Photo Shoots = An exercise in problem solving

Hi All.
Following on from the ‘Photo Shoot & Post Production Walkthrough’ I thought I’d carry on with the same theme this week, but this time covering a recent Food Photography Shoot.

I always feel that Photo Shoots are generally an exercise in problem solving and it’s this working out of the what, where, how and why that I get a real kick out of. Anyway this recent food shoot was no different as on the day the brief changed quite alot (to say the least) from what was originally planned.

I’ll fill you in on all the details later but to give you an idea, the photograph below to the left shows you the environment we had to work in and along side it are the results, straight out of camera with just a slight crop and a little sharpening added.

I’ll have the walk through posted up on the blog this coming Friday covering the location assessment, lighting and some of the challenges encountered but in the mean time,


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  • October 4, 2010 - 4:06 pm

    Tim Skipper - Glyn,

    My problem usually arrive in the form of equipment not working. It worked prior to the shoot in test, it works after the shoot. It’s during that my equipment goes “No, think I will just embarrass you.”

  • October 4, 2010 - 4:25 pm

    DaniCroitor - Looks great, i like the angle you shot from

  • October 4, 2010 - 7:32 pm

    kelley - Great point about the problem solving! I think that’s why I love shooting interiors, always having to rig stuff up and figure things out. Its a challenge and wonderful to get results. You clearly got some amazing results and I can’t wait to see the walkthrough. You gotta love good food shots!

  • October 4, 2010 - 9:22 pm

    Gordon - GD … your work is superb! Where can I book a table? ;o) G

  • October 6, 2010 - 8:38 am

    Noel Hannan - Glyn, I am getting huingry just looking at this.. great shots mate.


  • October 7, 2010 - 12:08 am

    Glyn - @Tim…Ah, it seems as though your camera bag is possessed by the same pesky gremlins that get in mine :)

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:08 am

    Glyn - @Dani…Thanks mate; very kind of you to drop by and comment :)

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:10 am

    Glyn - @Kelley…You sure have; especially at the end…so long as no Scotch Guard or furniture polish has been used to make it look even better; that just doesn’t taste good at all…lol :)

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:10 am

    Glyn - @Gordon…Cheers Buddy

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:11 am

    Glyn - @Noel…Hungry??? Tell me about it; I’m amazed there was actually food left to photograph…lol :)

  • October 7, 2010 - 6:53 am

    Neal - Nice shots mate, I must admit I relish in the problem solving that we come up against, the last 3 shoots especially, nothing like going through the thought process to get the results that you desire.

Photo Shoot & Post Production: Complete Walkthrough

Following on from the ‘Behind the Scenes’ video of the photo shoot with Artist Colin Castle I posted earlier in the week, I thought I’d carry on with a ‘walk through’ of the complete process, so here goes…

Set Up: 1
As Colin is regularly contacted by magazines and newspapers wanting articles, the priority was to come up with a photograph for promotional/editorial purposes that could be sent to the various media. In the couple of meetings we had prior to the shoot I’d asked Colin to start gathering any portrait photographs from magazines etc that he liked the look of so that we could get more of an understanding for the kind of feel/result he was aiming for. This is a method I employ alot for portrait shoots ie asking the client over time to gather as many pictures as possible either from magazines or the internet that they’re drawn to; I find it helps alot and goes a long way toward getting the shoot ‘right’.

The photo shoot was to be done ‘on location’ at Colin’s home which is where his studio is, however the studio space was quite limiting so we agreed on using a larger room and on the day of the shoot re-arranging the layout so that it looked as if he actually was in his normal space.

When I first walk into a location, I’ll take my time to walk around and find out exactly what we have to work with. I’ll generally set my camera into Aperture Priority and shoot away from all manner of angles in the quest to find ‘the shot’.

No different to any other shoot, the first location had it’s good and bad points. The good being the huge window where Colin had his easel positioned, letting in the most beautiful soft light. The bad (for want of a better word) being that the light dropped off dramatically so that beyond the easel itself started to quickly go dark and also underneath the easel being a big black hole of nothingness:

Keeping things simple I decided to blend both the natural light from the large window with light from a softbox positioned camera right to fill in some of the shadows so that more of the room and the back of Colin wasn’t so dark:

The next thing was to push a bit of light under the table because without it all the detail just disappeared into the shadows. The light for here came in the form of a Nikon SB800 Speedlight which I had to flag off so as to prevent light from it coming too high in the picture and creating shadows and hot points as it fell on other areas within the frame:

Once we’d decided on where I was shooting from, which was actually the adjoining kitchen area, and all the lights were in place it was then a matter of strategically placing items around so that it looked like we were actually in Colin’s studio space. Any reflections on the framed prints were quickly and easily resolved just by adusting the angle of the pictures in relation to the light:

Nikon D3
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Elinchrom Quadra & 100cm square Softbox
Nikon SB800 to light the area beneath the easel.

