The Dan Kennedy Pro Lighting Workshop

Dan Kennedy (top right), his crew and us. What a happy bunch we are. Picture, courtesy of Dan Kennedy.

I recently attended an intensive one-day pro lighting workshop, taught by the fantastic Dan Kennedy, a London-based celebrity and fashion photographer.

The course was held at Shoreditch Studios, London and run from a purpose built photography studio located underneath a railway arch.

I was one of the 12 lucky, keen and eager students ready to learn from Dan and hopefully gain first hand tips and tricks from this successful professional photographer.

A behind the scenes shot of Dan overseaing one of the students as he takes some shots of the talented model Shane.

Along with the other 11 attendees there were Dan’s two PA’s in assistance. Keeping the momentum going as smoothly as possible throughout the day. These girls were brilliant at keeping us all on-time and on-track ensuring a smooth transition and flow from one setup to the next. It allowed all of us a fair chance at directing the models and taking the shots we all wanted to get.

There was a super friendly, knowledgeable and helpful photographers assistant (helping us to dial-in camera and lighting settings), a stylist, hair and makeup artist and three beautiful and talented models; Shane, Julian and Yani. A cameraman was also onsite recording the behind the scenes for future reference.

Dan was super friendly, knowledgeable and approachable. He shared a few of his stories about some of the celebrities he’s photographed over the years. He explained his shooting style, techniques and business philosophy and we all lapped it up.

Another behind the scenes shot of the beautiful model Julian posing for one of the students.

Dan demonstrated and explained how he would set up a shot. From initially creating a mood board/contact sheet of ideas, to the lighting and modifiers he would use and in what circumstances he would use them. Camera, settings, lens choice and finally how he imports, edits and then sends his images off to the clients.

He also spoke to us about the importance of communicating and directing the models/clients and keeping them engaged. Finally he offered some super insights from his photography career to date, where he started, his big breaks, words of wisdom and caution and especially to be prepared to improvise at a moments notice!

Below are a selection of shots taken on the day and I’m super pleased with the end results. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Dan’s workshops then I would highly recommend it.

My curated edited pictures of Shane @shanenolan_alive

My shortlisted images of Julian @Julian_Nayiga

My final selection of pictures of Yani @yani.matsunaga

We covered a lot of ground on this very much hands on training day. We used polyboards, backdrops, gobos, lighting, flags and diffusers.

I’ve not properly worked with models before and these three made it so easy. I had a few pre planned poses I wanted to try out but these guys went with the flow so easily it was almost impossible not to get a great shot. They were so easy to get on with and were up for trying all sorts of crazy and wacky poses.

Below are some images taken from behind the scenes.

Shortlisted for the British Life Photography Awards 2018 (BLPA)


An artist in residence. Lewis Hazelwood-Horner. BLPA shortlisted for my submission image ‘An artist in Residence’ under the portraiture category.

It’s the second year in a row now that one of my pictures has been shortlisted for the British Life Photography Awards (BLPA). The picture I submitted was of the painter, Lewis Hazelwood-Horner (RBA and Threadneedle Prize winner) taken at his studio.

It was a privilege to spend half a day photographing him in his home studio, north of London. It was fascinating to watch him work on one of his paintings. He is well known for his painting technique of building up layer upon layer of thick oil paint. This style gives his canvases and subject matter a real texture and characterful look about them.

I was amazed at just how quickly he applied the paint and how much he could create in such a small amount of time.

Although I took this picture in March 2017, It was only recently when I was going through my images on my computer that I came across it again. This was at the same time the BLPA 2018 submission for entries was announced. I thought maybe I could submit this picture and see what happens!

Portraits of a cow, a wicked witch, a fool and a dame

This can only mean one thing…

… Panto portraits!

Nice feather duster you have there in your hand sir! One of the pantomime cast posing for a portrait.

This was my third year of taking pictures on the evening of the full dress rehearsal for the Killigrew Drama Society (KiDS) pantomime, the Adventure in Pantoland by Alan P Frayn at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.

This year I wanted to take some portraits of the cast before they went on stage. Time was extremely tight on the night as everyone was so busy coming and going. I only had a couple of opportunities to capture anyone that was willing and able to have their portrait taken just before going on stage or just coming off.

