Studio

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.

Ciao!

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

Moving and Shooting

Well its been a hectic few weeks, which has caused this delay in blogging. Things have been moving very quickly. A couple of weeks back we went to have a look at a new studio space, with only a half hearted idea of actually moving. Well needless to say we are now installed in our new studio. Its all been a bit of a blur, but we are really happy that we have moved. This new studio is over twice the size of our old one and it really goes to highlight how squashed we were in there. 

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We are now installed and open for business as it were.

Last week we held our first lighting workshop in the new studio. It was all very exciting. The workshop was held for members of a facebook group that we are activily invovled with and i am glad to say that everyone had a good time and hopefully learnt something. It was nice to meet the members of the group, who we had been chatting with for quite a while.

As I was demonstrating for most of the evening I didn't manage to grab too many images on the night, but I did get a couple of nice ones.

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It was a fun evening and we will be hosting more of them in the future, so keep an eye on the Freedom Light Studio website for more information.  Our new studio is based in the Cloth Works Business centre, Industry road.

 

Thanks for reading. For more of my work visit my Website

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 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.

Bryony

As part of a studio open day we welcomed Bryony into the studio to take part in a lighting demo.

Once again the lighting was kept very simple to begin with using a softbox and umbrella combination similar to the one mentioned in my previous post with Laura. I won't dwell on it other than to reiterate how good this lighting set up is for some nice classical portraits.

We then introduced a third light into the setup. We wanted more of a fashion look to this one so we went with soft box as a key light with an umbrella filling in the shadows caused by the hat. There was a second softbox at a 45 degree angle behind the model camera right.

For a change I demoed the silver reflective umbrella, which is not something I use a lot, but it can be useful especially with a subject who has darker skin and any jewellery, as it really makes things glisten. In this case its the effect on Bryony's black hair that I really like.

Then for a complete change we broke out the orange background and really went for a summery look, involving the wind machine.

This bright and cheerful look was created by very simply having the octabox almost 45 degrees in front of the model camera right, and having a strobe with a barn door lighting the background, creating a very light halo effect around Bryony. This worked well to provide a nice even lighting whilst still having a bit of texture using a bit of contrast.

And Finally.......

One very important aspect to remember when photographing people is to explore every angle. The whole atmosphere can change just by moving around the model, in this case shooting from the shadow side has created a nice low key portrait, resulting in something a little different.

Thanks for reading. Any feedback or questions are welcome info@darrenobrien.co.uk

Laura

We had an open day at the studio and we held a couple of studio demos. Laura was our first model of the day, she is notable figure on the North East burlesque scene (going by the name of Princess Pandora), but for this shoot we went for a grungy fashion styling.

First of all we started against a nice wallpaper backdrop using the Octabox in a very simple set up. Using the Octa you do not really need much else in terms of lighting. Positioning is the key with it, because the light can easily wrap around a subject creating a lovely soft light.

As I said a very simple lighting set up, but it produces a lovely light.

We then went for a more high key fashion look using a softbox and umbrella combo. In this set up the sofbox acted as the key or main light with the umbrella providing the fill. It is important to have the fill at least 1 stop lower than the main light otherwise the lighting will appear flat. When using a light meter with a two light set up such as this, especially when using an umbrella, it can be easier to measure the lights separately. Turning one off and measuring and then turning the other off and measuring. This provides a more accurate reading. I also tend to measure towards the light as opposed to towards the camera. This enables me to make sure I have no blown hotspots in my image.

For the last one we turned on the wind machine and added a cross processing filter in post production.

Thanks for reading.

Abi workshop

Today we were lucky to have Abi in our studio for a workshop. She is a brilliant model and is always a pleasure to shoot. She has been seeing a bit of success of late with her modelling career, with some high profile work coming up. It was privilege to shoot with her and wish all the best with her career.We started the workshop with a classical portrait lighting set up, using a softbox above and an umbrella below, producing what is known as the clam shell set up. Its not the most exciting set up, but it does produce pleasing results in most circumstance. It produces very even coverage, with the upper softbox used as the keylight with the umbrella being used to fill any wrinkles or bags under the eyes (Abi has very few of these anyway). In this situation it is best to have the fill light a stop lower than the key light so as not to produce a completely flat image. As you can see below, there is still some texture in the lighting that still makes it interesting.

Now personally I prefer a higher contrast look and for this I like to use the Octa, as it produces very soft light and has a nice light fall off.

Thanks for reading, any questions and feedback are welcome.

Lilith

We recently had Lilith in the studio and had a very enjoyable shoot. Lilith is a beautiful model that has a variety of looks due to her short brightly coloured and collection of wigs. We wanted something a bit different and grungy and Lilith fitted the bill perfectly.We started with one light and a grid to get some really hard directional light. With a model such as Lilith this worked a treat due the structure of her face which has nice strong features. This lighting set up does not work with all models so you have to judge that, you might end up with a very unhappy model and they can be vicious (only joking). With this sort of lighting you have to really work the lightmeter to work out your hotspots because the light is so directional. I was measuring f8 on the models face, but f11 on her breast area. Taking just one meter reading would have led to a hotspot on her chest, which is not where we really wanted it.

We then added a rim light to add some more depth to the shot. For this I usually have the rim light about a stop lower than the key light, but changing the power creates different effects so it is worth trying different light ratios.

Shooting in the studio is good, but sometimes its fun to add a bit of scenery, luckily the studio is surrounded by interesting corridors and stairs. Lilith put on one of her wigs and we went for a more straight up fashion shot, which is something the model wanted for her portfolio. luckily she had brought with her this fantastic blue dress that went with the location really well.

I have to admit I don't do an awful lot of Glamour stuff so this last part of the shoot was reasonably new to me but here is one shot the set.

Thanks for reading. Comments and questions always welcome.

Forzana and Afsi

We have tried for a long time to organise a shoot with Forzana and Afsi, but for what ever reason we have never managed to get it sorted due to our busy schedules. Anyway we finally managed to arrange something.Luckily this coincided with the acquisition of a Canon 5D MKII which we were dying to try out.

I started off using mainly the large Octa as I really like the high contrast look.

Both of these were shot with the 5D MKII and I have to say I was impressed with the results. The sensor really does capture a level of detail which I have only ever seen in files from medium format cameras. That said I very quickly went back to using my Nikon.

We then tried a flatter approach to lighting by placing the octa in front of Forzana to create a more editorial fashion look. The image was made black and white in Lightroom.

Then we just had a "lets see what happens" session at the end. Sometimes these parts of the shoot can yield some good results, but mainly its just to try something different and see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Felicity and Lucy

This week we had Felicity and Lucy in the studio. I don't do too many free (tfcd) shoots at the moment as the schedule is pretty tight, but when Felicity contacted me saying that her friend was visiting from Swindon and were looking for a shoot I thought what the hey. Essentially I took on photography as a job because I loved it and sometimes it is nice to just shoot without the pressure of deadlines and briefs. Plus I had a new strip softbox and a barn door grid set that I was dying to test out.Anyway here are a few from the shoot, as always I look forward to hearing comments and thoughts on the images.

First off we did some standard fashion stuff. I am really liking High contrast images at the moment and this was how I started using the Octabox as key light and the new strip as an accent light.

Felicity then wanted to try and get some fashion shots similar to the current trend in tight advertising, so with this I just used the octa as the key light and a small softbox as fill. This gives much flatter lighting in keeping with the ideas we had.

We then finished off with some standard fashion shots, which were some of my favourites from the evening

Thanks for reading.