The top five inexpensive pieces of gear that made the biggest impact on my photography………..

…………………and I’m not talking about the latest camera bodies or the fastest most expensive glass. We’re not even in the same ballpark actually………nowhere near.

Let’s break it down. Cameras and glass aside I’m sure we’ve all had those Eureka moments on our respective photographic journeys where we’ve come to realise ‘how did I ever manage before without this piece of kit?’ Call it an epiphany if you will, but each of these individual items I’m going to list below have had a huge impact on my creative process and really enabled me to grow as an artist.

None of this stuff is going to break the bank……….

First up and probably the single most simple but ultimately effective item on the list……..The tethering cable.

Tethering to the computer during a shoot has literally transformed the way I work. I WILL NEVER LOOK BACK. Forgive the caps but I can’t emphasise enough the value of shooting this way. Working in real time and being able to see the images on the big screen will allow you (and your creative team) to make live adjustments to hair, makeup, posing, lighting and anything else that may go unnoticed on the small LCD display on the back of the camera. My subjects have always appreciated being able to see the images as they are being shot and have the opportunity to see what is working for them and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly.

Type A to Mini-B USB 2.0 Cable is the specification for my Canon Cameras. I have a couple of cheap cables I purchased from Amazon for as little as £6 which do the job perfectly, but if you wanted to buy the industry standard then Tether Tools is the place for you.

So yeah……just in case you missed it……..the tethering cable is my number one most useful piece of kit. ‘Try it…….you’ll like it’ (as my mum used to say!)

Next up…………

The C Stand and Boom Arm.

Now light (as I’m sure you already know) works best either from above (it works for the sun) or from the side in a painterly Rembrandt style. I love to light from overhead, either with the beauty dish or an octabox and this beautiful, ugly bit of metal allows me to do just that……probably the best 90 quid I’ve ever spent on grip. I can boom my 22 inch metal beauty dish front and centre of my subject without fear of it dropping down and denting the floor (or my model!) It’s truly a great bit of kit and the boom arm itself also allows for better placement and manoeuvrability of other larger modifiers in the Rembrandt position too. All in all much better choice than a regular light stand, and a LOT more sturdy.

Third on my list…….Sheets of coloured cellophane.


These cost me £3.50 for a multicoloured selection. Use them to gel your flashes. Cheap as chips as they say here in England, and very effective.

If you have some coloured gels for your flashes then why not go a step further and add some smoke?

The humble fog machine ranks next as one of my most useful pieces of kit.

Instantly add atmosphere to your studio shots with one of these. Remember to backlight the smoke and have fun!

One tip when using the smoke machine though would be to use it near the end of the shoot……the room can get a little clogged up after a few blasts and you’ll find it increasingly hard to focus until the smoke dissipates, so use sparingly.

Finally, last but not least is my wonderful painterly style cloth backdrop from KateBackdrop.

It features in many of my images for good reason, as I absolutely love it.

I do love to shoot against a storm grey backdrop and blend textures in Photoshop as this gives me a lot of creative scope in post production, but this fantastic and cheap bit of cloth really allows me to get a finished look to my pictures that I really love. I’m sure I will purchase others from the range going forward but for now I’m very happy indeed with this one.

Here’s the link to it on Amazon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my insights in this article and I’d absolutely love to hear about your own ‘go to’ pieces of kit that you simply can’t do without.

Thanks for reading and please do drop by and connect with me on social media.

Stay safe.


I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.

The Ring Mistress | Portrait Photoshoot Featuring Tegan Including Speed Edit YouTube Video

In today’s instalment I’m going to offer you an insight into this themed photoshoot featuring Tegan, which I’m delighted to say has been both well received and also published.

My approach to such a session is usually one of careful advance planning. Now for me, I have to have a structured shoot plan made and agreed upon in advance of the shoot. Your model or subject will be able to hit the ground running on shoot day if you are both on the same page in terms of styling, make-up and even posing. I go so far as to even discuss lighting setups and planned backdrops with my subject in advance of the shoot. What’s the best way to do this I hear you ask? Well for me it’s a no-brainer………Pinterest!

