Throwing some light on Studio Shots

NCFE level1 photography – week 12


This week was our last. We learned a little about studio photography and lighting.     There are several types of shades and filters used in studio work:

  • Beauty Dish: Beauty dishes are usually used for ‘beauty’ shots (unsurprisingly). These type of shots are usually head and shoulder portraits that highlight makeup and hair, and are commonly used in the fashion industry.
  • (Image found on Google) Beauty-Dish
  • Barn Doors: Shape and direct light. They are flexible to use and can create softened, focused light.  Barn doors are fixed onto the front of studio lights.(Image found on Google) Barn-Door-Lighting-Studio-Gel-Filter-Holder
  • Umbrella: A photography umbrella is used to remove shadows, and to soften and diffuse the light.(image found on Google) Studio umbrella
  • Soft Box: A soft box reduces harsh shadows. Leaving beautiful diffused light.  The closer a soft box is to the subject, the softer the light seems, making it appear like natural light from a window. 



    (Image found on Google) Studio strobe with softbox

For portraits, we set our camera to M (manual) setting. Our shutter speed was set at 1/100sec, and the ISO set to it’s lowest setting, because you want the best quality image. The only thing you need to alter is the Aperture (which we all know by now, I hope, is the same thing as f;stop). Portrait photography needs a shallow depth of field eg 5.6-8.  In theory, you can use any flash on any camera, but for this exercise we are using studio lighting.

After setting up the lighting and a black background, we had a little practice at studio photography, with some of us more willing ‘models’ than others! We  were reminded to take a test shot to check for lighting.  Here are my fellow students and posers. 😉

There are 4 different themes for lighting in Studio photography.  Once you know, you will be able to spot them in any beauty shot in magazines and publicity photo’s.

  • Butterfly effect. Named for the’ butterfly’ shaped shadow that is created under the nose by placing the main light source above and directly behind the camera. It’s most often used for glamour style shots, and to create shadows under the cheeks and chin. It’s more flattering for ‘older’ subjects as it emphasizes wrinkles less than side lighting. It puts a slight shadow on the nose and defines the cheekbones.
  • Loop Shot: Probably the most common or popular lighting pattern, as it’s easy to create and flatters most people.
  • Split Light:  Dramatic lighting. It only illuminates one side of the face. It’s usually more appropriate for men than women as the lighting is quite harsh.
  • Rembrandt: One side of the face will be clear, the other in shadow. Puts a ‘diamond shape’ under the eye. It is not used so much, but is best for actors who wish to portray gravity, tragedy, and or drama.

Can you see the differences?

I would never have thought I would enjoy studio photography, but I really did. We had fun and lots of laughter and I think, some really great results.

So, there you are. 12 wonderful weeks. All summed up. 🙂 I am so sad to tell you, however, that our amazing tutor, Zig will be leaving us, but he is going on to better things…. and we are welcoming a new tutor, Ria for level 2 photography starting next week.

I really hope you’ll join me for the next 5 months of my journey..

Happy New Year… (lots more photo’s to come, of course.)



Man-made / Natural

ncfe level 1 Photography

End of course assignment

For our final blog post this term, and our end of course assignment, we were asked to present some photo’s that convey the theme; Man-made/Natural. I did struggle with this project a little, since I prefer direction, but here is my final offering.

I like the idea that nature will reclaim whatever man can build. I am a gardener and plantswoman at heart so find it comforting to know that nature will almost always win.


I have manipulated this image using Raw Therapee to better enhance the contrast of the concrete birdbath, and to visually increase the depth of the ice. The image was then darkened with exposure compensation to help portray a feeling of cold and iciness. I have also added a little vignette to draw the eye into the picture.


Nature on your doorstep. RACC 1/60s f5.6 ISO320
I particularly liked the ‘pops’ of colour on this doorstep in the college grounds. The little plant forcing entry into the light and college. The lines are strong and bold, as is the colour.  I was mindful of other students moving around me, while composing the shot and took precautions to make sure no-one tripped over me as I was taking photos.
Ferns, one of the planets oldest plants. Bricks can’t stop them. 1/30s f.5.6 ISO320

Lots of texture in the old brick wall, a nice contrast between the soft, muted colours in the brickwork and the ferns growing from it.

