12th December 2009 – Studio practice!

Written on December 12, 2009 – 11:18 pm | by BryonyParkes |

Yesterday afternoon I met up with a local photographer, the lovely Christina Lauder at her fantastic studio. Christina kindly gave up some time to let me try some photography within a studio set up, using her lights and tuition.

I love Christina’s work and have been following her blog for some time now. Thank you, for your time and patience Christina!

I had the small one with me, so she became the focus of the session. We tried three different set ups using studio lights and a wireless flash trigger set mounted on the top of my camera with the other of the pair connected to the main fill light. I have to say, I much preferred this method of triggering the lights instead of using the flash gun. I’ll be adding these to my wish list!

The first set up was with two fill lights only. I love the natural essence of these shots and has made me consider using more natural backgrounds rather than blowing the white out all the time.

(excuse the dummy in this one)

Christina pointed out that I need to think a bit more on the spot about composition. Although a sweet shot that I am actually quite pleased with in terms of the subject, the line of the floor meeting the wall is a bit distractingly (unfortunately?) positioned!

So I tried this one, taken from above:

The second set up, was blowing the white backdrop out using two lights against the white wall which would then, additional to the fill lights, create that bright background that is so popular in this day and age.

Lastly we had a go at some black background, although my daughter was getting a little on the cranky side by now! We used the fill lights again, and a single light shining away from the black wall, as I understand the black background comes best from the light dropping between the subject and the background rather than lighting up the background as in the blown out white. I found this a lot more tricky so the photos aren’t perfect, and perhaps editing is where I need to improve more here, but nonetheless a very good learning experience.

All these shots have been edited by me, just using the small selection of tools that come with Windows Photo gallery that I have on my computer, once I got home. While I was still at the studio, Christina edited three of my shots, how she would have done if she had taken them for a client, using Photoshop and explained what she was doing as she went along. I was really impressed with the results. The images are so much softer and the skin tone is just lovely. They look far more professional than my edits that’s for sure. I can’t quite believe I took them!

I think I need to gain my confidence using Photoshop, particularly if I start taking on some casual work at any point in the future. I have had a lesson from a friend, and then Christina helped me further but gaining the courage to start using it when I’ve always just “got by” with a simple edit program was hard. However seeing the differences between the edits of a shot that I made, and the edits of a shot that Christina made, from the same Jpeg file has helped. They didn’t need editing a huge deal, but sometimes the little touches make it all worthwhile. Hopefully you’ll be seeing some more Photoshop work from me in the coming weeks!

I also have learnt that I really need to buy a reflector. They aren’t expensive, and they are a lot easier to carry around than a piece of lighting kit! Sometimes, rather than using a light, a reflector is all you need and they can be used with natural light too. I always forget about reflecting light and have been looking back on quite a few of my shots recently recognising that a reflector would have made a lot of difference. I think I might need some help though – a reflector needs holding up and today we had Christina holding Evie with myself behind the camera so the reflector didn’t get used as much as we’d have liked!

Thanks again Christina, I had a lovely afternoon and your studio is absolutely fantastic. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain to me, how it works in a studio set up. I hope we can meet up again another time! I wish you all the best for your photography business and hope it continues to thrive and prosper as I’m sure it will do.

All shots were taken (at Christina’s suggestion) at 1/125 and f/8.0

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6th September 2009 – Photoshoot number 5

Written on September 6, 2009 – 12:35 pm | by BryonyParkes |

I know I’m supposed to be talking about my new shiny D90, but I remembered that I needed to blog about the last photoshoot I did. So before I go all slushy I had better get the talking about photos taken with my D40 over and done with first.

So, the week before last I did another mini photoshoot with Izzy. I have shot Izzy before, not long after I started doing these photoshoots, and as my friend and the gorgeous Izzy were popping in I asked if I could have a go at something.

