The beauty of the beast; Customs, hotrods and classics. Photographing cars and the people that love them

Personal photography project on cars and their owners

I have finally published a project about cars and their owners that I started some 3 years ago!

To be honest I doubt it will ever be truly finished, but you’ve got to release these things at some point otherwise they will never see the light of day.

‘The beauty of the beast’ combines my deep love of details and of the beauty in everyday things, and my joy in connecting with and photographing people – really it’s been such a thrill to work on.  My only regret is that I don’t know who all the featured vehicles belong to, having gathered the images at local and national car shows.  So if one of these is yours please get in touch!

The beauty of the beast

 

Review – Lighting, posing and retouching with Hannah Couzens

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.

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Corporate headshot with separation lighting from the back

 

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.

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Fitness style shot set up – lights included!

 

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.

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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!

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My new posing and retouching skills at work here – although it’s pretty easy to make it look awesome with a great model like Lucy!

 

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.

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One of my favourite shots from the day – lots of fun in post processing!

 

 

 

Lighting, posing and retouching with Hannah Couzens – News you can use!

Aspect Star Rating (out of 5*)
Ease of booking *****
Pre-event communications *****
Personalisation and 1:1 attention ****
Information and Learning *****
Approachability *****
Location *****
Cost *** £250
Image review and feedback ***
Post-event feedback and follow-up ***

 

The autumn dream shoot -not what I planned, but not to worry!

I don’t normally blog about particular shoots I do, because I try and keep my blogs useful and the internet is full of pretty pictures afterall.  However, firstly I’m just so pleased with how this came out, and secondly it is kind of useful to talk about what happened.

This shoot was LONG in the planning.  I’d had an idea to do something around autumn in the forest, something that used a fashion look with a sort of Shakespearian twist.  I’d identified some great autumn colour in local woodlands, gone on extensive recces, planned the whole thing shot by shot, got my models lined up and…..

Well of course it rained! This is the UK in November afterall.  As my models were lined up and ready to go, and they are busy people and getting another day would have been virtually impossible – I had to make ‘lemonade’ so to speak, and move the whole thing indoors.

Now I don’t have a studio.  I have the box room at home that is full of cupboards, musical instruments and bookcases and which most of the time is the room I use to dry laundry in.  It’s just about 2 metres wide, but really it’s 1.3 metres wide because of the furniture on the walls.  Despite this my lovely husband has fitted a rail at one end so I can hang a back cloth and the walls are white and there’s a nice big window that lets in plenty of light.

Of course I couldn’t shoot the planned shots, many of which relied heavily on wide aspects taking in the landscape and picking up the colours. Making the models look small against the wide wilderness, a sense of getting lost and finding something unexpected.  Instead I decided to pick up on another idea I’ve been playing with, traditional portraits with aspects of fantasy.  I had to keep the images quite tight due to the space restrictions and the fact that my backdrop was neither wide enough nor long enough (it’s just a bit of brown velvet fabric I originally bought for doing still life).  However, that meant I could focus more on implementing some of the lighting and posing tips from my last class with Hannah Couzens and on getting the technique just right.

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I’m really pleased with how these images came out, they are a lot more intimate than the shots I originally planned, and my mother and daughter models love the connection they capture by being shot in such close quarters.  It really helps when you have beautiful friends you can call on to model and next year I reckon we’ll try again for the outdoor shots with the story I had planned, but maybe earlier in October when the weather might hold for us!

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Thank you so much Nic and Annabelle and Juliette who once again shone with the flower crowns.

www.siantphoto.com

 

Carolina Panthers Training Camp 2016

In August 2016 my family and I headed across the Atlantic to Spartanburg, South Carolina to see the Carolina Panthers training camp – oh and to get some great images at the same time!

Click below for my favourite images and reflections on the training camp experience

 

Photographing the Carolina Panthers