Posted tagged ‘softbox’

Same person: different look.

December 16, 2010

In creative portrait photography how an image looks is down to the photographer.  In the studio how you light your subject is critical, and for location images it’s critical to work properly with the natural light.  How you then modify the light can dramatically affect the look of an image. 

Once you have your lighting sorted, simple changes to the composition of the image can also change the look significantly.

"Split image" by Derek Gale

Take this image:  The lighting, a soft-box from the front, is quite simple.  The interest comes from having the subject’s face split by a sheet of muslin that was hung up to act as a diffuser/reflector.  I had taken a series without the muslin and then asked her to move slightly so that it was partly in front of her face.  It was far enough away from her to be nicely out of focus, and its translucency allowed the obscured part of her face to show through sufficiently.

"Hair!" by Derek Gale

We tried to get some shots  of her hair “in flight”. They were fine, but I wanted more structure to the image.  We spread her hair out on the studio floor and I shot from a step-ladder directly above her.   It was simple to light with a fairly directional light on her hair which gave a nice sharp shadow under her chin.  Even though her expression was similar to the previous image, the end result was very different!

"Poster girl" by Derek Gale

Away from the studio there’s less control of lighting direction, unless you carry remotely fired flash units, so you need to be careful with where you do your shoot.  This urban image was at an abandoned car repair centre and the fly posters had been  busy.  I made sure that enough of a poster was included to clearly show the type of area we were in, but not so much that the poster’s text was a distraction.  Her pose echoed the pose of the man on the poster.  I’ve punched up the background colour by “cross-processing” it in Photoshop.

"Wall supports" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot, completely different look.  The pipes in the image were supports for a wall near the Railway Village in Swindon and were at quite an acute angle.  By asking my model to lean on the pipes, and then tilting the camera so she looked more upright, her arms became much more elegant.  The background brickwork also became less distracting.  A crop to simplify the image, a bit of “diffuse glow”, and it was done.

"Estate portrait" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot and yet another look.  This final image shows how the most mundane of objects, an estate car, can be used for creative portraits.  My model is lying down on the load area floor.  The car’s open rear hatch screened the direct sun, which meant that the remaining light was beautifully diffused.  The grey carpet and shadow area from the rear seats acted as a perfect foil to her skin tones.  The black and white conversion simplified the image.

As you can see: one day, one model, many different looks.  Control your lighting and your composition to get variety into your images.




I’m just a regular guy: Part 2

March 18, 2010

I mentioned in a previous post how much fun it was to photograph a family on a regular basis.  Here’s another example… 

A few years ago I photographed a couple of dogs for some clients, then their other dog, then their wedding photography (the clients not the dogs!), and then did a portrait shoot for their son’s first birthday.  Well, he was two years old recently, and we had the pleasure of another portrait shoot with him.  He was great to work with, with a real character developing. 

Child portraits by Gale Photography

"K at two 1" by Gale Photography


For the studio images I used a single large softbox off to camera right.  It gave a softly directional light which made for good light and shadow on the child’s face.  I made sure I was at the child’s eye level for most of the images, as it made him more important in the frame. 

"K at two 2" by Gale Photography


Here, I’ve got just a little bit below his eye level.  It gives an unusual viewpoint, because we are used to being higher than a child.  He’s turned a bit more towards the softbox, which has given a more even light coverage with fewer shadows. 

In this last studio image he’s happily playing with his toy, and the look of concentration on his face is super.  

"K at two 3" by Gale Photography


His head and arms make a strong triangular composition.  In this image I’ve chosen to keep some colour, unlike the other images that I’ve converted to black and white.   The low colour saturation makes the image have an attractive mood. 

After the studio portrait session, we went outside for some location portraits.  I wanted to get a shot of him on some steps but he didn’t want to sit there.  I tried a classic bit of “reverse psychology”, and told him that he mustn’t sit on the steps.  It worked perfectly; he immediately sat there! 

"K at two 4" by Gale Photography


The expression on his face was perfect.  He thought he’d been mischievous, and I got a great shot. 

All in all it was an excellent portrait session, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s. 



What’s Black and White and Red all over?

February 25, 2010

Well, the old joke (about a newspaper) is supposed to say “What’s black and white, and read all over?”, but you get the picture.  In this case I’m talking about the background colour in your photographs.  It ought to be simple, and not make much difference, but in creative portrait photography the colour of the background can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of an image.  

Here are some example images where I have used simple studio lighting techniques to light the main subject.  In most of them I’ve then controlled the background colour using another light on the background. 

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography


In this image the light falling on the background is what’s called “spill” from the main light on the right hand side.  It’s lit the background just enough to stop it being completely black, which would have lost the subject’s dark top, but has kept the mood of the image. 

Putting a large softbox behind the subject makes the background go white, which gives a much brighter feel to the image. 

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography


This brighter mood is helped by turning the subject so he is looking straight out at the camera.  The very, very bright background causes a bit of lens flare around the edges of the subject, which lifts the colour up a bit. 

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography


With this studio portrait I’ve used a red filter on the background light.  It contrasts well with the cooler blue tones of her clothing, and keeps the mood of the image up, even though the subject isn’t smiling.   The light was carefully placed to give a gradation of colour density from left to right, and to make the bottom of the background quite dark.  This made the image more interesting than if it was all the same colour density and lightness. 