I set up a small umbrella and a Speedlight in a room next to the stage. The background was poor no matter where I tried to do a setup. I decided the best plan of action was not to worry about the background at all. I would concentrate on taking the portrait and then I could remove the distracting background later in Photoshop, replace it for a more interesting one.

So, Aladdin was first, followed by Tommy the cat, then it was the turn of The Fool, Prince Charming, Snow White, a Villager and Fairy Honeysuckle. And these were just a few of the incredible characters appearing in this years pantomime.

Below is a rogues gallery of some of the incredible cast that performed in the pantomime. Click on an image to enlarge.

Each portrait took no more than between thirty seconds to a minute to take. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to take pictures of these actors in theire incredible makeup and costumes.

As you can see, this was the not so flattering background I had to work with.

Below is the image which replaced the boring backgrounds of the portraits. I had taken the picture earlier of a rather atmospheric stage shot with smoke lingering on the stage and backlit by the stage lighting.

There’s no smoke without a panto dame. This was the picture I took of the front stage just as they let rip with the dry ice machine and thought it would make for a good background to the individual portraits I was taking.

Below are three examples showing the before and after post-processing. Removing the distracting background and replacing it with the much more atmospheric smoke version makes a panto world of difference!


Adventure in Pantoland

Oh no, it isn’t, oh yes it is!

It’s that time of year again where goodies, baddies, villains, dames, witches, and bad jokes appear side by side and onstage for the Killigrew Drama Society (KiDS) pantomime the Adventure in Pantoland by Alan P Frayn at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.

This was my third time being involved taking pictures at the full dress rehearsal of the KiDS pantomime.

It amazes me just how much work and commitment the cast and crew put into the production for just three live performances. Starting in September the cast gets together two nights a week for rehearsals. Then, closer to the actual performance it’s almost every night through late December and early January until show time. The first performance is on a Friday evening, followed by a matinee on the Saturday and the final performance in the evening.

The full dress rehearsal, lighting and sound checks are on the day before the live performance, talk about cutting it fine for any last-minute changes!

A fantastic effort from all the amateur volunteers, the full dress rehearsal makes for some great picture opportunities. This year I managed to take a few quick portraits of some of the cast before they headed on stage. 

The backdrops and lighting made for some great pictures. Although at times trying to get a good exposure was really tricky. The technical crews were still adjusting lighting throughout the rehearsal and just as I would nail my exposure  the lighting would completely change from being spot on to being totally black or completely overexposed. Oh well, it kept me on my toes if nothing else. Out of all the images I took on the night I managed to keep around 10-20%, which wasn’t too bad.

To see previous years pictures click on the links below:

2018 – Camelot the Panto

2017 – Once Upon A Time

Gear:

Canon 5D MkIII
Canon 5DMkIV

Manfrotto 055 Tripod
Manfrotto Ball Head 494RC2
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlight

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens

A bag full of memory cards and batteries

The 12 disguises of Christmas

I came up with the idea of creating this fun little stop-motion selfie for the 12 days of Christmas. I used what we had gathered over the years from the Christmas box and hey ho here we go – the 12 disguises of Christmas!

See you next year!

How I create my holiday photo books

Overview

When creating a holiday photo book or any other photo book for that matter it really pays to think and plan in advance (and I’m talking, even before you go on holiday). This blog gives some key principles (in no particular order) I apply to new projects. At the bottom of the blog I have attached a pdf and a hires version of a workflow I use when working through a piece of work. Hopefully you can apply a few of these ideas and principles into your own future projects. 

Tell a story about the trip

First impressions count, so jot down your immediate thoughts on arrival! Then, as each day passes, note down what you got up to. By the time you get back home unless you’ve written all of this down you’re going to have a tough time remembering what you got up to and in the order you did it! 

  • Describe your: location (countryside or city) /accommodation/atmosphere/people/local area (modern or old)/weather/restaurants/food/bars/costs/beaches etc.
  • What was the local food like, best restaurant, was it reasonable or expensive, how much were taxis/hire cars, a glass of wine/beer? 
  • Did you do any activities or travel to other locations? Did you travel by car/bus/train/plane/boat?

Workflow

This is the workflow I use after I come back from holiday.