Please keep off… yeah right. Brentford. 1/80s f4.5 ISO200

A little tongue in cheek here. The ivy clearly cannot read.  Nice colour, a good juxtaposition of  colour, surface, form. Man has his say, Nature has it’s.

Mosses on brickwork, Richmond 1/15s f5.4 ISO320

Beautiful line, shape, colour, leading lines. The lack of anything else in the picture makes it feel textural. The mosses on the wall have been there for a long time, and even though this shot is quite tight, you feel as though the wall stretches on and on. Nature takes over.

At the end of this first course in Photography I have learned a great deal, but not enough… So I will return in January.

Merry Christmas, All.



p.s. It wouldn’t be me, if I weren’t just a little cheeky so here’s my last naughty photo. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I snapped this on my search for man-made/natural – it does actually work on so many levels …natural tree on a man-made cutting, by the canal. An unravelled toilet roll (made from natural materials, by man, obviously.) Waving gently in a natural breeze, thrown up, into a tree (by a man, naturally…) Maybe left for anyone caught short on their way back from the pub? Eh? Dear tripod carrier?

I’ll be back.



Flash… (Aaahhhh, saviour of the Universe…. well, someone had to.)

ncfe level1 photography – week 11

Flash photography

The paparazzi use flash photography.  If you want to see some excellent examples of flash photography, look up Weegee, who popularised flash photography, during the ’30’s and 40’s.

When to:

Night time photography  – When the flash will be your main light source.e.g. for a single image such as close portrait, rather than ambient or background lighting.

Day time photography – As a ‘fill-in’ to correct shadows. Fill in flash can soften the face. Use it to shoot in daylight to create a dramatic, evening feel, particularly good if there are interesting cloud formations. Also, used to saturate the colour of flowers, or for macro photography.

On these last two photos of the Datura, although the colour stands out more on the left side photo, I personally prefer the one on the right, because it seems to have more depth and there is not the annoying shadow of the stamen.


Low light or indoors – to compensate for low light levels. E.g. Fashion photographers and for Product photography – Using flash guns and tripods or a light box and directional lamps (led lamps are best) Companies like M&S will use dark moody backgrounds and lighting to promote their products.


Sports photography – Flash will help ‘freeze’ the movement, without needing to go to faster shutter speeds. Short distances work best as the flash will only travel for approx 3-4 metres. If you are too close, you can’t reduce the brightness of the flash.



You may choose to use a tripod or monopod whilst using flash to stabilise the image but switch off the built-in image stabiliser, because your camera will try to compensate for camera shake that isn’t there.  Use Manual  (M) setting when using flash. Put your auto focus on, and set your shutter speed.  It’s advisable to set up your camera as if you were going to take a photo normally, and then switch on the flash and take the photo.  Most cameras today have flash exposure compensation, which enables you to ‘turn up or down’ the intensity of the flash.  Since using a flash will limit your shutter speed automatically to between 1/200-1/250th of a second, you can raise or lower the ISO.




Image Manipulation or Woman-ipulation

Week 10 NCFE Photography

This week, we began our class by looking at everyone’s blogs, as usual… Lots of great images there. I think I can really see other peoples progress 🙂

We touched briefly on filters and the different types that there are. In the days of film photography, we used colour filters, but most of these effects are now added during post editing.  More on that later…


There are only really a couple of types of filters used now.

UV filter – Only protects your lens. An Ultraviolet filter does not allow ultraviolet light in to ypur lens, and also helps protect your lens from dust/ scratches and may even afford some protection if you drop the lens (although don’t quote me on that…)

ND Filters + Neutral Density filters. Will not change colours. They are always grey and are used for prolonging the exposure. Use them on bright days, or to slow down the effect of moving waters.

ND Graduated Filters – for landscape/seascape photography, i.e. a nicely defined horizon.

Polarizing Filters – Uses: to minimise reflections and to reduce reflections on non metallic surfaces. Used for shooting through windows (with a camera, of course), to taking pictures of water, where reflections may be distracting.  When shooting in fine weather conditions, to reduce glare and make the sky darker,  although this will largely depend on the position from the sun. Colours will appear bolder, and more saturated.


