Photography set up for fantasy studio lighting

Photography set up for fantasy studio lighting

I had a few messages on facebook and instagram about the lighting set up for the below 'fantasy' photo, for which I recently shared on social media. I'm here to tell you just how damn easy it is.

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Some photographers will figure it out straight away but I know younger and or amateur photographers see it as something unachievable because I used too. But it isn't, it's...  A SINGLE LIGHT!

One light, with a small beauty dish and it's diffuser on (basically a glorified shower cap) on a light stand as high as it could go (I don't have big grand ceilings either, just normal height) pointed down towards my face.

On the right hand side (or my left) I had a white reflector just to bounce a little back into the hair and arm but literally that is it, super easy. You don't even need an actual reflector, just a piece of white paper would do it, I mean around a2+ because let's face it an a4 size can only do so much. 

I had a dark backdrop down obviously but a dark bedsheet would do and served me well for MANY years.

The rest, is Photoshop. The colours, the halo and blue fantasy bits, again achieve-able but I'd love to see how you manage it, see your outcomes etc. I used some smoke brushes, not the traditional ones but wispy smoke ones which you can find at places like EnvatoCreative Market  the two places I go to to find interesting photoshop brushes, textures etc. Yes you have to pay for them, not a whole lot though and at least they are good quality and exactly what you want. I learnt freebies only go so far. 

If you're interested in how I edited this, let me know and I'l see if I can remember and do another similar photo/video of the process. 

Book cover photography - May Finds

Book cover photography - May Finds

It's that time of the month again! Statements are revealed and you get to scour around to find where your images have been used on book covers! The most exciting part of the month. A lot of mine this month were re-buys (as in they buy another license for an extra country/hard back/paper back/audio etc). But I found a few newbies too! 

Including my favourite photo I ever took last year! The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst of Nicola in the ocean last summer. I used my underwater photography casing to capture this and I remember so vividly glancing at the back of the camera in between shots to see this and my heart did a flutter than only photographers can understand, the 'that's the shot' moment. 

Also I was very pleased to see an image of Amy I did in a milk bath from a few years back, it's a shoot that always has held a special place in my photographers heart. Plus ANOTHER book cover for Sherrilyn Kenyon who I'm a fan of so that's always a bonus! And lastly one from a regency shoot I did last year with Jack and Kate for The Shipbuilders Wife by Jennifer Moore (sorry it's such bad quality, I couldn't find a higher quality one anywhere!). 

Which one is your favourite? 

Fantasy images for book covers

Fantasy images for book covers

So for a long while I wanted to push myself creatively not just technically but in photoshop too, I realised I had gotten comfortable. Sounds weird right? But I got used to shooting, editing (quickly I might add) and uploading. Lost my creative push/spark wanting to tell stories from churning out work. Not burnt out so to speak but heading to that chapter. 

My favourite genre to read is fantasy, I get lost in fantasy novels, getting to explore other worlds, meet new people and I can't comprehend not reading fantasy. So I went to Waterstones and browsed around, not just once but a few times, always being attracted to the fantasy section.

I noticed that a lot of covers and images are 'anonymous', especially gender anonymous which I found interesting more than anything. Anyway I bought a cheapish cloak and already had a fair amount of cheap wardrobe from my post apocalyptic box, just making do. Bear in mind, most of my post apocalyptic clothing is from charity shops and big sales, that entire box can't have cost me more than £50. The weird glowing stick weapon from below image? It's actually an old ceiling paint roller I found in the garage ;) I just like to point out that achieving this 'get up' isn't expensive. 

So I set up my lighting in my fancy new studio and took some shots, jumping, posing etc and when my partner came back he did the same and can jump ridiculously high! I got a great run of images. Next was creating back plates for the images. So I crawled through some of my images from Iceland, from around here, skies and grasses too. It took a couple of hours to create different backplates, which cut down the process in the long run, I now have a few backplates to just cut my people out and edit onto. 

Anyway I'm super happy with how these are turning out so far and hopefully they'll be on a book cover one day (soon!) they are available to license through Arcangel images 

Building my home photography studio

Building my home photography studio

This was an exciting adventure... or so I thought... I was excited and I'm happy now it's finished but it has been a LONG LONG journey with a few tears, tantrums and copious amounts of tea. 

So this now big room started out as two bedrooms that my partner used to rent out. There was blue gloss paint in one of them with brown carpet... No... No I'm not joking. The other I can barely remember but it wasn't in much better shape. 

One boring weekend I decided to pull the stud wall down to get a gauge of size and we quickly realised the wall on the left room was bowed/pinched in at the top so our best bet of doing it properly was to gut the room and re-do ALL the plasterboard, bonus was that it meant we didn't spend hours getting rid of wood chip paint (it is everywhere in our house along with popcorn ceilings). Downside, we'd just had our brand new windows in safe to say I was nervous. 

