Location shoot

Vintage dress shoot with BTS for Mao Couture

I recently shot for a designer based in Newcastle. Ahn runs a small boutique in Gosforth called MaoCouture. She specialises in bridal gowns and prom wear, but on the side she creates some items that are a bit different and her designs are of an extremely high grade.For the shoot we had negotiated with the management of The Head of Steam museum in Darlington to use that as our location.  It really suited the ideas behind the shoot and the staff were helpful and accommodating, which is all you can ask.  It was snowy and cold outside, but luckily the big venue was well heated.

We had a great team for this shoot with models Micshkah and Zara, working hard and excellent make up from the very talented Josephine.  I had help with lighting from Pete, who also brought his video camera along to film some BTS footage, so there is a special treat at the bottom for those interested in seeing what goes on a shoot.

It was a fun day and the results are excellent.  We were very short of time and there was a lot to get done, but it goes to show how invaluable it is to have a good team of people around you.  Makes things so much easier.

Now for some images.

Never one to shy away from testing people, I decided to shoot the last segment outside in the snow!  With me and Pete wrapped up warm it was up to the models to show us up as they got on with the job at hand without (too much) complaining.

Below is the behind the scenes video from the shoot.  Thanks to everyone who took part, it was an excellent day.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyy6ttAz8fg?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]  


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.

Nick photoshoot

A few weeks ago I shot with Nick. Nick is a North East model and graphic designer.  I have been aware of Nicks modelling work for some time. The guy is all over the social networks and is a talented designer.   His day job is as Digital Director of Boxmodel digital media, and I have to say they do produce some high quality work.  If you are in the market for a new website or branding then check these guys out.Any way it was his modelling career that caused me to finally meet him one overcast saturday morning.  I managed to drag my assistant with me (my girlfriend, Sian) to meet at 9am.  We started on Newcastle's millennium bridge.

I had Sian holding an Sb900 speedlight with a lastolite ezybox attached.

Nick had riden into town on his old motor bike so we decided to use it as a prop.

Nick had mentioned a street behind the Sage that had been completely covered in graffiti, so we headed up there to utilise some of the colours.

For this last shot I used two flashes and experimented with using coloured gels on the second flash.  I placed it off to the right of the frame to fill in the shadows left by the key light.  I placed a blue gel on it add a certain grungy look to the scene.


Thanks for reading, for more information about my photography please visit my homepage.

Wedding supplier collective

Wow, June was a busy month.  A few months back I was asked to be part of a collective of wedding suppliers from the North East.  We organised a shoot to show off everyones products and services. All of which will be listed under the images.I was determined to shoot the images in the style of my normal wedding coverage, so basically only using natural light and one speedlight as required.  The speedlight was used in a mid sized lastolite ezybox.


This last image was shot as a Fashion image using two speed lights. One speed light to camera left in the soft box and one lighting the the white tree.


The suppliers involved in the shoot were:

Photography: Ti Amo wedding photography (Me)

Venue: Eslington Villa

Dresses: Mia Sposa Bridal and Menswear

Hair: Bespoke Hair by Paula

Make Up: Carley Michelle Hair and Makeup

Jewellery, Headwear and Flowers: Energise Weddings

Venue Decorations: Daisychain Events

Other designers there on the day:

Lifes a Celebration

Lingerie by Annette

Papaver Designs


For more information on my wedding photography or to book a consultation please email weddings@tiamophotography.co.uk

Heddon On-The-Wall Jubilee fun day

If you hadn't noticed there was some big celebration thing going on over the past few days, I know it was easy to miss. I had kept out of the way of most of the celebrations going on for the Queens Jubilee, not because I'm unpatriotic or dislike the queen (I think she has a magnificent collection of hats!). I was just very busy, utilising the long weekend to catch up on paper work and visiting the Newcastle Green Festival (in which they could have incorporated more for the Jubilee, i'm sure the Queen does her bit for the environment).Any way, being English I felt a bit bad for not taking in one part of the Jubilee (apart from the 20 seconds of concert on the telly), plus I was asked to make some submissions to Country Life Magazine for a big spread they are producing for the Jubilee.

After a quick scan of the "Whats on" guides, I decided to visit Heddon On-The-Wall where they were having a Jubilee Fun day.  It was a small affair and was pretty much a normal village fete with extra bunting and flags, but everyone was having fun.

We were lucky for about an hour as the rain held off.

