Photographing in low light? Give Auto Focus a helping hand…

This particular portrait shoot took place in the evening by which time it was completely dark but for the street lighting.

Now, working in such low light doesn’t normally cause a problem for the AF (Auto focus) on my Nikon D3 but when it does there’s an inexpensive piece of kit that’s always in my kit bag and comes to the rescue on more than one occasion…

At some point in the near future I’m going to put together a ‘What’s in my bag’ post showing what I typically carry with me on a shoot and also other lighting equipment that I use when in the studio but jumping the gun slightly here’s something I wouldn’t be without…

This pocket sized torch is called an LED Lenser and for it’s size packs a real punch and only costs around £10. If shooting on your own then there’s definitely a knack to holding it in your left hand and holding the camera with your right, then turning it on momentarily and aiming towards where you want to focus on your subject and finally pressing the shutter; but well worth the effort to save the frustration:)

Anyway back to the shoot and here’s a diagram to give you an idea of the lighting set up. (Note…All the photos of ‘Angelo’ were taken with him sat in the passenger seat of the car.)

It’s not uncommon during a location shoot for me to get comments/questions from passersby but the one I got on this particular evening definitely takes the 1st Prize slot for ‘Things not to say near a model’:)

Female Passerby: “Is it ok for to me pass by?”
Me: “Yes of course”
Female Passerby: “Oh good. I didn’t know if you were photographing a dead body or something.”

But then I guess looking back at what the set up must have looked like, she could be forgiven for thinking the worst.

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  • January 17, 2011 - 9:45 am

    David Kelly - Now if ever there was a moment for Neal to be around as an extra pair of hands, it sounds like this was the occasion! ;-)
    Your set up with the flashguns & LED torch, it must’ve looked like something from an episode of CSI for that passerby to make those comments ;-)
    Hey at least she asked if it was ok, plenty of other inconsiderate people wouldn’t – and we’ve all encountered those ignoramii no doubt!


  • January 17, 2011 - 3:12 pm

    Tim Skipper - Glynn,

    I always keep an LED flashlight handy. There not just great for helping focus in low light, but when you can’t find that one piece of equipment in the bottom of your bag. (Why is it that everything we use is black, especially since we work mostly in the dark?)

  • January 18, 2011 - 5:58 am

    Glyn - @David…I took a shot of the set up and now even I’m concerned … lol :)

  • January 18, 2011 - 5:58 am

    Glyn - @Tim…Maybe there’s an idea there for Dragon’s Den…camera kit you can actually see :)

  • January 18, 2011 - 7:54 am

    neal - @ David, I was busy making the tea at the time mate :-)

    @ Glyn, nice shots, great catch-lights in the eyes :-)

  • January 18, 2011 - 3:11 pm

    Rick Wenner - Nice work here Glyn. I’m really liking these portraits. The LED light is a perfect solution to low light focusing problems. I can certainly confess to that being the owner of a Canon 5D Mark II which struggles to catch focus in low light like an old man climbing a mountain.

  • January 19, 2011 - 10:37 am

    Paul Hodgson - Hi Glyn, newbie to your blog so ‘Hello’

    Thanks for the detailed description and as an aside, great to see someone else that took art at school :)

    I’m curious about the gridded SB800, I can’t fathom what’s being opened up in the photographs. I’m assuming it’s a rim light that maybe you rejected in post?

  • January 19, 2011 - 3:17 pm

    Justin Zhang Photography - Same question, the effect from the snooted sb800 is not really visible to me either. Or I just need to calibrate my monitor again?

  • January 19, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    Glyn - @Paul Hodgson…Great to see you popping by mate; thanks for that and thanks for taking the time to comment.
    Re the gridded SB800…this was the lighting set up for the entire shoot and didn’t change. The only thing that did change was my position and I did on occasion turn off the SB800. I’ll post an image or two with that light on so you can see it; hope that makes sense.

