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.



Getting creative with the lighting.

“Slice” featuring Rue Moriah

Creative Fashion Beauty Headshot

I love to experiment with lighting during my model shoots and I’d wanted to try this technique out that I’d seen used by the master Joel Grimes for a while.

It’s a relatively simple lighting setup but hopefully you’ll agree that the results are quite striking.

The first step is to get the backlight right. In this case the background is a large octabox placed directly behind the subject’s head. You have to bring the power up just enough but not too much as to blow out the highlights. A good way to check this is to enable the highlight alert on your camera (the blinkies) or if shooting tethered it’s easy to check the highlight clipping on the histogram in Lightroom. Simple trial and error will get you to the right place in just a couple of shots. I particularly like the way light wraps around the subject’s face as a result of this.

Nest step is to establish the main light. For this I’ve used a Godox speedlight inside a Rogue grid to create a tight beam of light. To make it even tighter I fashioned a slit over the front of the grid using two pieces of cardboard and some tape (I wanted that beam of light to be really tight)! I boomed this light directly in front and aimed down at Rue’s face and adjusted it until we got it right.

The black and white edit was intentional to really emphasise the contrast.
I hope you like the image.

Joel’s video on the subject is most definitely worth a watch and can be viewed here

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.

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.