  • Create a folder in Lightroom naming it with the location visited, the month and year.
  • Download all images from cameras into the folder above.
  • Import all files into Lightroom.
  • Start the picture culling process. Be brave, be bold, there’s no room on the HD for all those second rate images – Reject all that don’t make the cut. Delete all over/under exposures, blurry/out of focus shots. Get rid of all the rubbish and if using bracketed/continuous shooting modes, pick the best one out the bunch. I do this three to five times on average until I whittle it down to about 10%-30% of the original import.
    I delete the rejects and save the rest in readiness for the book.
  • I think about the format of the book I want to create and then make the decision as to portrait or landscape and the physical size (page count doesn’t matter at this stage as it’s really easy to add or subtract pages as you layout the book).
  • I start editing pictures and then flowing them into the page layout. 
  • Type-up my journal I kept on holiday and decide whether to keep it in one section of spread it throughout the book.
  • Creating the map and infographic is next.
  • Organise book into sections if needed.
  • Once everything has been flowed into the book and I am happy with the layout I will go through captioning all images that require a description.
  • First proof stage. I create a pdf version of the book and print a hard copy. I then use this to markup any issues needing correction such as typos, spelling, layout and and further image editing requirements.
  • Make all corrections as marked upon first proof, create pdf, print off a hard copy and markup any additional amends. On average this could take anything between two to five times but it’s an essential part of the proofing process.  
  • Once the above is complete I am happy to proceed to print. I will choose the quantity, paper stock, and cover type before uploading online a hires pdf to Blurb’s website for them to print. I can then relax and start getting excited about receiving my very own unique holiday photo book.

Book sizes and finishes

There’s a diverse array of sizes and finishes to choose from. Think about:

  • Size: do you want to create a pocket book or coffee table book.
  • Orientation: portrait or landscape.
  • Cover: hardcover image wrap, hardcover dust jacket or soft cover. 
  • Paper type: lustre, matte, uncoated or pearle (this will not only affect how the images will look on the paper but it will also have a big impact on how the book will actually feel. We’re talking tactile, Personally, for me I love the look and feel of an uncoated paper.

Create a holiday map

Create a holiday map showing your location in relation to the local area/town/city or country visiting. You might want to include:

  • Location of the hotel.
  • Places of interest/visited.
  • Use a recurring theme of the area to incorporate into the map such as colours/typography/textures/architecture/shapes and plants.

Applications used to create photo book’s

  • Adobe Lightroom: for storing, editing and creating the photo book.
  • PhotoShop: for finer editing control over images, creating montages and other images that can’t be created in Lightroom.
  • Illustrator: for creating graphics for the infographic and maps.
  • Blurb: for producing photo books.

Create a holiday infographic

Creating an infographic is a great way to visually show, at a glance, key important information about your holiday. So we’re talking about:

  • Accommodation details and places visited.
  • Flight details: carrier, airports, dep/arrival times.
  • Cost details: flights, accommodation, and spending money.
  • Exchange rates.
  • Length of stay.
  • Equipment. Technology is cracking along at a pace! It’s interesting to look back over time and see what equipment you took on a trip and how it has evolved over time so make sure to include cameras and lenses.
  • The total number of pictures taken (it’s an eye opener to see the comparison between the number of pictures captured, compared to the keepers! 

Layout, theme, and flow

You can choose from template-driven layouts to get started or go all freestyle and created your own unique look. Incorporate the essence of your holiday in the form of colours and typography. Don’t forget how much of an impact the type of paper you print the book on will also have. Consider the following:

  • Fonts.
  • Colour.
  • Page numbers: Bottom or top centred/left or right, or middle of the page.
  • Page layout: Clean/creative/portfolio or travel inspired.
  • Use captions for pictures.
  • Write an overview of the holiday.
  • Create sections describing accommodation (inc bedroom, bathroom, living room, balcony, grounds) pool, local area, trips etc.

Equipment used

I used to travel with a DSLR, at least two lenses (a wide angle, 10-20mm and telephoto, 28-135mm), filters and all the usual accessories. I got so fed up of constantly changing lenses, equipment being too bulky, awkward and rather heavy to carry around with the other usual holiday essentials stash in my backpack. And finally I really didn’t want to take it out at night.