    Thanks again, Glyn

  • January 19, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    Glyn - Hi Justin…Yeah I’ve just replied to Paul who asked the same question; here’s what I wrote:

    Re the gridded SB800…this was the lighting set up for the entire shoot and didn’t change. The only thing that did change was my position and I did on occasion turn off the SB800. I’ll post an image or two with that light on so you can see it; hope that makes sense.

    Cheers, Glyn :)

  • January 19, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    Glyn - @Neal…Thanks mate

  • January 19, 2011 - 4:45 pm

    Glyn - @Rick…Thanks for stopping by mate.
    Yeah I’ve heard a few reports about the low light focusing issue on the 5D II; that aside though I’ve heard nothing but great reports…and that’s coming from a Nikon user :)

  • February 1, 2011 - 4:50 pm

    DaveT - Useful tip there Glyn, and great results.

    By the way Rick, and for other Canon users struggling to focus in low light, if you have an STE2 you can use this to assist focusing in low light. It uses the infra red signal that it uses to trigger remote flashes, only in this case it uses the infra red to aid focusing.


  • February 1, 2011 - 8:49 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Thanks for sharing the info re the STE2 mate

  • February 23, 2011 - 9:40 am

    Jon Allen - Hi Guys
    Focusing in very low light even with the D3 still can be it or miss, when trying to be really creative say with the first dance at a wedding and the couple are dancing quite quickly its is quite hard to achieve the sharpness that we all desire. at some venues I use the SU800 as an independent focus aid and not just to trigger speed lights. sometimes I use a deda ledzilla video light on a stand aimed at the couple. the light is daylight balanced and works very well, the camera focuses every time.

No Clouds? Photoshop to the Rescue!!!

From time to time I get questions asking how I get those ‘moody’ clouds in some of my photographs; is it all done ‘in camera’ or is down to Photoshop? …

The honest answer is that 99% of the time it’s all done ‘in camera’ at the time of the shoot, however there are those times when that just isn’t possible i.e. a beautiful crisp winters afternoon with clear blue skies. Now when there’s no clouds, there’s no clouds no matter what you do as was the case with a recent photo shoot; however all is not lost because that’s exactly where Photoshop can help you out…

One thing I’ve been doing for quite some time is building up a library of images for use in situations such as this. I have a number of folders on my hard drive with all kinds of photographs in that I’ve collected or taken whilst out and about; skies, textures, locations etc … and this is something I’m constantly adding to …

Below you can see an example of a ‘Before’ image with the crisp blue sky and not a cloud in sight and also an ‘After’ image where I’ve added in one of the skies I have on my hard drive. I actually quite like the original image with the clear, crisp blue sky but the brief before the shoot was to end up with moody/atmospheric pictures that would fit in with the look of the biker; all in black and on a black Harley Davidson …

As photographers I feel we should work hard to get our images as good as we possibly can ‘in camera’ and then use Photoshop as a tool to create the final look. However as in this case, there are times when Photoshop is needed that little bit more and if I was going to have a series of images with ‘moody’ clouds in the sky then I was going to have to add them during the editing/post production stage.

Lighting Set Up:
Lighting couldn’t have been much simpler; one Elinchrom Quadra and reflector just right of camera aimed at a certain point where the bike was set to pass …

Note: Lying down in the road isn’t big and isn’t clever…in fact some would say it was downright foolish…you can get filthy:)

•    •    •

If you have any questions or comments about this particular shoot or maybe would like to see how some of the editing was done then as always please feel free to make use of the comments section below.


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  • January 14, 2011 - 9:35 am

    Mike Patterson - I started collecting cloud images myself recently and it already paid off with one image I had to add a cloud to.

    Oh and the lying on the ground thing, put a sheet down and then you wont get dirty ;-)))

  • January 14, 2011 - 10:57 am

    Justin Zhang - Glyn, its a similar shoot from me, which did in camera. Its quite strange in this country that it either rains too much as non-expected or becomes sunny when you are looking for some cloud. Another benefit to have a cloud in PS will be saving my battery a bit as i dont need close down my f stops to have the sky. Shame to shoot with my 5dmk11, cant even sync at 1/200 sometimes.