Set Up: 2
This picture couldn’t have been simpler. The idea was to mimic the light attached to the easel and have everwhere else fall to black and to do so all that was required was a single Nikon SB800 Speedlight, a light stand and a Honl Speed Grid.

The lighting was positioned on the other side of the easel from Colin and aimed down onto both him and the painting he was working on. After several frames to test where the light was falling, all the curtains were closed so as to restrict the amount of ambient light in the scene and I then asked Colin to work away.

The great thing about using flash is that it freezes action which in turn means the ‘talent’ can work away without having to hold a position which can start to make them look uncomfortable and ‘staged’. All you need to do is to tell the ‘talent/client’ what their boundaries of movement are ie where not to move so that the light misses them.

Set Up: 3
The final picture/s were taken outside on a patio area which overlooked the grounds. Here we wanted to create a very relaxed feel to the pictures as if Colin was sat outside on a warm summers evening; the reality though was quite the opposite with light rain and temperatures that had dropped considerably.

Again a series of test shots were taken to decide on the best angle to work and where to place the lighting as the natural/ambient light was quite flat:

Having placed the key light which again was the Elinchrom Quadra and 100cm square softbox a bit more interest was addded to the plain white wall behind Colin by repositioning one of the potted plants out of frame and firing a zoomed speedlight through it so as to create shadows; kind of mimicking what the low, late afternoon/early evening sun would do:

Real simple set up this one:

Before touching on the post production I think it’s worth mentioning that for the interior shots I was shooting tethered into Lightroom 3.

This is something I’ve been doing alot more of over the last few months, both on location and in the studio for a number of reasons but mainly because:

  • Seeing each shot come up onto a big screen straight from the camera means you can can really look at what you have in detail. As good as the LCD on the back of my D3 is and even if I use a Hoodman Loupe, seeing the images come up on my MacBook Pro’s 17″ screen means I have more chance of noticing all the little details that I could otherwise have missed and then spend time in Photoshop correcting. I’d much rather get it right in camera and spend time doing things in Post that I want to do rather than what I have to do.
  • Following on from that, working tethered has the effect of slowing you down so you can use that time to prefect the shot and correct all the little issues in camera and not in post as I mentioned before.
  • It eliminates the ability to say things like “I’ll get rid of that later in Photoshop”, “It’ll look great when I’ve worked on it later” and so on …. because there’s every chance the client / art director is going to be on your shoulder watching as the images come up on screen.

Post Production
Ok, when it comes to post production there wasn’t much to do with this series of images at all apart from a slight colour temperature change, a little dodging and burning, a little use of the patch tool and some sharpening; taking no more than a minute or two so here’s a breakdown to give you an idea what was needed for each ‘set up’:

Photograph 1:
A: Global colour temperature change (warmth added) using the White Balance control in Lightroom.
B: Logo on shirt removed using the Patch Tool in Photoshop.
C: Burn Tool used on paintings to darken them down a touch and add a little more contrast.

Photograph 2:
A: Burn Tool used on paintings to darken them down a touch and add a little more contrast.
Light spill on denim jeans removed by sampling surrounding colour and then using a soft brush to paint over the top.

Photograph 3:
Global colour temperature change (warmth added) using the White Balance control in Lightroom plus a slight vignette.
Exposure on plant pots reduced using Adjustment Brush in Lightroom.
Shadow patterning on wall intensified with a quick brush over with the Burn Tool in Photoshop.

As you can see the time spent in post production was kept to a minimum (approx 1-2 minutes each image) and to make things even better, the global adjustments in Lightroom were applied to all the other images in that set using the Sync Settings Command; one click and an unlimited amount of images are adjusted leaving time then to go in and make any fine adjustments:

So there you have it, a photo shoot from start to finish…warts and all:)and incase you missed it, here’s the ‘Behind the Scenes’ video that my good buddy Neal Hibbert recorded along the way:

Any questions or comments I’d love to ‘hear’ them so as always, please feel free to make use of the comments section below,

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  • October 1, 2010 - 4:58 pm

    neal - Very nice walk through Glyn mate. I am glad I was there to assist and learn. As I said, such a lovely man and I am so happy that he loved the final results!

