Editorial Fashion

Maz on location.

I couple of months ago I was lucky enough to shoot with the beautiful Maz.  She had a couple of outfits that we were looking to shoot and being summer we thought that a location shoot would be great. Well as usual it rained, a lot.We proceeded with the make up with the hope that the rain would clear away, at least enough to shoot something.  We got a lucky break in the weather so rushed down to Heaton Park to shoot at the victorian pavilion.  Maz had brought with her a Vivian Westwood dress which really complimented the location.

We headed back to base as the weather turned again, so we changed the make up, outfit and location.  Another break in the rain saw us out in the back streets of Heaton.

One last change of costume and Make up and we were out again.  The other item that Maz had brought was this very colourful designer jacket.  Viki, our make up artist did a wonderful job creating a different look.

My favourite image of the day came from the first section of the shoot.  I really love fashion images that are set in cafes and luckily for us there is an Italian restaurant (Sambucas).  We asked permission to use their outside tables.  I wanted to create the feeling of the afternoon/evening sun so I put a full cut of CTO (colour temp orange) onto a single speedlite off to camera right.  I blended it with the ambient to give the appearance that the sun was setting over her shoulder.


Thanks for reading, as always please contact me with any questions.

Black Swan Fashion

Unfortunately i had to surrender my studio at the end of May, but before I said goodbye I managed to fit in one last shoot.  I was approached by Rachel to shoot her final degree project.  The clothing range, inspired by the current economic situation, was a collection of reversible outfits. One side was white the other black, the idea being that one outfit could be worn during the day and then the other on a night out (although hopefully with a wash in between).The idea was to produce a collection of images based on the Black Swan.  The ballet theme was the obvious choice, with an image showing the white and black side for each outfit.  The series of images had narrative showing the journey from the naive and gentle white side to the more aggressive and stronger dark side.

This selection is taken out of context, they do not keep to the narrative (I did not have enough space).


Thanks for reading. Now that things have settled down I promise to update my blog more frequently.


Sophie studio and location

I was able to fit in a shoot with the beautiful Sophie at my studio.  I had been wanting to shoot with Sophie for a while after seeing some of her portfolio on Facebook.  In this shoot we managed to do some work outside on location.  I enjoy shooting on location because there are so many variables and it can often be a challenge, but then the environment is much more interesting and it can be fun thinking of ways to get the subject to interact with it.Anyway here are a couple of the studio images.


It was a nice day outside and we found this really cool building which was covered in graffiti.  It made for a really colourful backdrop.

We moved back inside for the final shots using the corridors of the studio building.

Shooting outside and in the corridors allowed me to use my new pocket wizard flex system.  I haven't had much time to use them at the moment, but from these first couple of experiences, I can see that they will be a big help for location work.  They allow full ttl control of the speed lights, and with the AC3 controller allow me to change the power ratios from the camera.  Interesting stuff, I will hopefully be back with more examples of how this system works.

Thanks for reading, have a browse of my portfolio.  Any questions please contact me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk

New Model, Leika

I was introduced to Leika through a make up artist that I have worked with once or twice. New models offer a challenge that is different to that of an established, more experienced, model. In some ways it is more exciting as you have to work harder than normal to produce the great shots.  Working with a new model means that you, the photographer, has to be that little more creative.  It can be easy to rely on a model to produce the goods without much prompting (even though I nearly always fine tune the final poses to fit my ideas).Leika was a pleasure to work with and soon got into the stride of things, and even took a good dollop of cold weather for the team. She should have a bright modelling future.

To get in the mood we started with some very simple portraits.  I often start the shoot this way, first of all it allows me to talk to the model and familiarise myself with their working style. Most of all it is a good way of breaking the ice, using a lighting set that i know will produce good results straight away.  The last thing I want to do is start the shoot producing images that look terrible (not that I ever do that!)





Leika was building a portfolio for a local modelling agency and needed a variety of shots, so we changed up the lighting and went for a few longer shots.  These were taken using speed lights (SB900) and I used the Pocket Wizard flex system to trigger them via ttl. I will write a bit more about this system in a future post, but so far I have been quite impressed.