  • January 14, 2011 - 10:57 am
  • January 14, 2011 - 10:58 am

    Glyn - Clouds…love ‘em!
    Cheers for the ‘tip’…to be honest it makes a change for me to be lying down for the shot and not getting covered in something unpleasant; if you know what I mean :)

  • January 14, 2011 - 11:10 am

    Glyn - Hey Justin, you just gotta love the Great British Weather huh :)
    Cheers for the link…real nice shots there mate.

  • January 14, 2011 - 11:28 am

    Justin Zhang - You meant the “plumber” shoot? I know what you meant! LOL

  • January 14, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    Heather Williams - Glyn, I love getting dirty so no sheet needed. Thanks again for the post. I am loving your blog. It has already taught me so much. From a newby stance – not sure how you add the clouds to the photo?? Do I just do an overlay? Again, thank you!

  • January 14, 2011 - 4:28 pm

    David Kelly - Hi Glyn,

    You can never have too many clouds shot in your library can you? ;-) Out of interest are you capturing the clouds with any filters on the lens or just capturing as-is with correct metering?

    @Heather – not trying to take the wind out of Glyn’s sails (sorry Glyn) but have a look at this posting in Glyn’s blog:
    – it may give some insight as to what approach he took here in PS.


  • January 14, 2011 - 4:43 pm

    Heather Williams - David, thank you for the direction of the photoshop post – it is perfect. Gly, thank you for doing the sky post. I will have to go try it out. Appreciate it.

  • January 14, 2011 - 5:28 pm

    Kategraphy - Hi Glyn,

    I just wanted to tell you: I love the sky in this picture! It’s perfect!

    Greetings. Kate

  • January 14, 2011 - 8:11 pm

    Noel Hannan - Hey Glyn, great shot and thanks for sharing. I like e cloud collection!
    All the best

  • January 15, 2011 - 2:38 am

    Brandon Jacoby - You should have a contest and giveaway your sky library ;)

  • January 15, 2011 - 6:09 am

    Glyn - @Heather…Really great to hear you’re getting something out of the blog so thanks for that. With regards to how the photos were added the technique @David Kelly has linked you to is pretty much it apart from having to tweek just a couple of things because of the hedge line but that’s virtually it.

    Thanks again for the kind words,

    ps> I will be posting up a walk through showing how to ‘photograph’ the moody clouds ‘in camera’ v.soon :)

  • January 15, 2011 - 6:12 am

    Glyn - @David…Absolutely mate…you can never too many clouds filling up that Hard Drive…lol :)
    Re the cloud photos I’m just capturing them ‘as is'; not exposing for the foreground etc so no real need for any filters.

    Cheers, Glyn

    ps> Thanks for adding in the link for Heather; spot on :)

  • January 15, 2011 - 6:12 am

    Glyn - @Kate…Thanks for that; I do like a moody sky :)

    All the best to you,

  • January 15, 2011 - 6:13 am

    Glyn - @Noel…You and me both mate…lol :)


  • January 15, 2011 - 6:14 am

    Glyn - @Brandon…I might just do that…lol :)

  • January 18, 2011 - 12:57 pm

    Claudio von grubens - Hi glyn,

    great ones! did you also use clavin hollywoods contrast increasing blending technique?


  • January 19, 2011 - 4:44 pm

    Glyn - @Claudio…Thanks for commenting mate. Re the clouds I used a contrasty B&W conversion on the layer above with the blend mode changed to Luminosity for this effect. In fact, on Monday I have a short post showing exactly this.


Monthly Guest: David E. Jackson…Coming Soon!!!

I’m really excited to tell you that this month’s Guest Photographer is Wisconsin, USA based Editorial & Portrait Photographer David E. Jackson

I’ve been a huge fan of Dave and his work ever since I saw him featured over on Zack Arias‘ blog, so finally getting the chance to catch up and speak at length was a real privilege. We chatted for quite some time covering all manner of things from equipment, your style, the importance of personal projects and so much more…

Dave really is one of the good guys; a great photographer who believes in sharing his knowledge and expertise to help others and I just know you’re going to love what he shared during our chat.