  • October 1, 2010 - 5:10 pm

    Keith Hammond - good info/detail follow up Glyn as Neal had the vid on high speed you know had to keep re-playing it ;-)
    Did you have the speedlight on RU4 mode so the Quadra tripped it ?
    Are you shooting wired tethered or have you hammered the plastic on a wi-fi job.
    Good post as always mate, easy to follow info.

  • October 1, 2010 - 5:12 pm

    Glyn - @Neal…Absolutely mate; a real gent!
    Looking forward to working with you on the shoots coming up :) #alwaysalaugh

  • October 1, 2010 - 5:16 pm

    Glyn - @Keith…Thanks mate; glad you like it.
    Re the Speedlight yeah it was set to the Nikon SU4 Mode so that the Quadra triggered it; a real handy utility which I use alot.
    I’m tethering using a cable at the moment. Main reason being is that the wi-fi versions I’ve tried still aren’t as quick as I’d like and at the moment wired definitely has the edge. Would love to tether wirelessly because of the flexibility but unfortunately not just yet :(


  • October 1, 2010 - 5:37 pm

    Paul Pratt - A very nice informative post Glyn. I’m interested in tethered shooting and it’s nice to see a real world application and its justification rather than just because you can!

    Nice info on the tie up between the pre and post work too and how closely integrated they are. I believe the British Army has an acronym that is appropriate; PPPPPPP



  • October 1, 2010 - 5:47 pm

    Glyn - Thanks for looking in and for commenting Paul :)
    TBH if I can, I’ll tether all the time as for the reasons i mentioned it saves so much time in post later because you see so much more.


    ps> Ah yes, the PPPPPPP … know it well :)

  • October 1, 2010 - 9:55 pm

    kelley - Great to watch all the work going on! Beautiful results.

  • October 1, 2010 - 11:03 pm

    Dominic - Firstly, congrats on another excellent shoot with perfect results and secondly thanks for a great insight into how you look to run things whilst on a shoot.

    Great idea to get your clients to look through mags or the net to be able to show ideas instead of trying to verbally convey what they would like to achieve, which isn’t always easy to do.


  • October 2, 2010 - 2:30 am

    Tim Skipper - Glyn

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who has clients look at magazines. This has helped me so many times to create a bridge of what they say they want and my understanding of that request. Not to mention they get really excited about planning their session.

    I also like the fact you rearranged his house to fit the idea. I did this yesterday at a commercial shoot and it really made the picture.

    The great part is these are really well done images with great portfolio potential. It the kind of portraits that will attract more clients.

  • October 2, 2010 - 6:23 pm

    Neil Glover - Great post mate, really informative.

    It was good to meet you at Zacks Onelight the other week.

    Keep up the good work

  • October 3, 2010 - 3:00 pm

    DaveT - Glyn,

    I’ve been away travelling for a few weeks and came back to this. In a word excellent.

    This sort of information is invaluable to me as I strive to improve my photography – Thank You!!


  • October 4, 2010 - 1:48 am

    Glyn - @Kelley…Thanks for that :)

  • October 4, 2010 - 1:49 am

    Glyn - @Dom…Thanks for looking in and for the kind words; I really appreciate it mate, and yeah the magazine/internet research by the client saves alot of time and headaches believe me :)

    Cheers, Glyn

  • October 4, 2010 - 1:52 am

    Glyn - @Tim…Yeah the magazine thing is a real help huh :) Saves so much time and head scratching wondering what it is the client really wants.

    Thanks for the kind words too; definitely the kind of work I enjoy doing.

    ps> It’s been a few days now so I’m guessing Colin will have the house back to normal; looked like a bomb had hit it after I’d moved everything around…lol :)

  • October 4, 2010 - 1:53 am

    Glyn - @Neil…Thanks mate and yeah ditto, great to catch up…must arrange a beer in the not too distant future :)


  • October 4, 2010 - 1:54 am

    Glyn - @DaveT…Very kind of you to say that; thanks and it’s great to hear you find it useful.


  • October 4, 2010 - 1:36 pm

    David Kelly - Glyn,

    Thanks (as always) for such a really insightful post – helps us newbies get a bit of a head start on lighting :-)

    BTW What did Colin think of the final set of images?