This also gave me an opportunity to test out the Pocket Wizard Flex system in a work situation and I have to say I was really pleased with the performance, I was able to palm my flash onto a stranger to hold quickly whilst I took the pictures and controlled the flash output from my camera.

Thanks for reading, any questions please contact me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.  More of my work can be seen on my WEBSITE

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

Wedding boudoir

As part of my wedding photography package I have introduced a wedding boudoir option.  I decided to try and get some examples for my portfolio and although I would like everything to be natural and on assignment, sometimes you need to cheat a little bit.  So we found a model that would be willing to fulfil our requirements.  We have worked with Jo once before and luckily enough she was free and also had a wedding dress, which we could use for the shoot.  I wanted to shoot this as though it was a wedding shoot so I had Jo pretend to get ready in her bridal underwear, before putting on the dress.  It was mostly shot with available light, with some fill thrown in, using lights which would be similar to what I would use at a wedding.I am pleased with the results and it was obviously easier with somebody who is comfortable in front of the camera with very little clothing on.






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

Making a Pointe

Of late I have been receiving a few enquiries relating to dance images and dancer profiles and it was something that I was looking to do more of this year. When the first opportunity presented itself I decided to try out an idea that had been lingering in the back of my mind. I liked the idea of shooting with a backdrop of a local landmark and on a shoot earlier this year I spotted this location. On that day the sun was breaking through the clouds and was bathing the Tyne Bridge in a beautiful pink light, and that was what I wanted.When shooting on location you very rarely get everything you want and on this occasion there was no wonderful sunlight on the bridge just a vast expanse of white sky. I still had a job to do and set about working with a very talented dancer (and seemingly a very good rock climber) Ashley. Ashley worked hard and was very enthusiastic about trying different things, which was great considering it was quite cold and dull.

We went straight in with trying to create my vision and I have to say that although the results are still good they were not exactly what I was after, only due to the lack of sun in background.

We then tried a few different ideas and came out with a couple of nice images.

In our workshops we try to press home the importance of exploring all shots around your subject. By leaving the lights and subject in the same place and the photographer moving around the subject you find different angles and effects.

A couple of days ago Alien Skins released their latest version of Exposure, Exposure 4. I used v3 a fair bit and was interested in seeing what would have changed. I have only had a couple of hours with the software and will release a full review in due course, but here is a sample of some of the effects you can play with.

Thanks for reading, any questions or feedback please contact me or leave a comment.

More of my work can be seen here

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.


For a recent one to one workshop we took Danielle into the centre of Newcastle. The theme of the workshop was to be Winter Fashion, so bring out the big coats. As it was the weather was more windy than winter, but we made the most of our urban location.During such workshops we usually start with some images using natural lighting as it is very important to learn how to use ambient lighting to create some nice images. Our model today was Danielle and she is really good to work with as she will pose all day and will help by providing ideas during the shoot. This makes the shoot move along easily.

We then try some simple ideas using one speedlight, first via TTL then using radio triggers. Once you have a set up it is important to explore all positions around the subject, shooting from different angles as this will result in some different looks.

Moving on we try some different locations and introduce more complex lighting setups by using a hair light, to give a bit of texture to the image. In the final location, inside an empty shopping arcade, it was really effective dragging the shutter and introducing some of the ambient light from the spots in the roof.

Finally I tried a technique of introducing a bit of flair into the shot to try and give it a frosty look. It sort of works, but let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

Siobhan at Penshaw Monument

Even with a studio it is nice to get out and do some location work, however this turned out to be much harder work than originally anticipated. We had decided a few weeks back to shoot at Penshaw Monument just outside of Newcastle. We put the idea to a local model, Siobhan who we had wanted to shoot with for a fair while, and she was up for it. Once up there though things did not really work in our favour as the gorgeous evening light which we were hoping to work with disappeared behind the biggest black cloud ever and the wind really picked up.Anyway we plodded away and came out of the experience with a couple of good shots. On location I tend to work with speedlights on non commercial jobs, mainly for portability and convenience. I use Nikon so my trusty friend here is a SB900 with a Lastolite softbox. The Monument had some nice lighting going on, in order to capture it and the remnants of the lasting light from the sky I needed to increase the ISO and drag the shutter on my D3 as much as possible. Some shutter speeds were down to 1/15th!

Thanks for reading and any comments and questions are welcome.