My partner got the old plasterboard off the the second door with a small amount of stud wall was removed, a new one put up later on with just the one doorway. We used to have secondary glazing also since we live right next to the American air base but our new windows are REALLY good so we scrapped the secondary glazing. 

Plasterboard, chasing in electrics, plastering, windowsills, radiators, all those plug sockets and things you forget about came charging at us but at least we know for next time! Yes next time, it's already in motion. 

The tears came from how long it has taken, roughly 6 weeks when it could have been a lot shorter. I didn't have my computer for LONG periods of time, everything was covered in dust and dirt also. Some things were overlooked and missed but are now being rectified thankfully. 

I chose a mid-sheen from Valspar, some other photographers scoffed at my mention of mid-sheen, what about reflections blah blah blah BUT I know from experience mid-sheen paint rarely bounces off that much light but MODELS on the other hand touch everything, scuff everything, things move and scrape the walls ALL the time and having a high quality scrubbable paint was essential rather than me painting every couple of months. I also picked one of their 'true greys' which has no undertones to it whatsoever so there is no colour cast on my models whilst shooting.

Also I picked a neutral flooring, scrubbable also and it's not laminate which I despise (the noise!), it's called LVT - feels like wood, looks like wood but is actually vinyl! No clicky horrible sounds. I love it and want it through the rest of our home already. Plus it's rather cheap which in itself is great.

My partner managed to get my heavy backdrop holders up pretty much on his own, I was useless overall in this! But now I have a brilliant pully system for my bigger backdrops (I had to saw them down a touch as you can see below) 

Now I have an at home photography studio which will provide me with a working space for YEARS to come. We did it properly for this reason, we love our home, I love it's location (Despite the occasional airforce noise!) and it's rather easy for models to get to. I'l be back shooting every week now! No excuses! 

Tips:

  • Plan in advance, get everyone booked in and to stick to their time frames if possible
  • Pick everything out before hand too
  • Make sure you map out where your plug sockets and lights are going
  • Only use one plasterer ;) Seriously though
  • Don't half ass anything!!! Do it properly otherwise you'll kick yourself later
  • Paint sprayers are amazing but expensive and if you can afford a decorator, bloody get one!
  • Expect there to be expenses you didn't think of, or think of absolutely everything beforehand
  • If a guy is cutting your floor or skirting in, don't just get him to trim one of your massive backdrops, get him to trim all of them down! (saves an hour of sawing and crying)

Have you built an in home photography studio? I'd love to see your photos if you have! Any tips for anyone else? Anything you guys wanna know just comment/ask away! 

Book Cover Photography- May Finds

Book Cover Photography- May Finds

So my May statement surprised me with two James Patterson covers! Left me a fan girling mess of course. The others are all amazing too! There were a couple I couldn't find so they might appear at a later date. On of my models Alisha Whitworth got two and my other lovely model Trevena Reade got two also! They are both on regular book covers now which is awesome, if you're interested in modelling (you don't have to be a model model) just click here.

Being a book cover photographer creates these amazing moments where you can see your images on one of your favourite and famous authors like James Patterson. I recently went into Waterstones and saw a couple of covers with my images and authors I'm currently working with and even though it's been nearly 4 years it still makes me do an internal squeal with delight.  

Another cover below, a great one I'l biasedly add, is of my friend and her beautiful daughter, so lovely to see the image on a cover too. 

The Factory Girls one is another cover (sorry for the bad quality, couldn't find a higher resolution yet!) from the the land girls shoot! It's done so well for me and I've got another scheduled for this coming week, with some male models involved too! I'l try and keep my instagram stories going throughout the day so remember to keep watch if you're interested. All in all the land girls photoshoot has produced over 15 covers so far! 15!!! That's nearly caught up with another historical shoot I did a few years ago (which has time on it's side).

Sci fi/Post Apocalyptic photoshoot with editing video

Sci fi/Post Apocalyptic photoshoot with editing video

I've been asking for a lot of feedback about blog posts to what people want to hear, see etc and it's been amazing! (Again if you have any wants, suggestions etc don't hesitate to contact me!) One of the major ones was what my editing process was like. So I made a video, an editing process video!

Now I know the video is a little fast but honestly it was going to end up over a 12gb file otherwise, so if you have questions about the video, the techniques I'm using please just comment and ask, I'l happily explain! 

 

This was an edit from my recent self portraits for sci-fi/post apocalyptic esque shoot. The goggles were a gift, the t-shirt I've had since I was 14 and just ripped it up a little, applied some watered down black paint. The weaponry belt I got at a car boot! The gloves were less than £1 on amazon! So overall a VERY cheap photoshoot too! I do like to make a point that it doesn't have to cost a lot to get good costumes, especially in the post apocalyptic photoshoots, charity shops are a haven for them. 