Sharing a Pinterest board with your subject/client/model and adding them as a collaborator is also a great way of embracing and incorporating their input into the session. It works… me!

My usual shoot process on a project like this would be to take three themed ideas. We would discuss and develop those ideas in advance and decide on an order of priority. The most basic idea usually forms the warm-up set for me. I use it to tweak lighting and get a feel for which backdrop I might use. In this case I’m using a very inexpensive cloth backdrop by KateBackdrop which has been worth it’s weight in gold to me. I love the painterly feel of it. Check out their range here…………

It just seems to complement the styling and theme so well so I was very happy with my choice here.

Incidentally my previous post deals with adding texture and colour to grey paper studio backgrounds. This might prove to be extremely useful for matching and complementing a background to your subject/model’s styling via the means of post production.

Please find the article and tutorial here………..

The two strongest themes I usually reserve for the main body of the shoot. The strongest of which I usually like to submit for a magazine publication.

So Tegan styled the Ring Mistress beautifully in my opinion. The addition of the whip made for a nice prop and we borrowed a pair of my Wife’s gloves to finish it off. I’m sure you’ll agree she looks fantastic.

Maybe you’d be surprised to hear that this shoot was completed in an extremely small room at my home with my shooting position being located across the hall in another room and shooting through two doorways back towards Tegan?! The smaller the space you have, the more creative you’re going to have to be……..thrive on the challenge though and it will help you to hone your craft at a vast rate of knots.

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought and some inspiring photoshoot ideas, but before I sign off I’ll leave you with this speed-edit video from this set.

If you are interested in any of the steps I’ve taken to achieve this look then please do reach out and connect with me on social media.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe.


I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.

Buy me a coffee at my ko-fi page.

Published in Photoshoot Magazine.

Absolutely delighted to report that I have been featured in the fantastic Photoshoot Magazine this month in their ‘FOCUS ON’ section.


It features a selection of images from the households set with model Tegan Elizabeth and another image featuring Arabella entitled ‘Seduction of Orpheus’ (I’ll showcase both of these sets in their own blog posts very soon).


My name is on the cover………you’ll have to search for it but it’s there!


So there it is.

Check out the fabulous Photoshoot Magazine out now.

Follow me on Instagram

Tegan Elizabeth



Breaking the rules.


Pretty ironic title for me as my wife will tell you that I’m a stickler for the rules. To be fair though I don’t mind breaking a few in photography. It’s my art…… rules. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this or that as it doesn’t follow the rules of photography. How would they know your artistic vision? I’ve seen a lot of squabbling online over various technicalities over the years. I stay out of it, and I do……….exactly what makes me happy.

So what photography crime have I committed I hear you ask?

Don’t worry it’s nothing too bad……….perish the thought.

I sometimes shoot beauty images with the Canon 17-40L.

I know…………………serious rule breaker.

Why would you choose this wide lens for portraiture?

Why not?



Okay well let me tell you WHY instead.

I light images like this with the large beauty dish. The dish is boomed directly out in front of the subject’s face and tilted down at a fairly shallow angle. I use the sock on it for extra diffusion (I absolutely love the light when modified like this) and I place some white foam core at chest height to fill the shadows. The dish is placed extremely close to the subject at approximately the same distance as the diameter of the modifier itself. So the 22 inch beauty dish is placed at a distance of roughly 22 inches. This is a pretty tight working space as I’m sure you’ll agree. The wide lens comes into it’s own here allowing me to shoot from directly under the beauty dish (with the lens hood literally touching the bottom edge of the dish) now I know this might not be for everyone but it certainly works for me.

A couple of things to note here though in case you were thinking of trying this technique would be to be very careful with keeping the plane of the lens level or flat to the subject………wide lenses can cause a lot of distortion if angled incorrectly and we don’t really want that…..well……unless it’s intentional of course.

The last tip is regarding the lighting. By booming the beauty dish out directly in front in this manner you can adjust the height of the light up and down which in turn will give you deeper or shallower shadows under the nose, lip and chin. Adjust to your own personal taste. It’s easy and effective. This image of Ava was shot against a painted white wall at home.

I hope you like the image and the technique.

I’m getting back to my rule following reality now.

Until next time.