In the mean time, here’s one of Dave’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ videos; some images from which I’m sure we’ll be including in his Guest Post.



  • January 13, 2011 - 4:58 pm

    Jorge Moreno Jr - Can’t wait. I really enjoy the work both of you produce.
    I’m excited.

  • January 13, 2011 - 7:34 pm

    Thomas Frank - Sweet I’m looking forward to checking out the interview as well.

  • January 13, 2011 - 10:26 pm

    Justin Zhang - Hey Glyn, I also crossed David’s work from Zack’s “Critique” session and love his work since. I really admire you have put so much effect in your “Photography Walk” and I just love your attitude about photography.

  • January 13, 2011 - 11:54 pm

    Glyn - @Jorge…That’s great to hear mate, thanks. Dave’s interview will be online this coming week.

    Cheers, Glyn

  • January 13, 2011 - 11:55 pm

    Glyn - @Thomas…Cheers for that; I’m sure you won’t be disappointed…Dave shared so much!

  • January 13, 2011 - 11:56 pm

    Glyn - @Justin…Thanks so much for that; very kind of you to say.

    Cheers, Glyn

Photography = Vision not Gear

There’s no question that with Scott Kelby introducing his Worldwide Photo Walk nearly 4 years ago, the whole concept of ‘street’ photography has been introduced into alot more photographers’ lives.

Just you and your camera walking at a leisurely pace and photographing the world as it goes by can be incredibly fulfilling but also as Photographer Scott Schuman shows in this short documentary, incredibly important to your craft.

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in wanting the latest piece of electronic wizardry but when all is said and done…that is all it is; it’s the photographer’s vision and creativity that are ultimately responsible for making a great photograph.

In 2011 one of my ‘New Year Resolutions’ is to make time to get out more with just my camera and one lens and just walk and really take time to see what’s around me. I did this a few times last year in places like Brighton and Bournemouth and I was overwhelmed at how much I learned from doing it.

So what do you think…Is this kind of stuff important? Do you already make the time to get out on Photo Walks of your own? Sure the thought approaching a total stranger and asking to take their photograph can be quite daunting if not scary for some but there are ways to go about it and undoubtedly a common sense approach does play a big part.

It’d be great to ‘hear’ any thoughts you  have on this subject and maybe even a few tips that you’ve picked up along the way for getting the most out of it, so please as always feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Incidentally, if you haven’t checked it out already I’d highly recommend that you head over to Scott Schuman’s Blog ‘The Sartorialist‘…Word of warning though…you may find you’re there for quite some time!


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  • January 10, 2011 - 6:53 am

    Tweets that mention Photography = Vision not Gear » Glyn Dewis Blog -- - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ken Toney. Ken Toney said: @jcooper23 RT @Photoshop_nut: Photography = Vision not Gear (Via @GlynDewis) [...]

  • January 10, 2011 - 9:03 am

    Neil Holmes - Hi Glyn, good post, I think as a photographer you have to keep developing your art and one of the best ways to do this is get out with a camera on or two lenses (I like taking just the standard lens) and go for it. Its something I’ve done all my photographic career. Cheers Neil

  • January 10, 2011 - 9:42 am

    David Kelly - Thoughtful post Glyn and good video by Scott – that Barber’s featured in the video could offer a plethora of photo opportunities IMHO.

    Like any a musician would put the hours in playing their instrument to keep at the top of their game, a photographer should do the same with their camera. Mind you it’s easier said than done though sometimes ;-) but I’m hoping to get more / make more time in 2011 for photography than I did in 2010.