The first speedlight was fired into a silver reflective umbrella to camera right and a second SB900 was fired into a silver reflector on the floor to provide a nice glowing fill.

We then changed it up and did some shots that showed of Leika's figure a bit more.

We had a bit of spare time at the end of the shoot so decided to brave the weather and head into the cold to see what we could find.  I had spotted this location outside the studio earlier in the day and though that it might make a good image and something else for Leika to add to her portfolio.

Again I used the pocket wizards and an SB900 to light the model whilst underexposing the background.

Thanks for reading, any questions please contact me at info@darrenobrien.co.uk

For more of my work visit my website.




Use available Light!

Over the years I have spoken to many people about the art of portrait taking and specifically the use of flash.  A few people have shown me images with the accompanying statement of "if I had better lights" or "if I had this bit of equipment", "then the shot would have been better".  Well in a lot of cases this is not true.Some people miss the point of portrait taking, they are too interested in lighting, where to put the key light, how many lights should I use etc. Any connection with the subject is lost in amongst the technical babble.  A photograph of an uncomfortable, bored subject is just that, no matter how many lights people throw at them.

This is where the problem lies,  Many people have never taken a thoughtful portrait using just available light, before jumping in with the flash guns.  Whilst doing my travel and documentary work I have honed my skills at taking portraits with just the light available at the time, as it is sometimes too intrusive to bang away with the flash.  This has helped me to understand the value of a portrait, and how different lighting works and how to adapt to different lighting conditions.  I know how my light should look and this is then transferrable into the studio or with using flash.  I can now say to myself, "if the sun was in this position my portrait would look better, but I want to keep the background as it is, so I will introduce my flash here."

As most of you will know I have my own studio (for now), but this has not stopped me from utilising the lovely natural light that is available in the studio and in the corridors.

In a recent shoot with Jade I ventured out into the corridors of the studio building.  I found a nice bank of frosted glass windows that were filling the place with a lovely light.  I used this as key light for most of the shots, but I also took a couple that were filled in using the white wall.  I was shooting with a 70-200mm so i was shooting wide open at f2.8 and occasionally f 5.6,  at iso 400.  For natural light portraits I love shooting wide open as much as possible.




These were taken on my latest shoot with Sithembile, I have already shown the shots taken with the studio lights in my previous post , but these were taken with just the light from the sky lights.  again all taken at f2.8 on my 85mm, at iso 800.  It was an overcast day the windows are frosted so it was really soft light.



If you are inexperienced with taking portraits, try mastering them using available light and perhaps a reflector. Using flash adds a complication to the equation which just adds to the negative of the experience. Just strip it back to you, your subject and the available light and you will begin to see an improvement in your portraits.  Work with the light, move your subject to get the most out of it, the results can be just as spectacular as using flash.  Check out the work of Steve McCurry, when it comes to using natural light for portraits there are not many better.

Thanks for reading, any question please email me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment below.


For more of my work visit my websiste

Taking inspiration

I have found it increasingly important to go into shoots with a plan, especially if I am undertaking a free or TF shoot.  It helps to give focus and generally enables you to achieve more.  This brings me to the main point of this post.  Finding inspiration is an important part of being a photographer and is essential when first starting out.  When I began dabbling with off camera lighting, I did my research and found other photographers who's work inspired me.  Using this inspiration I learnt about lighting and technique, by copying their methods (not the same as copying their ideas) I was able hone my way of working.  I took great inspiration from the likes of Joe McNally and later Frank Doorhof.It was when looking for new inspiration I came across the work of photographer Gilbert Rossi, based in Australia.  The first couple of images in his fashion portfolio were the standout ones.  Featuring black models in very strong posing with selective lighting.  Anyway when I finally got chance to work with the beautiful Sithembile I knew where I was going for the inspiration for my shoot.

The following are my take on the idea and should not be thought of as attempts to directly copy Gilbert's style.