Then our class started to work with Image Manipulation. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am a bit phobic about computers (phones, yep … but computers 😦 ) So I have been somewhat dreading this part of the course. The software we are using at college is Adobe Bridge, a ‘free’ editing suite.

RAW vs Jpeg (image from Google)


We are working from RAW files. A raw file records only what is seen by the camera sensor, and is therefore a pure image. There is huge advantage to working with RAW files, in that you can edit completely from scratch.  Although a Jpeg has a smaller file size, The disadvantage of a Jpeg is that they can save ‘noise’ or distortion. They are not so easily edited as they are already compressed images.

Selecting some of our own images, we used Adobe Bridge to edit and manipulate the images. Now, although I’ve already said I am a little, ahem…. reticent?  scared of? …No,  hopeless with computers, I found it relatively straightforward, and very quickly felt comfortable with changing colours, contrast, highlights and shadows and making vignettes (softly darkened edges to the image.) Thrilled with the results, I saved them to my file at college, and then hurried home, to work on some more images only to find that I cannot edit with Adobe Bridge at home, since you also need to purchase Photoshop!

So, after much stressing and maybe a little cursing and probably a sense of humour failure… I have installed a software called Raw Therapee (it’s free and fairly straightforward to navigate – even for me! ..although having had prior experience with Adobe Bridge may have helped.)

Personally, I didn’t find it quite as exciting as Adobe Bridge in that I felt that some of the controls I was used to using at college, with Adobe Bridge are not the same, and it  doesn’t appear to have quite the range of effects, but I’ll talk to my tutor about that tomorrow.

Here you can see some of the images I’ve worked on, this evening…. All from the ‘comfort’ of my tripod carrier’s office chair!


You may remember, our end of course assignment is to take a series of 5 images with the subject Natural/Man-made

I have thought and thought, and brainstormed: The sea and sea defenses (I’m really rather far from the sea right now…) Long roads and landscape (..same problem)  Cobwebs on frozen fences (..maybe)  Sheep – sweater (Hah! I’m  a knitter…so, promising 😉 ) and even taken ‘sketchbook snapshots’ on my mobile phone whilst out walking.. but I think I’m not completely decided yet….

To be continued…



Panning and Zoomburst (…it all gets a bit Dr. Who)

Weeks 7-9 NCFE photography level 1

Unfortunately, I was unwell and missed college for weeks 7 and 8. But after seeing everyone else’s blog posts and a chat in class about techniques that we’d been learning I have attempted to catch up with the rest of my classmates.


Panning is a technique that involves shooting a moving subject whilst moving the camera so that the subject remains in the same position within frame.

As you follow the subject, the exposure should be long enough to allow the background to blur.

You need a slow shutter speed of approx 1/30 or slower depending on light and the speed at which your subject is moving. Enable your auto focus. The length of your exposure should be long enough to show the blurring of the background whilst keeping the subject in focus and appearing to remain still. This technique is useful for moving vehicles, playing children, dancers, cyclists, animals running, among others.

It’s probably best to use a tripod with this particular technique, as it’s difficult to keep your subject in the same position if you don’t track the camera smoothly.  You need to be parallel with your subject for the best effect. As your subject approaches begin tracking and continue tracking them whilst taking your exposure.

One more thing… When using a tripod in public, one needs to be aware of health and safety of course, both for yourself and for passers by. Also, please be aware of the traffic or moving subjects, because you may be more focused on getting ‘the shot’ rather than being around fast moving vehicles or people!

You look a little confused dear reader…..

Ok, here are some examples that I took (…not all of them successful!) It’s a little trickier than you might think….

As you can see, I didn’t really manage to capture what I hoped for. I must have taken 100 photos, and was too near, too fear, and not taking the exposure at the right settings. So I have posted a picture of a running chicken (borrowed from Wikipedia) to make you smile, but also to demonstrate what the technique is used for whilst I go away and shoot some more moving targets. (Be afraid….be very afraid.)


Here’s where it all gets a bit trippy!

Zoomburst is a technique where you use a zoom lens, with a manual zoom ring to produce an image which has blurred streaks radiating from the centre of the photograph.