Shooting children with a white background I find has always been fairly easy lighting wise. Shooting with a black background is something I haven’t got a lot of experience with and I wanted to give it a try while I was thinking about it. As it turned out, I really struggled with the lighting and wasn’t happy with any of the back background shots. I didn’t mind too much as I only had a few minutes and it wasn’t a proper photoshoot (of my kind), I was just trying a few things out but it did prompt me into looking further into it.

Aiming the flash gun at the ceiling or the window wasn’t as foolproof as I’ve found before when shooting with a white background so I don’t think the black helped. Depending on where I was also affected how the light fell whereas with a white background, I can usually stand anywhere I like. I was a bit confused as the photoshoot I did with my Sister turned out ok with the same set up, so what went wrong?

The aperture was slightly wider this time compared with my sister’s shoot – and I do think, looking back that I didn’t put much thought into the aperture setting with this shoot. As I was using the flash gun, I didn’t need to worry about light getting in, wasn’t after bokeh so why did it need to be that wide? I don’t know. Also, I need to think about my lighting more. I do have some lights after all, I need to buck up some courage and get them out of the bag.

Some of the shots I took are shown below. Please note: These are far from my best work, you’ll see that the lighting is all wrong. I am only sharing them for blogging purposes ;o)



I still couldn’t resist a shot or two on the white though. At the end of the day this one was the PAD and aside from the crop not being quite right as she’s not completely central, I do think I do better on white and prefer white.

I have since found out that with a black background its best to reflect the light away from it as much as possible. Also, as I already know, there needs to be as much distance between the background and the subject but I just haven’t got the space to do this at the moment. White background works well with flash gun as the light is bounced onto subject and background therefore making everything brighter. With a black background, light bounced onto the black isn’t going to work – it needs to be as dark as possible and only the subject lit up. This means I guess, that the flash gun just isn’t going to work as well with the black as it does with the white and it’ll depend on the other lighting in the room as well.

So next time, when shooting on black, I’ll use my studio lights, and a smaller aperture. We’ll go from there. What do you reckon?

Photos taken at 1/200 and f/3.5 (flashgun used)

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5th July 2009 – 25 Random things about me: Fact 4

Written on July 5, 2009 – 11:13 pm | by BryonyParkes |

Whoo, on a roll here. Are you bored yet?

Well, fact 4 on the list states:

“4) I once could play Clarinet at grade 8 standard and the Piano at grade 3. I regret letting my music slip. I intend to pick it back up as soon as I can”

Now this one was a bit tricky. I knew it’d involve a picture of the clarinet, but I took a pretty good one not long ago, as seen here which I was pretty pleased with and as I didn’t want to do another self portrait as two out of three pics in this series so far have my mug in them, plus yesterdays was unflattering enough without the face I pull when I’m playing the clarinet!  So I figured I’d go for simples.

Here’s a relatively unknown (albeit trivial) fact about me…I once took my Grade 5 Clarinet and Grade 1 Piano exams on the same day! The examiner was a bit surprised to see me walk back in 15 minutes after doing my Clarinet exam, and sit down and play the Piano. I passed both of them too, one of my finest days that was and I was only 15, with a profound hearing loss to boot! Jolly proud of that 15 year old girl that I was then, I went on to play in Russia that very same year, a few weeks short of 16 years old and I was playing in front of President Yeltzin, promoting disability in music, get me!

So it’s a big deal to me this whole music thing. It was also something I was good at best. I’ve never really been the best at anything since and don’t have something I’m REALLY good at anymore. I have things I’m good at, but nothing I outstandingly (is that a word?) excel in. I’d love to be back in school playing solo in the School Christmas Concert again, I wasn’t a hugely confident person but I was different on stage playing this beautiful instrument! I WILL take it up again, I have promised myself this.