So that’s the black, the white and the red.  This final image is almost the reverse of the one before, in that the background is blue, and the main subject clothes are red. 

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography


The blue background has an excellent contrast with the subject’s skin tones, and the pattern of the background helps to add extra elements to the simple composition.  In each case the lights have been carefully arranged to give a brighter centre and darker edges.  This means that the blue background is brightest close to where there is the most light on the main subject. 

So, that’s a black background, a white background, a red background, and an extra bonus of a blue background. 

If these images have inspired you to have your own creative portrait shoot, why not check out our website at then give us a call on 01793 783859 to book. 



Bringing back the craft

January 27, 2010

2010 marks the start of my 10th year in business as a professional photographer!!! 

It’s been a fascinating ten years, and the one thing that has remained constant is this; the need to continually change!   My latest change is that I’ve launched a new portrait photography service and a new wedding photography service, and updated my website to reflect these changes. 

The reason for the change is simple; now that nearly everyone has a digital camera, I think that the very informal “reportage” style of image popular in the “Noughties” is undervalued.  I reckon that professional photographers need to demonstrate their skill and creativity by using a wide range of lighting techniques inside the studio, and by taking carefully composed, unusual, and distinctive portraits when shooting on location – so that’s what I’m doing!  

Here’s an example of what I mean… 

"Directional light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

"Directional light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

This studio portrait uses a hard-edged strongly directional light to create a pool of light with areas of shadow.  It allows us to concentrate on the person’s face. 

Contrast it with the next studio portrait, where natural light from a window gave much softer lighting (nature’s softbox!), yet still produced a very powerful image.

"Window light portrait" by Gale Photography

"Window light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

In both cases the background is dark, but the difference in lighting creates a different mood in each image. 

The same emphasis on lighting is used for location portraits.  This image uses off-camera flash, and that flash was balanced with the ambient light to create a dramatic mood, again with areas of light and shadow. 

"Off-camera flash outside" by Gale Photography

"Off-camera flash location portrait" by Gale Photography

This style of portrait is much harder to get right than using more diffuse light, but the end results are definitely worth it.  They’re more dramatic, more individual, and more different.

The same philosophy applies to the new wedding photography service.  All of your friends and family will be taking loads of informal images, so instead of doing the same, I’m now offering a bride and groom “wedding fashion shoot”.  In this shoot the emphasis is on producing a great set of distinctive images of the two of you, and of each of you.

"Bridal Fashion Portrait" by Gale Photography

"Bridal Fashion Portrait" by Gale Photography

Sounds interesting?  You can find out more about this exciting new portrait and wedding photography service at the new Gale Photography website at   Have a look and let me know what you think. 


Gale Photography

Tripping the light fantastic

October 23, 2009

Working in the studio I try and keep my lighting simple.  It’s easier, and helps me concentrate on getting the best images for our portrait photography clients.  It’s very interesting how you can change the feel of an image by some simple lighting changes.  I’ll illustrate this with some recent portraits.

In this first image there’s a main light (a softbox) to his right, and what’s called a fill light to his left.  This lighting gives nice modelling to the face whilst filling in any shadow areas.  It’s a classic style of portrait photography lighting.

"Classic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Classic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

Here a simple change to the lighting direction relative to the subject’s face makes for a much more dramatic image.  He’s now looking straight at the main light, and the fill light has become a light for his hair.  He’s closer to the light, which means an exposure change, so the background has become much darker.  I’ve added to this photographic mood change by slightly changing the colours of the image in Photoshop.  It’s now a much more creative image.

"Dramatic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Dramatic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

Next, I’ve used a large window to light the subject.  This light is strongly directional, and gives her face some lovely modelling.  I’ve asked her to turn her head sufficiently towards the light so that both of her eyes were lit, and so that her hair on the left of the frame got enough light to show its shape.

"Window Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Window Portrait" - by Gale Photography

In this final image, lit with a studio flash in a softbox, the lighting on her face is more diffuse, but I’ve balanced the ambient light outside and the flash to separate her from the background.  This gives a slightly surreal feel to the image.

"Balanced Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Balanced Portrait" - by Gale Photography

To see more of our portrait images, have a look at the Portrait Gallery on our website    If you would like to see images of yourself, why not book a Portrait Experience with us?

You can never stop learning!

June 11, 2009

I spent last weekend on an advanced portrait photography course in Fairford.  You may ask why I, as a person who offers photographic training, needed to go on a training course.  Well, in a field as large and as varied as photography there’s always something new to learn, and with this course I had the chance to try out some lighting equipment that I don’t have.  This included an Elinchrom Octa.  The Octa is a huge softbox, and I mean HUGE, that gives an incredibly soft and flattering light similar to that coming from a large window.  It’s so big it wouldn’t actually fit into our studio!

We were lucky enough to have great models to work with, ranging from Charlotte Thomson to Dave’s Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter 1500 motorbike.  The image shows both and is lit with five lights including the Octa.

1505 bw small

I’m really looking forward to developing some of the ideas from the weekend into the photography we offer our clients.