Looking back at an old shoot in this post and featuring model Paige Antonia in homage to an image that I used to have on my wall as a student in London (many) years ago!


Pretty cool eh?!

I get my inspiration and ideas from many different sources and to try to make sense of them all I tend to pin them to numerous Pinterest boards which I delve into on a daily basis. It’s either that or keep hundreds of notes and tear sheets all over the place, so with that in mind I can whole heartedly recommend Pinterest for shoot planning.

We shot these images against a grey paper background in a small space at my house. Lit with a 120cm octabox with the grid on and placed to the side of Paige on her right shoulder at almost 90 degrees in the cross light position.


Now obviously we didn’t have Salvador Dali to work with to complete the look but we certainly put our own stamp on it and gave it a hundred percent. Paige is knocking the ball out of the park with this great bit of character acting.

If you were wondering about Paige well she’s a lot of fun to work with and she’s not (quite) as menacing in reality as she might seem in these pictures!


I hope you like this little insight into my shoot process/creative vision………and as always please feel free to connect with me on social media.



Penitence ft Eloise…….making the image

So following on from my first post I thought I’d put together a little before and after to give you an insight into my post production on this image in terms of the creative process.

Hopefully it will become clear that with a basic understanding of lighting, a little imagination and some Photoshop retouching techniques you can turn a fairly simple image into something far greater than the sum of it’s parts.

I don’t own a studio. I do own a few lighting modifiers, a Godox AD360 and a handful of speed lights of various brands. The majority of my images are shot in a small room at my house which doubles as my wife’s office and a playroom for our kids.

Anything is possible in photography if you learn the craft and apply yourself to it………simple.

So let’s have a look at the image before and after………………….



The first thing you might notice here is that there is no backdrop being used. I do have a storm grey paper backdrop by Manfrotto now but this image was taken before I owned one. I improvised and used the wall as my background. A painted white wall will render grey if you place your subject and light far enough away from it.

Here’s a basic lighting diagram for this image.

Penitence ft Eloise by Guest User

It’s the simplest of lighting techniques. A single octabox positioned just out of frame and right on the shoulder of the model at close quarters. The closer that light is to your subject then the softer it will be. As I mentioned previously the proximity to the model and the distance between her and the wall behind makes the white wall appear a medium grey. If you do wish to tackle the science behind this (yawn) then have a look at inverse square law. I would personally recommend setting up your gear, grabbing a willing subject and having a little play with it. Seeing the results in real time will be like an epiphany of understanding. The properties of lighting in relationship to your positioning of light and subject can be figured out easily by experimentation and furthermore…………it’s fun!

You might ask why I keep going on about grey as the background colour? Well, grey is an essential tool (to me at least) in my post production. It’s my go to weapon. In Photoshop I can use that grey background to attach and blend any texture I wish to it to give my images the look I want. I achieve this using Blend Modes. I use Overlay or Soft Light to attach a texture or two to my image and then colour it using a mixture of LUTs or Nik Collection. The possibilities are infinite. I have done some skin retouching on this picture using a frequency separation technique which I’m not going to cover in this particular post. There are also countless resources available to show you how to do this but my favourite and go to resource on YouTube would be Glyn Dewis. Glyn covers techniques like these and many more in his video tutorials and his skill in teaching them is second to none. Please drop over and check out his channel here………..

Glyn Dewis

Just a few final thoughts about this image and a mention for the model Eloise who I’ve photographed a few times now. She’s a very collaborative person and we really do get some great results when we shoot due to this. We had discussed a painterly almost Renaissance type feel to this shoot and even though this was just a warm up shot for the main theme (the main theme itself going to publication in Femme Rebelle Magazine) this was one of my favourite shots from the entire shoot. I think it’s the way she posed her hands that really gives this image some credible narrative. So there’s one more little tip for you as a parting shot………hands……….hands can make or break your image even when everything else is right.


When that penny drops with the lighting then your photography skill set has jumped to a much higher level. You’re in the realm then of making pictures rather than just taking pictures. It’s a good place to be………trust me.

I hope you found this post informative. Please feel free to connect with me on social media. I’d love to hear from you.

Buy me a coffee at my ko-fi page.