I’ve been looking for a class on portraits for quite a while and was drawing a blank (with the exception of creepy looking ‘glamour’ workshops – ew!) until I came across this workshop. I think this was the inaugural course which was great for me because it provided an opportunity to talk to Hannah beforehand about what I was looking for and how it all might work. In essence, I was after something around lighting and the different options in terms of lighting effects and equipment. This came about following my first real studio style shoot for One Three Seven and the fantastic experience of working with professional stylists and models. I got the bug really badly but recognised my images were very evenly lit (necessary for the photos showcasing the hair colours and cuts) but not necessarily very interestingly lit (see examples below)
The workshop day started with the five students meeting at Hannah’s studio in St Albans. It’s a beautiful studio, the walls are covered in Hannah’s lovely work, very inspiring. We spent the morning listening and taking notes (while drinking tea!) as Hannah explained the basics of how light works. We covered the impact of close and far away light sources, of the size of the light source and of hard and soft light. There’s a lot of physics involved in all this but Hannah was very careful to keep it to what we really needed to know, with helpful analogies and practical examples to help us. Towards the end of the morning we got into the 5 standard portrait lighting patterns and their impact on the shadows falling on the subject’s face – we were getting to the really interesting bit!
Lunch wasn’t provided but that meant a great opportunity to stretch the legs in St Albans which has no shortage of eateries and after a lovely two course lunch with fellow workshopper Lucy, I was fuelled and ready for the afternoon session.
The afternoon was all practical. With the aid of lovely model Natasha (patience of a saint and a look I just absolutely loved!) Hannah showed us how to set up a single light for each of the lighting patterns and how to modify the looks by adding light with a reflector. Each set up was demonstrated and photographed with the images appearing on screen for us all to review. In between shots Hannah answered our questions about focal length, modifiers, posing and a host of other random things. It was a really lively and engaged group and, while that did mean running a bit behind schedule, Hannah was always gracious and never hurried. After the demos we got our own opportunity to set up the light to replicate the patterns (great fun!) and just that little bit of practical really helped the stuff stick in my brain. My favourite shots from the afternoon are below. Not perfect examples of the lighting techniques but definitely an improvement in terms of lighting interest.
It was an unusual workshop in so far as I didn’t come away with that many shots, but that really wasn’t the purpose of the exercise. If you want to just shoot a model then you’re better off hiring a model and studio and doing it yourself. However, if you want to learn about studio lighting, watch a pro in action and get a bit of practice setting up the light to get different effects then this is definitely the workshop for you. One of the great things about the day was that Hannah is really not obsessed with what light you’re using so it’s possible to implement what you’ve learnt regardless of what light you’ve got or want to buy. Studio flash heads are used for demonstration but as only a single one is used for each demo, it can be replicated with a constant light or a speedlight (albeit with a bit more guess work!). Set-ups with multiple lights were demonstrated and Hannah did cover the different modifiers and their suitability for various light uses; key lights, hair lights, spotlights etc. but this was all non-essential and there was no pressure to have a whole bunch of lights to be successful.
The day ended with a series of videos on using just one studio head and a universal umbrella to light ten different subjects. I must say, by this point my brain was saturated so I was really glad that Hannah provided links to these videos to watch at home later as I don’t think I could take much more in.
All in all this was an extremely useful and enjoyable day and also one of the most inspirational workshops I’ve ever done. I learnt a surprising amount and am now on a mission to make use of what I’ve learnt in my portrait work. As soon as I got home I was anxious to start trying it all out with my on-site model Isaac and I could instantly see an improvement in the impact of the images (see below). Following the workshop Hannah kindly answered a couple of questions I had about gear and the follow up materials including the videos were dispatched really quickly. Hannah is also really active and responsive on social media so it’ll be really easy to stay in touch and follow her work.
Introduction to studio lighting – Inspirational stuff!
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