So simple represents this one I’m afraid, but I like it and anyway the camera battery went flat about oooh, 2.4 seconds after I took this so it’ll have to do! I’ve always been a fan of negative space in a photo, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love experimenting with composition and space. I also knew that to get a good look at the keys on the clarinet, it would need some serious contrast which I thought negative space would do, but my usual plain white fleece blanket I use for background would have been too dull/matted, plus I didn’t want to use a flash just in case any of the (very shiny) keys picked it up. So I used the trusty window sill, which has a lovely veneer net curtain thing hanging at it, slower shutter speed to let lots of light in, – up the brightness a tad and bingo, a bright white! Not perfectly clean, but hey, neither is the clarinet.

Photo taken at 1/30 and f/5.6

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2nd July 2009 – Photoshoot number 3

Written on July 2, 2009 – 10:49 pm | by BryonyParkes |

It’s been some time since I did a photoshoot. I did one with my lovely sister yesterday. I am over the moon with the results! I positioned the set up away from any sun glare after my experience with Photoshoot number 1, used the flashgun properly to spread the light out across the set up, using the flash gun also meant I could use a high shutter speed to slim down any chances of blur and of course having a pretty gorgeous model helped!

I decided, as it was an adult model, and more importantly a relative, I could push the boundaries a little and faff around with different poses and background. I started off with my trusty white background, and then moved onto black which I haven’t used much before in portraiture. I have to say, I preferred the black in these particular shots so will make a point of using that colour more often.

I really enjoyed it, it was great to have a play in a relaxed setting and has reinstated some of my mojo, yippee! The full selection can be found here but following are a few of my favourites. Let me know what you think!

Photos taken at 1/200 and f/4.5, (flash gun used)

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8th April 2009 – Nothing like a little experiment with a light tent

Written on April 8, 2009 – 11:06 pm | by BryonyParkes |

I got a light tent last week. I needed somewhere to shoot various smallish objects that I come across when doing my PAD, as I can’t use the bath forever (although excellent for white background and reflecting light around the subject, it’s killing my back, not to mention risking equipment with water nearby etc). On initial inspection, said new light tent is compact (well it would be if I could work out how to fold it back up) yet it’s big enough for my 3 year old to get inside. It came with four different coloured backgrounds and the front has a lovely slit in to pop my hand through to hold the camera for complete all round flash reflection. Excellent I thought, however tonight, my first proper go, I found it a bit tricky to get the hang of.

Perhaps the daffodils weren’t the best subjects to use for my first light tent shoot. They’re not the “proper” daffs either, i.e. bright yellow (there was nothing on the stalks and closed buds to tell me they weren’t the yellow ones, I’m no gardener, my dear Mum will be sad) but nonetheless I thought I’d have a go and anyway and it would be a good opportunity for me to try out the SB600 again.

I first tried with white background as that’s my favourite, my style does tend to be rather on the white/bright side. The first photo, ignoring that it’s utterly rubbish as well, was certainly not bright enough even if you don’t like bright photographs:


So I had a fiddle with the flash. After a chat with my friend Chris the other week about my flash gun, and discovering what it means for a flash to zoom, I figured that what I need is for the light from the flash to come out as wide as possible, so it could bounce off the sides of the light tent. Perhaps it the zoom was too narrow hence not getting very far.


I increased the zoom on the flash gun and wow! What a difference!


But ok, it’s too bright. And you can see the lines of the tent too, not ideal. What to do next? The lining of the tent is obviously something I need to work on avoiding, that’ll be something to add to the list of things to do. But for now, I think I’ve worked out that white is not the right background for this kind of flower. Nonetheless, yay me for fiddling with the (otherwise scary) settings on my new flash!


A black backdrop I think, is the best way to shoot this flower in front of . I changed the background and here was the result which was then selected to be my PAD:

Not perfect by any means as a shot, (you can see creases on the background, wrong type of vase, reflection in the glass, composition is out a bit) but hey, the lighting is rather fab don’t you think? 



In case you’re interested, this is what the final set up looked like, I have some ironing to do I think…




Oh and before I go, I hope you can all read the blog better now. After a few comments that the silver was too hard to read against the black background I’ve got the techie guy that lives on the sofa to have a fiddle. Is this better? Answers on a postcard please  :o )

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