There’s no one camera or lens that does it all. The camera I chose to fulfill my particular travel photography needs was the Sony RX system. It’s so small, lightweight, the spec of the camera and quality of images are amazing. I also take a GoPro along for the same reason but with the added bonus of being waterproof and having an amazing wide angle lens!

  • Sony RX 100 IV.
  • GoPro Hero 6.
  • Gorilla Pod.
  • A6 notebook.

 

Below are six pictures showing some of my holiday photo book covers.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-29The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-38The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-22The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-6The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-16The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-5

 

The below three images show the different types of introductory text I have used to describe the overall holidays.

Below are examples of holiday maps and infographics from various holiday photo books.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-4The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-21The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-28The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-44

 

Below is a slideshow showing various spreads from different holiday books

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Below are pictures showing the different layouts of sections I have used for the various photo books. The sections range from Accommodation, location, tours, the pool to road trips.

 

Below are two hires images detailing my workflow process. You can also download a free pdf which describes and shows you the creative process I go through when creating a holiday photo book.

S121_How to create a holiday photo book

 

 

Quotes that got me thinking No.16

The Shortbread Shed-movement

“A blurry photo communicates feeling
in a language that perfection never will.”

Yan Palmer

Moving still – Cinemagraph experimentation

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been really trying to create and make better Cinemagraphs, some examples of which you can view below.

The main takeaway from my experimentation are three-fold –
1. looking for opportunities 
2. planning
3. using a tripod

Looking for opportunities

I’ve been much more focused at looking for more opportunities to create video for use in Cinemagraphs. When I’m out and about – walking, driving in a car or commuting on a train, I’m looking for opportunities that might make a good image. If I don’t have a camera with me, I’ll take a mental note of the situation and location for future projects and then make a point to return to take the footage. Alternatively, I may come up with a concept or idea at home and when I’m out and about I’ll be looking at places where I could execute my idea.

Planning

Planning saves a lot of time and helps to alleviate some of the stress in capturing the footage. The more you plan the better and smoother the shoot should go! So, the things I look out for or will be thinking about before the shoot will be some of the following: best time of day to take the footage (busy or quiet), lighting (night, day or artificial) what camera to take (DSLR, GoPro or point and shoot), What’s the subject matter (people, machinery, wildlife etc), angle (above, below, sideways, wide of zoom angle).

Using a tripod

I have realised this is critical to successful shots! I have tried on numerous occasions and thought I would get away with handholding a camera. I would always be convinced I was not moving, not shaking and not breathing to avoid as little shake and movement as possible. When I got back home and downloaded the footage it was immediately apparent just how much movement there was. Unfortunately, in most circumstances the footage was no use and I couldn’t use it. So now I don’t bother to hand hold and hope for the best. I always take a tripod with me or if I’m tight on space and need something a bit smaller and lighter I’ll take my Gorilla Pod with me which has become invaluable.

I’m off on holiday in the next few weeks and looking forward to having the opportunity to capture some unique footage to allow me to create some more exciting Cinemagraphs.

I hope you like the ones below and don’t forget your tripod!

Moving still. The intriguing world of Plotagraphs and Cinemagraphs!

Over the last few months I’ve been experimenting with two exciting pieces of software I’ve come across.

Plotagraph Pro and Cinemagraph Pro allow you to create striking eye-catching and surreal images from a single image or from a small section of video footage.

Plotagraphs are created from a single photograph. By using Plotagrapg Pro software to mask and select certain areas of the image you want to animate you can create the illusion of movement in certain areas while the other areas remain frozen. This resulting effect gives a striking and surreal sense of movement to an otherwise ‘still’ photograph.

Cinemagraphs are created using a small section of recorded video. An area of the video is frozen while a portion of the video is left as normal allowing subtle alluring repeated movement.

Both Plotagraphs and Cinemagraphs allow you to create subtle curious otherworldly experience for the viewer. It’s great fun to experiment with and to see what intriguing images can be produced with the software.

I have attached a few of my creations which were produced using Plotagraph Pro and Cinemagraph Pro. This year I really want to create many more and see what I can come up with!

Three examples of  Plotagraphs.

 

Two examples of Cinemagraphs.