  • October 6, 2010 - 8:41 am

    Noel Hannan - Glyn,
    great series of shots. Colin must be really pleased with them. i like your thinking about the finished product – you obviously think to get it as close as possible in-camera. This reminds me of when i used to shoot film – and particularly transparencies. You have to get it right in camera.

    thanks for sharing

  • October 6, 2010 - 1:21 pm

    Govind Vekaria - Wow, how do you find the time to right up about all this too?
    Thanks for sharing.

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:06 am

    Glyn - @David…Thanks; glad you like it.
    Pleased to report that Colin is really pleased with the results so ‘mission accomplished’ :)

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:14 am

    Glyn - @Noel…Absolutely. I’d much rather take the time getting it right than correcting later and having to spend unnecessary time in Photoshop.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting mate; I really appreciate it.

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:15 am

    Glyn - @Govind…Thanks for dropping by, and good question…I must confess it’s down to the coffee allowing me to see a little more of the day than I would normally.

    Hope you’re keeping well,
    Catch up soon,

Joe McNally & Bill Frakes iPad Interview

Hi All,
Thought I’d share this video with you by the Manfrotto School of Xcellence that I caught this morning whilst checking my Google Reader and going through the daily papers (blogs).

The video is a short iPad Interview with photographers Joe McNally and Bill Frakes; sounds odd but it’s a great concept and for fans of Joe McNally (who isn’t???) it’s insightful and entertaining as you come to expect from his unique, inimitable style.


Bill Frakes and Joe McNally iPad Interview from Manfrotto on Vimeo.

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  • September 30, 2010 - 1:50 pm

    Tim Skipper - That was fun. I like Joe’s last answer.

  • October 1, 2010 - 7:28 pm

    Glyn - @Tim…Had me in stitches…lol :)

  • October 4, 2010 - 1:47 pm

    David Kelly - Nice one.
    What Joe didn’t say was that the iPad back in the 70′s couldn’t do much more than play Pong or Noughts & Crosses (aka Tic-Tac-Toe) and that the battery pack for it was the size of a one of his lighting equipment bags ;-)

  • October 7, 2010 - 12:07 am

    Glyn - @David…lol :)

The Debonaires: Final CD Artwork

Regular readers of the blog may remember that earlier in the year I met up with the guys from ‘The Debonaires‘ to photograph the CD artwork for their latest album…’Cry Your Blues Away’.

Well after a few months of the guys recording in the studio and the CD going to press I’m really excited to see and hear the final results. To give you an idea of what images were used, here’s a rough scan of the CD itself and all the inserts: (scan quality isn’t brilliant but at least it gives you an idea)

This latest album is without doubt their best work to date and it’s a real honour to have played a part in putting it all together; a great fun shoot with a truly great bunch of guys:)

You can check out more of The Debonaires by visiting their website and/or  MySpace.

Also, if you missed the articles about the photo shoot with The Debonaires and the posts that followed covering the post production involved here’s some links that you may want to check out:


Editing Part 1: Removing ‘Stuff’

Editing Part 2: Enhancing Detail and more

Editing Part 3: Colour


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  • September 29, 2010 - 6:55 am

    neal - Nice work mate and congrats :-)

  • September 29, 2010 - 9:17 am

    Mike - Great work Glyn, well done mate!!

  • September 29, 2010 - 9:46 am

    Keith Hammond - Really good to see the “end” product, you must be very pleased. This is also a good example to blog readers about building a relationship with your clients so they come back again and again, correct me if i’m wrong Glyn but your first shoot with The Debonairs was Feb 2009 and you also had thier first album cover in Sept 09 and here we are again a year on and album #2, where will it all end.
    I suggest readers go back in your archive to Feb/Sept 09 and get it from the begining, makes good reading, well done mate, top job again.

  • September 29, 2010 - 11:42 am

    Glyn - @Neal…Thanks mate

  • September 29, 2010 - 11:43 am

    Glyn - @Mike…Cheers Buddy

  • September 29, 2010 - 12:40 pm

    Tim Skipper - Looks great Glen. My first CD cover is in production but the production house will not let it be seen until the release. I don’t know about you but there is just something cool about seeing a picture you took in print.

  • September 29, 2010 - 2:47 pm

    Rick Wenner - I gotta tell ya Glyn, I’m liking this album artwork. It’s got a very classic look to it, almost as if its from the 50′s. Your photos look great in the design. Congrats.