I also thought that Sithembile would suit Black and White (to be honest she would suit most images) and so I took a couple that I always intended to be B&W.  things were quite easy with Sithembile as she worked very hard changing up her posing etc. It was very difficult to take a bad shot.



Just about had enough time to grab some traditional beauty shots to really pick out the subtle but nice make up, provided on the this occasion by Carly Michelle Wallington.



Thanks for reading, please feel free to ask any questions or leave feedback.

Lu in the studio

The other day I had my first proper shoot in the new studio and also with the new gray background that we have installed. I contacted Lu as I had been looking to shoot with her for a while and she jumped at the chance to do a test shoot. Lu is a beautiful model and a lovely person as well. She was very energetic and was willing to give any ideas a go.Lu brought her own outfits and we decided to start with a smart style. We introduced some movment into the images to make them a bit more dynamic. We began by shooting with a silver umbrella, but this just didn't suit the looke that we were trying to achieve so we switch to the large Octabox.


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We then tried some different posing.

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We then tried a different outfit and decided to shoot against one of the patterened backgrounds that we have installed. Again this was shot with the Octabox, but this time the aperture was dropped to f4 to blur the background.

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We then moved back to the grey and introduced a prop in the way of our office chair, which worked quite well and offered something a bit different.

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Thanks for reading. You can see more of my work on my website

Vicky at the Black Rose Tattoo Studio.

Location shoots are always exciting because you are not always sure what the place will be like until you get there. I have been looking to shoot in a tatoo studio for a while, but I was really looking for the right place. Well today I finally managed to get the shoot done. Vicky put a posting on facebook, looking to do some dark themed pin up style shots and a friend of hers had a Tatoo studio we could use. So with the car packed I headed to just south of Durham, to Spennymoor. I had arranged to meet a few of the guys from our facebook group.The location was great, with a nice set retro funiture and plenty of space. Vicky was a great model and worked hard and we grabbed some nice shots. It was good to meet up and chat with the other guys too and it is always interesting to see how others work.












As some of you may have noticed I have udated and changed the look of my blog and website. I would love to hear any feedback or issues you may have with the new layouts. info@darrenobrien.co.uk

Thanks for reading. For more of my work visit www.darrenobrien.co.uk

Jo on Location

We have been working behind the scenes on a lot of things and putting into practice some exciting developments. Anyway we finally made time to shoot for fun. We really wanted to do something on location, especially in the back streets around our studio.Our poor model for the day was Jo, not someone we had previously shot with but had a pretty good portfolio. Even though it was warmer than the last week it was still very, very cold. The main purpose of the shoot was to test out a new location umbrellabox. Basically this is a compact softbox that opens and shuts like an umbrella, it has a diffused white panel on the front. It is mainly designed for speedlights but it could easily be used in a studio. It has an opening in the bottom to insert a light stand and works well when used with a standard light stand head. Apollo do a great version for around £100, but I have to admit this one was £18.99 of off ebay, on this evidence probably the best £20 I have ever spent. It is really easy to use and produces a nice soft light. The only slight issue I have is that the flash sits to the top of the soft box, so you end up with a hot spot towards the top, but otherwise it is really good.

As mentioned it was quite cold so we worked quickly with some ideas we had formulated.

For these shots I was going for more portraits than fashion or editorial. We found this rough door with peeling paint and really liked the effect.

We then went back to studio and worked the back wall. The white wall produces a nice contrast with the bright orange in Jo's outfit.

I then quickly grabbed a low key shot in the studio.

It was a very cold day and I am still warming up, I might go and grab a cuppa! Thanks for reading.

To see more of my work visit www.darrenobrien.co.uk. Feedback and questions welcome.