    As for my tip re: photo walks / street photography I’d say it’s good to undertake such a task with another photographer for the following benefits:
    – having another set of eyes and the alternative perspective offered therein should help to see more possible photo opportunities
    – having another person to egg you on / encourage you into doing something you might not be confident enough to do on your own (such as engaging with strangers) and
    – having someone to talk to along the way & spend some time with helps to make a more enjoyable experience ;-)



  • January 10, 2011 - 10:00 am

    Dave Clayton - I have to admit that although I’m learning more about the ‘technicalities’ of photography the one thing I do love is just grabbing my camera and going for a walk because that’s where the interesting things happen, the unscripted moments and images.
    My stuff is pretty amateurish, I’ve still yet to grasp f stops / iso’s and shutter speeds and there has been many a moment where the perfect photo was lost because I had the wrong setting (I try to avoid Auto and switch to Manual) and ended up with motion blur or poor exposure. But I love walking around looking for things that interest me, things I can sometimes add something to maybe but generally its finding those great little moments, something that may have a great story behind it that you’ll never know!

  • January 10, 2011 - 1:19 pm

    Barbara - Please do not misunderstand what I am about to say. All the beauty we need is usually right in our own yards, so to speak. Being in a scenic and wonderful place is great but not every viewer can relate whereas everyone has a backyard. I believe, as photographers, it is our job to seek beauty right where we are and to show others the beauty we see.

  • January 10, 2011 - 2:05 pm

    Tim Skipper - Actually I’m envious. I live in a very rural part of the US, people don’t walk here they drive. We don’t have stores and business close to each other. You have to drive to get from one to another. The closest thing we have to people walking from place to place is private property which gets sticky.

    Its sad really because we are so spread out people rarely interact with each other and never slow down enough to notice what’s around them.

    However last year I was on assignment in Tampa, FL and I had one day to walk the downtown area and take pictures, there wasn’t many people out that day since it was a weekend, but the experience was great.

  • January 10, 2011 - 2:41 pm

    Rick Wenner - Great post here Glyn. After reading this, I was reminded of how I got started in photography almost 10 years ago. When I got my first dSLR, this is all I would do, just walk around and take pictures of anything that caught my eye. Mostly landscapes and abstract imagery. This past year I did not get out and walk around with my camera to “just shoot” (except for when I was in London) but I plan on taking your advice and getting out more this year. It’s great to have some time to yourself and just enjoy your photography.

  • January 10, 2011 - 4:06 pm

    Shivakumar - Glyn,

    This is def one very inspirational post. I just totally agree every bit of whats being told in video and in your words. Its not just limited to gear but the love for the art.

    To give you a instance – i just went out for a first photowalk of this year last sunday and i just carried a film DSLR + 50F1.8 lens with me loaded with a B&W roll. My intention was to enjoy shooting and going out than just worry about technicalities and exposure etc when reviewing which i usually do when using digital :)

    Just loved this post.

    Good one mate. Shiv

  • January 10, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    neal - Glyn, have to agree with you mate, vision and not gear. We had a blast in Brighton, Bournemouth was a bit of a learning curve as we found out! We did say that we would do a walkabout every month, but we both know that time, work and other stuff gets in the way. I think we should resurrect that thinking and try to fit a few in in the coming months! Great topic, gets the mind thinking a little :-)

  • January 10, 2011 - 5:44 pm

    neal - Very inspiring video as well, I just love the way he struts along the street with camera in hand :-)

  • January 11, 2011 - 10:32 am

    Dan Davies - As a working pro, any time I can shoot without the pressure for perfection and with the ability to experiment has to be a good thing. I really should do more of it!

  • January 11, 2011 - 12:22 pm

    victor jason - hi!
    i just found your work and blog through a friend of mine, he sent me your portfolio-review-video. i liked it a lot and it was very cool. i also like the way you put it together.

    as to the vision/gear-think you’re right. i am starting out as a vocational photographer and i’m constantly fighting the urge to get new gear that i “might” need to gain some sort of “credibility”. some upgrades are required for sure, but i am a firm believer in vision as a driving force. the gear is the means, but personally, most of my favorite work i’ve done with my 28-75 lens and a beat up 30D. i’m glad that this theme is popping up all over the place. the “gear is good, vision is better” by David DuChemin was a certain wake-up call for me. and your post is a definite affirmation, and i am grateful that i found this blog. :D

    i think i will have to go out on a photowalk soon. the sartorial video was very inspirational and cool. :D i suppose it also helps having a NY Times accredited blog and being kinda famous. :D this is something i need to work on, along with my vision and craft.