  • September 29, 2010 - 8:20 pm

    Glyn - @Keith…Thanks for the comment mate and yeah you’re exactly right regarding the photo shoot for the 1st Album.

    The guys have become really good friends since we first met up which is real nice I gotta say; an unseen benefit of photography for sure :)


  • September 29, 2010 - 8:21 pm

    Glyn - @Tim…Thanks mate. Yeah I agree it’s great to see your own work in print and real good to know that clients are equally as pleased.
    Let me know when your cover is out; I’d really like to see it.


  • September 29, 2010 - 8:22 pm

    Glyn - @Rick…Hey thanks Buddy; really pleased to ‘hear’ you like the results and with you saying it looks as though it’s from the 1950′s is the icing on the cake; mission accomplished huh :)

  • October 1, 2010 - 11:12 am

    David Kelly - Nice to have seen this from start to finish, so to speak, Glyn. Many congratulations.

  • October 1, 2010 - 1:01 pm

    Noel Hannan - Hey Glyn, great work. As David says, seeing the process is great, but seeing the finished product is fantastic, because when you think about it thats what it is all about.
    Well done mate,

    all the best

  • October 1, 2010 - 7:28 pm

    Glyn - @David…Thanks mate :)

  • October 1, 2010 - 7:29 pm

    Glyn - @Noel…Great to hear from you Buddy :)
    Thanks for commenting; I really appreciate it.


    >MUST catch up soon!!!

Behind the Scenes Video: Colin Castle Photoshoot

Hi All,
Thought I’d start the week off with a short ‘Behind the Scenes’ video I put together from a recent ‘on location’ promotional photo shoot with Artist Colin Castle (

In the next few days I’m going to write a more detailed post covering all sorts of stuff like the the briefing, location assessment, lighting and some of the challenges we had to overcome, finishing off with the final tweeks added in post production but in the mean time,

> Big thanks to my good buddy Neal Hibbert for the support and for grabbing some video footage; also does a mean V.A.L. (Voice Activated Light Stand):)

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  • September 27, 2010 - 6:54 am

    Neal Hibbert - Nice vid who took the footage? LOL. The best bit without doubt is ME saying voice activated light stand! Seriously it was a good day, hard work but very enjoyable and again I came out learning a lot :-) Colin and his wife are such lovely people and it really was a pleasure helping you capture him, he is also an awesome artist!

  • September 27, 2010 - 8:49 am

    Keith Hammond - good to see a bit of your working method Glyn, like the placing the speedlight for plant shadow.
    Watch out for that Neal, he is either trying to get himself a bigger role in these vids or he will want paying for his talking part :-)
    Good vid mate

  • September 27, 2010 - 1:23 pm

    Paul Pride - Glyn, that speedlight placed behind the plant was a stroke of genius! It really brought the whole shot to life and made it look like he was in sunny Spain rather than gloomy England. Really great to see you at work. Thanks for sharing.

  • September 27, 2010 - 1:24 pm

    David Kelly - Neal, (sorry Glyn) nice video! ;-)

    Looking forward to seeing some more insight into how you set this up Glyn, particularly the lighting used on Colin in that shot of him working on the sketch of the cat.

  • September 27, 2010 - 2:18 pm

    Tim Skipper - Cool video pics looked good as always.

  • September 27, 2010 - 8:14 pm

    Steve Porter - Hi Glyn,
    Great video, really like the speedlight behind the plant it breaks up that blank space really well. Another well deserved bottle of stinger!
    Take it easy :)

  • September 28, 2010 - 5:58 am

    Glyn - @Neal…Thanks for your help with this shoot buddy; team work huh :)

  • September 28, 2010 - 6:00 am

    Glyn - @Keith…Thanks for the ‘heads up’ mate; I’ll keep a close eye on Neal and his growing cameo roles from now on…lol :)

  • September 28, 2010 - 6:05 am

    Glyn - @Paul…Cheers Buddy; i really appreciate the comment there.

  • September 28, 2010 - 6:06 am

    Glyn - @David…Cheers mate; I’ll be putting together over the next few days because there’s a few things to cover but hopefully will have it online by Monday.

    Neal, ooopppss sorry, Glyn :)

  • September 28, 2010 - 6:07 am

    Glyn - Tim…Thanks mate

  • September 28, 2010 - 6:07 am

    Glyn - @Steve…Stinger being devoured as we speak :)