Faith on location - High level Bridge

When I came to write this post I realised that I hadn't written a blog since the end of November! December was a hectic month, what with Christmas and the dog ate my notebook (sorry regressing, I don't even have a dog). Anyway welcome to my first blog post of 2012!A few months ago I had my first wander across the High level bridge crossing over the tyne. I was struck by the archways and iron work and it very much reminded me of Paris for some reason, anyway all I new was I wanted to use it for a location shoot. The idea found its way to the back of my mind until another wander a few weeks ago brought it back to my attention (I don't spend all my time wandering, honest). I had been wanting to do more location shoots (as you do when the weather turns horrible) and decided to plan something.

Back in November I spoke to Faith, someone I had not shot before but was really impressed by her portfolio, she liked the idea and the plan was made. Anyway the day arrived and, as per usual with the good British weather, it was raining and blowing a gale. So that day we did the studio fashion shoot. I enjoyed working with faith and I think she liked the results, so when the idea popped up to try and reorganise a shoot on the High Level, she was the first port of contact. Happily she agreed.

On the morning of the shoot I was a little concerned as the wind was howling, but as the shoot was at 2pm I held my breath. Luckily the wind dropped and it turned into a pleasant afternoon.

As with all location shoots I like to start using available light and as the sun was nice and low and bathing the side of the bridge it gave us some nice directional light. I used a reflector to fill in the shadows a little bit.

I then introduced some flash and decided to shoot with the sun back lighting Faith. This worked well to bring out the colour of her hair.

A change of clothes later (thanks to the staff at the Bridge Hotel) and we were on to a more high fashion set up. At the end of the Bridge there is a balcony area and there is a lovely textured wall, which was amazing to shoot against. We lit the wall with a speedlight on a stand and lit the model with a small lastolite Eazybox on a hand held pole. I like working this way as you can shape and manipulate the light much easier than if it is on a stand. Obviously you do need somebody to hold it for you.

When processing the above image it really reminded me of an old Hollywood horror film still, especially with the pose and lighting. During processing I gave it a vintage look which added to that theme.

The main thing that attracted me to the bridge in the first place was the arched walkways along the side of the road. I just used a one light set up here and exposed to allow some the lovely available light to come through, so the image had more texture going into the background.

There was something about the above image that instantly reminded me of the Titanic (or at least that era of naval history) probably the Iron work and the repeating arches. It looks like it could be in the belly of a ship.

Thanks for reading and I promise it won't be such a long time before my next post. Here is a bonus shot from the shoot.

Faith in the Studio - Part 2

I have already put up some images from my recent shoot with Faith, but as we covered a few different outfits and styles so I thought I would split the resulting collection into a couple of posts. The first post was a collection of editorial style images that worked well as a collection. This set is a little bit more varied.The first part of the shoot was to add some high fashion shots to Faiths portfolio and we changed up the clothes to add a bit of variety.

We then wanted to try something different and decided to go for an old school holywood styling as I thought that Faith resembled a certain TV and film actress from the 90's (guess who it is!).

We then tried something Gothic before going for a high key set up.

Thanks for reading comments and feedback welcome blog@darrenobrien.co.uk

Faith in the studio - Part 1

A few days ago I was lucky to welcome Faith into the Studio. I had seen some images from her previous shoots and thought that we would be able to create some good work together. The shoot went really well and I cannot speak highly enough of Faith. She came well prepared to try different things and had a variety of looks which we explored throughout the shoot. I was really amazed to find out that Faith had really only began modelling a few months ago as she was every bit the pro.I came out with lots of images from this shoot (which is very unusual for me) so I have decided to make this a two parter as I feel that the following collection made a nice set on their own. At this stage in the shoot we were going for an editorial look. For editorial fashion I personally prefer the look of black and white as it looks a bit more graphic and focuses the viewer on the shapes as opposed to colour. I was concious to provide a bit of variety, so I also mixed a few colour images too, which shows off Faith's red hair brilliantly.

The following three work well as a black and white set.

Finally, this was my favourite image from the whole shoot. We spend so much time posing models and creating a shot it easy to forget that it is the natural moments that create the best images. The best advice is to always keep shooting, even when talking and joking with the subject, keep the camera to your eye and be ready to press the shutter.

More to come! Thanks fore reading.