  • January 13, 2011 - 11:56 pm

    Glyn - @Neil…Couldn’t agree more mate; cheers

  • January 13, 2011 - 11:58 pm

    Glyn - @David Kelly…Totally agree with you there mate. I always compare it to when I was Bodybuilding…if I wanted to compete and do well then I had to train every day; I couldn’t expect to improve and develop my physique if I just picked up some weights every now and again.

    Cheers for the tips too; spot on!

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:01 am

    Glyn - @Dave…Absolutely mate; totally agree with you.
    We’ll have to get together for a ‘photo walk’ one afternoon; but let’s try and make it atleast a couple of degrees above freezing huh :)

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:02 am

    Glyn - @Rick…Totally mate; having time ‘away’ from it all is real important if not just for the creativity but also the all important thinking time.

    Cheers, Glyn

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:04 am

    Glyn - @Shiv…Thanks for commenting mate. Great to hear you got out for a photo walk and with a film SLR too; I’d love to see some of the shots if you’re able at some point.

    Cheers, Glyn

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:04 am

    Glyn - @Neal…Absolutely mate; time for another!

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:08 am

    Glyn - @Dan…You and me both mate :)

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:09 am

    Glyn - @Victor…Yeah it’s definitely a theme that is being spoken about quite alot lately and like you I’m glad of it. Sure there’s always the temptation to buy more kit but as Zack Arias always says..get to know the it you have inside and out; then and only then will you know why you need a new piece of kit.

    Cheers, Glyn

  • January 24, 2011 - 7:07 am

    Sonia perdomo - I try to take my camera even on afternoon walks with my son. I put it on the stroller and have it ready for shots. I have been able to take amazing pictures of nature (deer families) and the season going from fall to winter. I am new to digital photography, so I think that the more I explore and use my camera the more I will learn

  • January 24, 2011 - 7:36 pm

    Glyn - @Sonia…I’m actually thinking of hiring a lens to go out for the day and photograph wildlife/nature as this is something I want to start doing more of during my ‘getting away from it all’ time.
    Getting out and about like this with just your camera and one lens is a really productive thing to do. I’ve learned so much about my lenses camera and so on by seeing what can and can’t be done with it; lots of fun too :)

  • February 1, 2011 - 5:03 pm

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    Been away travelling for the last few weeks, and have just got back with a boat load of images to process.

    One of the tips I recommend is to try using different camera settings to those you normally use. This way it increases your knowledge and understanding of the main tool we use – the camera.

    A few years ago I found myself trying to capture images at a Buddhist festival where the dancers were moving around all over the place and I couldn’t predict where they were going to be next. I suddenly realised that nearly everything I had been shooting beforehand was static, and I nearly always used single focus point to focus with. I fumbled around trying to work out how to set tracking focus and multi point focusing instead of single point. I got away with it, but it was a reminder that it is all too easy to get into a comfort zone and stay there.


  • February 1, 2011 - 8:50 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Couldn’t agree with you more mate. It’s great to get out and just ‘play’…trying out things you maybe never would normally and end up with results that really are quite something :)

The Great Outdoors = Your FREE Studio

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve been shooting in the studio alot more over the past couple of months and that’s been great for a whole host of reasons; not least being the fact that despite the weather the shoot always goes ahead plus there’s the added comfort factor.

Now although I thoroughly enjoy shooting in the studio and working with what is in effect a blank canvas, where I really get a kick is shooting ‘on location’. Working outside on location though does bring with it, it’s own challenges and as any photographer knows it’s very much hit or miss whether the shoot actually goes ahead because of the weather. However, that being said there’s nothing I like more than scouting out a location and then changing the feel / mood of it by the use of location lighting. In fact talking of the weather, Advertising Photographer of the Year Tim Wallace would tell you to embrace the bad weather when it happens; turn it into a positive and use it to your advantage to create some really quite dramatic images.