If you have any questions, queries, please comment and ask, I will explain happily! 

 Final Image. It is available for sale just get in touch! 

Final Image. It is available for sale just get in touch! 

Book Cover Photography - April Finds!

Book Cover Photography - April Finds!

I'm going to be sharing my monthly book covers again since I've had some feedback about how much people love seeing them (if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear from you feel free to email me, facebook or instagram!) April is a little late but most will be shared the first week of the month from now on. I love the variety that has cropped up for April.

Also the first book cover is combined with an image from another Arcangel Photographer, but my image is back from when I first started photography, over 10 years old and my photographs are still making money for me which is fantastic.

Which is your favourite cover? I love the 'Wolf by Wolf' & 'Blood by Blood' by Ryan Graudin personally, I love photographing post apocalyptic images for book covers and seeing them realised is great fun. I'm actually planning on doing many more post apocalyptic type images for book covers this year, even bought some fancy new props which I'l share soon enough. 

If you had to pick one genre to photograph for book covers, what do you think it would be? 

Interviews with my underwater models

Interviews with my underwater models

I thought of some questions that might ease any nervous models about to embark on their first underwater photoshoot. Some of my models were happy to answer in great depth.

1. What was the hardest thing about modelling underwater?

Cathy: The hardest thing for me was having to forget everything I normally do for a shoot and just relax. You have to trust the water and let it guide your movement and flow – as soon as you fight against it you lose relaxation and it will show in your face.

Paul: I think the hardest thing for me was sinking properly, it seemed that costume choice was a big factor in that.

Hollie: The hardest thing about modelling underwater is getting over the initial battle with your mind and body about being underwater with no breath. Once you have calmed your mind, it's fine but that survival instinct sure kicks in hard! It's a fascinating, organic, primal instinct but a little inconvenient in these situations!


2. Was it what you expected?

Cathy: I expected moving underwater to be easier, however it was hard – especially with clothing and pointe shoes dragging me down. Everything is heavier in water and there are a lot of things to think about including breathing, or not breathing!

Paul: I’m not sure what I expected, however it really was a special and beautiful experience. Something to treasure.

Hollie: In some ways it was what I expected - a bit tricky but utterly worthwhile, but in some ways it wasn't - I didn't realise quite how exciting, how freeing, how incredible it would be and how it gave me newfound respect for our bodies and how they work. It was also far more fun than I could've imagined! Loved every single second.


3. Did the breathing bother you or make you anxious?

Cathy: Breathing out before you go under the surface is the complete opposite to what we normally do before going underwater so I was anxious at first. I still didn’t have enough time in two hours to feel completely comfortable but it got easier, although I couldn’t stay under the water for too long without my body going into some form of ‘wow you’re underwater let’s stop this’.

Paul: I didn’t feel anxious about the breathing, felt perfectly safe throughout. Your mind quite quickly switches to it. I was relieved about it as I’m someone who does have anxiety issues.

Hollie: The breathing is something you overcome gradually. Certainly in your first few attempts you won't be the best but it comes once your body realises it's not in danger. I found that once I had convinced my mind of this I could stay down for way longer than I first thought, with little to no breath. Saying that, once or twice whilst calmly underwater your mind will be saying "this is nice, this is fine... AND NOW I MUST HAVE AIR RIGHT NOW!" And I'd suddenly shoot upwards, almost involuntarily.


4. Did you feel safe?

Cathy: I did feel safe with Rekha and on the shoot. Make sure you know where the sides of the pool are and how close you are to a shallow end you can stand in. You can get disoriented pretty quick in the pool so make sure you’re comfortable and know what you can grab onto if necessary.

Paul: Due to Rekhas attitude and approach, I felt perfectly safe. Including when I fitted weights to aid the sink.

Hollie: Despite re-teaching your mind what to expect and overriding the primal instincts, I felt utterly safe as I knew I was in good hands with Rekha. Not only is she a strong swimmer with experience as a lifeguard, but She explained everything, advised and ensured me before we began and continued to check if I was alright throughout, especially in regards to the costumes being heavy or cumbersome. Example: at one point, I was wearing a mermaid fin and Rekha was aware of me getting too tired from wearing it, before I even was!


5. Any tips for other future models?

Cathy: On your first underwater shoot just try and relax, have a few practice runs and don’t worry if you can’t stay under for long. Do some research and look at previous underwater photoshoots with Rekha and other photographers. It’s good to have a general idea about what you want to do but keep an open mind as being underwater changes everything.