The technique involves you manually zooming in or out with a fairly low shutter speed. Again, this is another technique to be used with a tripod – I was lucky enough to be given a small,  lightweight tripod for my birthday (Yay! 🙂 ) So this exercise was the perfect opportunity to use it.

On Shutter (S) priority mode, with a shutter speed between 1-4secs, lock your auto focus, then zoom out to the widest angle, press the shutter and zoom in until the frame is filled. Try to zoom smoothly and at a steady speed, finishing just as the exposure ends.

A zoomburst photo is all about creativity, so just have fun with it…. As you can see, I did!

We have had a group discussion about the next assignment of our course and it involves taking a series of 5 photographs to illustrate, Natural/Man-made. We need to show shape, form, texture, pattern, line, tone, colour and composition. We can interpret this task however we wish. We have 3 weeks to complete the assignment. I am currently brainstorming to think of some creative and unusual ideas. I have a feeling that the hardest part for me will be just keeping the 5 photo limit.






Weeks 7 & 8 NCFE level 1 Photography

Due to an illness, I was unfortunately, unable to attend college for two weeks… but…. it didn’t stop me getting out with my camera this weekend, as soon as I was feeling a bit better.  🙂

Since I didn’t know what my classmates had been studying, I kind of ‘winged it’ a bit…

My ever patient model, and camera assistant (aka Tripod Carrier) and I, took a trip to Chiswick House on Sunday afternoon. I snapped away quite happily for an  hour or so. (…and I didn’t even once, use the tripod! Sorry wbbf.) Chiswick House is just setting up for their Magic Lantern Festival for the Christmas period.

In this series of pictures, I played with changing the shutter speed, and f.stop to change the exposure in order to leach out all the bright colour, and take the exposure down to a silhouette of the structure and a sun flare.



The next few photos show composition and leading lines: (with only a little bit of cheating)




Balance in Composition

Rule of thirds and changing perspective on the subject.



And finally. Some gratuitous, pretty pictures… ( also demonstrating depth of field)

“Photography is an art of observation.  It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliot Erwitt.



So, as you can see, I have been putting into practice what I’ve been learning over the last several weeks.

More to come… 🙂  Back to college tomorrow…





Things that go bump in the night and pop …and whizz and bang (or having multiples.)

Week 6 NCFE Level 1 Photography


This week, in class, our tutor entertained us with magic tricks. 😊 In truth, he was taking multiple exposures and painting light trails. It was all suitably Halloween-ish. 🎃

We also talked about buying new bits of kit. A small tripod and a remote control timer – these are both relatively inexpensive.


Set up your camera on a tripod, then set your lowest ISO, f stop 22 and your shutter speed to BULB.  Position your subject at one end of the room with a light source, such as torch or mobile phone. Switch off your auto focus and focus manually. With the lights off, use a remote control timer to open the shutter.  Get your subject to ‘paint’ with the light source (If your subject is a little less juvenile than mine, they might not draw male genitalia…Although I have a feeling that the very first cave paintings were exactly that!)



Great party trick, but there are lots of fascinating light trails at this time of year. We spent Bonfire Night at my juvenile model’s favorite Thameside ‘drinking establishment’ where there was an awesome (I don’t really like that word, but it was….) fireworks display.


When all the fireworks were over, we tried some light trails across Hammersmith Bridge.


MULTIPLE EXPOSURES (or ghosts, if you like….)

More magic. Open the shutter, cover the lens with a piece of card at timed intervals of a few seconds, whilst your subject moves position. Then close the shutter.



Some people like to use the same technique to show movement in water,  I however, do not particularly like the effect of so-called ‘silky water’. Personally,  I think movement is shown much better by taking photos at a faster speed. Enough… nit picking.

Here I shall insert my excuses…..

I’ve been unwell. So, these are my moving water pictures taken from the comfort of a warm kitchen and some Lemsip.


Here I have also inadvertently demonstrated my tutor’s mantra “If you want faster shutter speed increase your ISO” There wasn’t enough light on such a dull day, so I increased the ISO but compromised the picture quality..

More next week…..

ps….I’m definitely going to need a bigger kit bag!