So, for a recent portfolio shoot I decided to step out of the studio and go out on location but at the same time for one of the shots have a bit of a play and make the outdoors look as though I was still in the studio.

What do I mean?
The intention of the photo at the beginning of this post was to make our male model look as though he was standing on a stage with lights/flashes going off behind him but rather than being shot in the studio it was taken in the middle of the day in the car park of a local supermarket as the iPhone Photo below shows (note: by the time I took this ‘Behind the Scenes’ shot with my iPhone the male model had gone through a wardrobe change)…

So how was it done?
The principle behind
this shot was exactly the same as a technique I call the ‘Invisible Black Backdrop‘ where you use the camera to set the scene i.e. make the location completely black and then once you’ve done that, introduce some light into the scene to light your subject. (You can read a complete walk-through of the Invisible Black Backdrop technique by clicking on this link).

Part 1: Lighting the subject
The first part was to light our subject and knowing that in the final image I was going to be placing extra lights behind him, he would need to have a rim light hitting him which would give the impression that it came from those extra lights. Of course had I had a bag full of lights with me at the time then it’s likely I would have done this shot in one take but that would have required about 10 speedlights; and I only had half that amount with me.

Part 2: The Stage Lights/Flashes
To create the stage/flash lights I placed 3 speedlights on separate stands at varying heights and positions into the frame aimed back towards the camera and took a few shots with an aperture of around the f/11 mark; any wider and I wouldn’t have gotten the desired starbust look from the light, and this I did a couple of times…

Part 3: Putting it all together
Back  at the computer, having edited the first shot of our model it was then a simple case of placing the extra lights that I’d shot around him. To do this meant that I had to ‘extend the canvas’ of the photo of our model because each time I shoot a portrait using the Invisible Black Backdrop technique I always do it with the camera in portrait orientation and virtually fill the frame with the subject. To explain the how and why, here’s a short Photoshop tutorial I recorded last year:

So, there you have it…an image that looks like it was possibly shot in a studio but was taken in the great outdoors; a free studio offering endless creative possibilities.

If you have any questions or comments then as always please feel free to make use of the comments section below. Oh and just for extra proof that we were in a car park here’s a final shot of our model sitting in what could possibly be the transport of the future; or at least it could be if fuel prices keep going up the way they are:)

And here’s an iPhone photo showing the lighting set up which couldn’t have been simpler; a single Nikon Speedlight and Shoot-Thru umbrella…

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  • January 6, 2011 - 11:16 am

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    Excellent. I really like these BTS posts, they are so informative and a real source of inspiration.

    It’s also the little detail, like the last iphone shot which shows you weighted the lighting stand and had a ground cover to lie on – love the result by the way.


  • January 6, 2011 - 12:28 pm

    Paul Pride - Hi Glyn,
    Again you have imparted your wisdom on us mere mortals! I do have to ask though what triggers you use as I would be hard pushed to eliminate all the ambient light with a sync of 1/125 unless I’m wrong!
    I am also loving the post production on the final shot, it suits the image perfectly. One last thing, were those birds conveniently there or a little added ‘magic’?

  • January 6, 2011 - 7:32 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Thanks for that mate; glad you find it useful :)

    Cheers, Glyn

  • January 6, 2011 - 7:36 pm

    Glyn - @Paul…For this shoot I used the Nikon SU-800 controller to trigger the flashes; uses line of sight so because of the distance I was shooting this was no problem. Working with the speedlights allows me to use the max sync speed of 1/250 sec and with an aperture of f/8.0 the envirnoment was rendered ‘black’. What lights are you using? If I was using my Elinchrom Quadra’s then the sync speed would be 1/160th so I may have had to close down the aperture to around the f/11.0 mark but because of the extra power the Quadra’s give me that wouldn’t have been an issue.

