedia, a brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.”

It follows from this definition that freelancers are their own brand. The way they act in social situations, respond to email, their physical appearance and their LinkedIn profile picture clearly are features that identify them from their competitors.

This is why I’m always astounded that people who would never dream of going to a business meeting improperly dressed have terrible LinkedIn or website profile pictures. On the one hand they do understand that they are their own brand, yet they don’t seem to grasp that the pictures of themselves they show to the online world are just as important, in terms of the impression they make on people, as their physical appearance at a business networking event.

As an example of branding, a few weeks back, I had the chance of taking some business photographs for my accountant, Mark McLeod of Scotia Accounting. Mark is personable, professional, and he is not your stereotypical accountant. He is also interested in attracting start-ups and high-tech businesses as clients. I was looking to create some photographs that would reflect that.

The business portrait is not something you want to get to too creative about. There is some kind of expected standard so I gave Mark a traditional picture against a white background.

Business portrait of Mark McLeod of Scotia Accounting against a white background

A traditional business portrait against a white background for Mark McLeod of Scotia Accounting. With men, I like to use more directional lighting than I do for business portraits of women

Now since the clients he wants to attract are the young and up-coming entrepreneurs, I thought we could go for some edgier photographs that could appeal to that audience and clearly differentiate Mark from his competition. This is what we came up with:

Portrait of Mark McLeod of Scotia Accounting against a black background and holding a 'Scots Law' red book.

Just changing the background to black gives a more dramatic atmosphere to the picture. The drama was accentuated with contrasty lighting.

Portrait of Mark McLeod of Scotia Accounting against a black background and holding a red 'Scots Law' book. Two of the lights are coloured red.

Red is Mark’s favourite colour, so I created a slightly different look by putting red coloured gels on the two side lights.