Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Hannah Couzens, portrait photographer extraordinaire. I went on her Basics of Studio Lighting course earlier in the year and had a great time as well as learning a lot of lighting stuff that I’ve been using ever since. So this next level course was a great way to follow up on that with some more complex lighting techniques as well as learning more about working with and posing models and some very useful tips on portrait retouching.
Hannah ran two classes on back to back days in November and luckily for me the one I was on was all ladies and one of them was also on the previous course with me, so there was a great feeling of cohortiness (yes I’m making up words now) and the atmosphere was relaxed but the participants were also highly motivated and asking lots of useful questions – just what you want in a small group course like this (there were 4 of us in case you were wondering).
We started the day with corporate headshots of our male model. This is a really practical thing to have up your sleeve as there’s money to be made with corporate headshots if you’re good at it – so I’ll definitely be looking for some opportunities to practice this. Hannah builds up all the lighting set ups from one light first and then adding lights in and all the while we talking about the posing, how to get a friendlier looking image and coping with common challenges like double chins, glasses and scowling finance directors. Probably my top tip from this section was about separating the dark suit from a dark background with a back/hair/rim light.
Next up was a more fitness style set up, also with our male model. This started off simple, building up to 3 lights plus a back light with a gel and a smoke machine. Great fun and, while this is not a set up I can easily replicate on location or in my tiny studio, the posing in particular will be really helpful. Again, fitness style portraits are a growth area and posing them right is tricky. You want edgy for fitness shots so the lighting needs to be really precise.
After lunch we met Lucy our professional fashion and beauty model for the afternoon. We began with a Q&A session during which Lucy talked about her experiences working with different photographers, including a few horror stories about over re-touching, overstepping boundaries and uncomfortable situations. In particular it was interesting to hear that even professional models like Lucy appreciate some direction and encouragement that they’re giving you what you want in terms of looks and poses. Given this, I now feel a bit more confident giving direction as I was always worried about coming across as too bossy during shoots, whether with models or regular people – I’m a lot less worried about that now and I think I’m getting better images as a result.
Shooting Lucy for a soft and pretty look as well as a more classic beauty shot was an absolute pleasure. We had a lot of fun playing with both the lights and the poses and I particularly enjoyed some shots lit for black and white as this is a big part of my work. I’m getting myself a second speedlight for Christmas so that I can give some of these a go in the new year!
As with the previous course, Hannah really packed in the content so there wasn’t as much time on the retouching section as was intended (I think!) as we were having too much fun shooting. To be honest I think my brain was both fried and buzzing at this time so any more would probably not have gone in well. Hannah covered frequency separation retouching for skin, which I’ve since been reading more about and having this basic grounding has been useful in exploring the technique further. For more on this I went to my Kelby One video training subscription and Kristina Sherk – definitely worth getting the free trial to access her course High End Portrait Retouching for a more detailed look at retouching. But honestly I wouldn’t have known where to start without Hannah’s introduction.
Once again Hannah hit it out of the park with this course, such a relaxed but energetic atmosphere and jam packed with content and some excellent opportunities to practice and get great images. I made some friends too so that’s a bonus! Hannah is genuinely supportive as well and there’s a great sense of being part of a club. She’s always happy to answer questions both during the course and afterwards and she shares a lot of really useful lighting techniques online for free – she’s just a really nice person which counts for a lot in my book. It’s not a cheap course but it’s a full-on day and a very small group so you get a lot for your money and I think if you’re looking to take your portrait photography to the next level, maybe start charging or start charging more, this course is a good investment in your photographic future.
Lighting, posing and retouching with Hannah Couzens – News you can use!
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