    Re the post…I can’t lie…the birds were added in :)


  • January 6, 2011 - 9:59 pm

    Paul Pride - Hi Glyn,
    At the moment I am using an SB-600 as I didn’t know that I would be progressing with my photography and using it off camera otherwise I would’ve bought an 800 or 900. As for triggers I use some pants eBay ones! Again I am only just starting out and really do not have the capital at the moment but am going to upgrade them at the end of the month. Until I can upgrade my kit I unfortunately have to adjust my shoots to match what I have.
    I have a couple of shoots coming up so I will let you know when they are done. I’d really appreciate your feedback!

  • January 7, 2011 - 5:25 am

    Heather Williams - Thanks again for another amazing post. I do have a couple of questions the masta . . . since I am a super newby at this photo stuff I was wondering how you get the star effect in the lighting? Also, how did you get the dark skies in the shopping cart pic? Awesome stuff. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and talent.

  • January 7, 2011 - 10:46 am

    David Kelly - Thanks for another insight posting Glyn.

    The ‘stage’ image of Cameron reminds me of Zack’s output shot from the Gulf Photo + event last year with him, Dave Hobby & Joey L.

    I do think the birds in the trolley shot make that nice little finishing touch to the look & feel of the image, despite being a PS addition. As for the transport of the future, I’m sure Sir Clive Sinclair must already be looking into using this device as a revamped, longer wheel base, Monster Truck version of his C5 ;-)

    Best wishes,


  • January 7, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Glyn - @Heather…Thanks for checking out this post and for the kind words..

    With regards to the star effect, all you need to do is to shoot at an aperture of f/11.0 or narrower and that will do the trick.

    Re the dark skies…if you like I’ll put a short tutorial together to go through how it’s all done ‘in camera’

    Glyn :)

  • January 7, 2011 - 1:01 pm

    Glyn - @David…Re the trolley…Dragons Den here I come :)

  • January 7, 2011 - 2:27 pm

    Glyn - @Paul…No worries mate; I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


  • January 7, 2011 - 3:32 pm

    Heather - A short tutorial would be super cool. Could you incude how you put the birds in also. Thanks again for being an amazing teacher. You should write a book!!

  • January 7, 2011 - 3:45 pm

    Glyn - @Heather…Consider it done; I’ll have the tutorial ‘on line’ early next week :)
    With regards to adding the birds into the image, all I did was found some stock images of birds on the web using google and then dropped them into the picture using ‘blend modes’. The bird pictures I found had then all on a white background so using the ‘Multiply’ blend mode in Photoshop removed that with just one click. I recorded a video a while back now explaining the Screen and Multiply blend modes that you can find here or by visiting my YouTube page (

    Hope that helps,
    Glyn :)

    ps> Just checked out your blog; really nice work on there!

  • January 8, 2011 - 9:48 pm

    Tweets that mention The Great Outdoors = Your FREE Studio » Glyn Dewis Blog -- - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Harold Berninghausen. Harold Berninghausen said: RT @Photoshop_nut: The Great Outdoors = Your FREE Studio (Via @GlynDewis) [...]

  • January 10, 2011 - 9:55 am

    Claudio von grubens - Hi glyn,

    a great story and it is definitely true! i can comment that with another nice story: on Friday the light was really grant in Vienna so i decided to take a few shots of the sunset. as i arrived at a small hill with a really good view i saw that there is a lot of fog and the shots will be not what I’d expected! Everybody says that shooting is the most important because of the training so i sat on the ground near a wood thinking about what to do and after a few minutes i saw a lot of little “yellowhammers”. i took my zoom lens and got a few really nice shots of them. if i quited the session because of the fog i never would made these ;)

    so always make the best out of it! ;)

    BTW: the shots a very creative – i think changing the location helps your(and everybody’s) creativity!


    p.s.: for everybody who is interested in the shots:

  • January 14, 2011 - 12:00 am

    Glyn - @Claudio…Great comment and story mate; thanks for that.
    Thanks to for the link…great shots which like you say, if you hadn’t taken the time you wouldn’t have got them…nice one!