Paul: For males, costume seemed to be a thing. The costumes I wore filled with air quickly and pulled me up. For poses, relax, let the water take you and keep it slow.

Hollie: Tips wise, I would say although it feels unnatural at first to go underwater with no air, just take a moment to relax and compose yourself, you CAN do it so just stay calm and serene - it will show! Also, I found it's helpful to oxygenate the blood before going under so take a few big deep breathes in and out before finally breathing out (and make sure you get rid of all the air you can or you really won't sink!) Then let yourself go and be guided by the water - don't fight it if you're turning or twisting, let it be. It could be magic.


6. Anything you'd change looking back?

Cathy: I wouldn’t change anything from my shoot aside from perhaps going at a different time so the pool wasn’t so cloudy!

Paul: Have I mentioned costume? Other than that I’d spend more time planning some movement.

Hollie: Ha! I'm an anxious perfectionist so every time I do any shoot, let alone an underwater shoot I think of a lot of things I could've done differently - in this case different poses, different body angles, techniques of sinking, erc - but each time I learn a little more and reintroduce it next time. Leaves me hungry for more! I want to do more upside down shots, for example and change my facial expressions ever so slightly. Next time, I hope!


7. Pro's and con?

Paul: Pros are that it’s a truly unique experience, something to really remember. Cons are it can be tricky to not pull ‘drowning’ face, but that can be countered once relaxed. And you can become very tired.

Hollie: The pros of moving underwater are huge: it's like nothing else. You will never get to pose on the same way, have the same feeling of lightness and freedom, of pure creativity and of a connection to your own body and being. It's incredibly special, and obviously you will have such unique images to treaure forever, like no other you'll get anywhere else. There aren't really any cons except hitting the right conditions (pool cloudiness or clearness, clouds or sunlight, etc) and then just getting over that initial tricky stage and getting used to being clothed in water, which can sometimes be heavy.


8. Was posing difficult?

Paul: Yes it was difficult, but I think you need to remember that you are underwater so therefore you should just allow it to be what it is.

Hollie: Posing was a little tricky at first, partly because of certain outfits and the weight and partly because you are controlled by the water to a degree. You can certainly begin to pose in a way you intend to but you learn pretty quickly that the water dictates everything - where the clothes will go, where your hair will float, how your body rotates or moves. It's actually a beautiful thing and if you embrace it, it can work to your advantage. Just remember these key things: try to stay side on to the camera most of the time, eyes closed is fine and often looks more serene, breathe out before going under rather than whilst going under so the bubbles are mainly gone, keep your feet pointed and your hands light and natural. Be aware of the angles your limbs are making but again, don't worry too much and just go with the flow - literally!


9. How is it different to regular photo shoot?

Paul: We got very wet.....it’s so different to a normal shoot, forget posing and setting self and just let it take you.

Hollie: It's so different to normal for all the above reasons and though you know what you're there for, and that you're posing, you are unaware of the camera in many ways. I think that makes for more ethereal and real photos. On usual shoots as a model, you're so aware of the camera lens, and in this case it feels like it's secondary to the beautiful water, which is the dominant aspect.


10. Would you do it again?

Cathy: I would definitely do it again, if Rekha would have me again!

Paul: Yes yes yes. It’s beautiful. I’d love to try it with shoes on and props.

Hollie: I would absolutely do it again. I find the whole process incredibly cathartic and rewarding. It's a beautiful experience and hard to explain unless you try it! Not to mention I adore all the photos that come out of these special shoots - there is a magic and otherworldliness to them I can't describe, which comes down to the amazing eye, creative insight and boundless talent of Rekha. Thank you to her for the experience of modelling underwater, and for what this has meant to me.

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Ballerina Underwater

Ballerina Underwater

I'd wanted to produce a few images of a ballet dancer underwater for a little while and Cathy approached me about doing just that so it worked out beautifully. She is a very serene and ethereal looking model plus she's funny as hell. 

She brought along some old pointe shoes and tutus also, something I would have no idea how to get my hands on short notice. I also bought a few bits and pieces to add, floaty skirts etc. 

The pool was cloudier than usual so the editing took a while longer but it was worth the effort for sure. 

If you fancy your own underwater photoshoot, don't hesitate to contact me

Underwater conceptual photoshop edits

Underwater conceptual photoshop edits

I've wanted to create these for a LONG time. I've had the images in the head, sitting there, tempting me all this time and Catherine provided me with the perfect poses for me to start trying. 

The foggy forest shots I've had on my hard drive for about 6 months or so, waiting. As I write this it is actually extremely foggy and I wish I could go out to take some more but the cat is out and we don't have a catflap... sidetracked story. 

Anyway I hope you enjoy them as much as I am happy with them!