Peter Hurley on Illuminating the Face on Location

I have featured Peter Hurley’s videos and tips before and I am sure I will do it again in the future. He is a superb portrait photographer and a confident orator which makes listening to his advice nice and straightforward. Peter is also — as an aside — a master of marketing himself and his work which is something I am consistently in awe of.

This video tutorial shows a few photoshoots on location and Peter talks through the lighting set up, the camera settings and how manipulating the holy trinity (ISO, aperture and shutter speed) can affect the resulting images. It’s a nice tutorial, albeit the advice is probably of most use to newer photographers. Unfortunately for those newer photographers, a lot of the equipment used in the shoot is high-end and therefore expensive. Fear not, however, as most of the lighting arrangements in these shoots could be somewhat replicated with speed lights, umbrellas or softboxes and reflectors.

My primary motivation for sharing and writing about this video is not the technical tips offered. It is Peter’s direction of the shoots. If there is anything new and veteran photographers alike can take away from watching behind-the-scenes footage of Peter, it is how he orchestrates his shoots. He immediately builds rapport with the model and puts them at ease which has almost endless benefits. He encourages the model’s creativity with poses and ideas and creates and back and forth with them by showing them the successful images. It is very difficult to strike the fine balance between over-directing and stifling the model and under-directing to the point where the shoot’s merits are largely at the mercy of the model’s talent. Peter seems to walk the line between the two almost flawlessly.

It may not be the shortest of videos in an age of instant gratification, but there is a lot to be taken away from observing a highly successful and proficient portrait photographer behind the scenes and well worth your time.

The Making of: Vogue Japan’s Special Edition by Mario Testino

I featured Mario Testino at the end of March this year with his brilliant behind-the-scenes video of how he created Vogue China‘s special edition images. Now it’s time to travel east across Asia for his ‘making of’ video of Vogue Japan‘s special edition images.

It’s rare that a photographer of Testino’s calibre would give such a comprehensive insight in to his work flow for such an important project. However, even more surprising still, Testino gives a comprehensive insight in to his creative process; from research and conception to communication with  the editors and then finally the execution.

There is something very pleasing about how Testino begins such an important shoot: he roams the relevant location to drink in the culture and buries his face in books to develop an early concept. All the while, he is snapping away with a small point and shoot camera with the intention of using the images as a medium for communicating his ideas with Vogue’s editors.

The results of his shoots are exceptional and are certainly an advert for the importance of preparation.

Light Modifiers for Portraits Without Breaking the Bank

The discussion of photography equipment being expensive and not always necessary is hardly an untrodden path; I’ve even had several articles on the topic myself. However, the reason I continue to push videos and articles regarding the ‘not always necessary’ part is because so many photographers — particularly less experienced ones — fall in to the trap. A trap I fell in to myself.

This video from Good Light Magazine shows how you can use a simple shopping bag as a light modifier for an off-camera flash. It isn’t a new technique; people have been using all sorts of bizarre light modifiers for years. However, the video’s worth is in the quality of the results it shows you.

So, go and try out some bizarre household objects to alter your light for portraits. I have used an A3 white piece of paper as a reflector, a bed sheet as both a modifier and a backdrop (lit with a second flash) and a black duvet cover as a backdrop and to absorb light on low-key portraits.

Resource Magazine Cover Shoot: Behind the Scenes

It has been a while since I have posted a behind the scenes video of a photoshoot. This is primarily because the lion’s share of BTS videos are overly arty and end up being moving versions of the images from the shoot itself. If you’re lucky, you’ll be presented with a one second glimpse of the makeup being applied prior, but as a curious photographer they are usually little more than inspiration.

Resource Magazine’s BTS video of their cover shoot with the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine  is not one of those. The location is enviable and so are the props (they’re in a Hollywood studio after all), but how the shoot was produced and directed is clear to see. The photographer — Natalie Brasington — is clearly very experience and orchestrating large shoots and her commentary in the video is very helpful with regards to lighting in particular. All in all, it’s well worth eight minutes of your time.

What to Pay Attention to when Taking a Portrait


Interview: Claire Pepper (Fashion & Fitness Photographer)

The Making of: Vogue China’s Special Edition by Mario Testino

This isn’t the first time I’ve featured Mario Testino and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As the beginning of this video outlines, Mario and Vogue have a close relationship and he has completed a wealth of shoots for them. What makes this behind-the-scenes video all the more interesting is that firstly it’s for Vogue China and secondly that it’s slightly biographical too.

A lot of behind-the-scenes videos are primarily cuts of the photographer and the model with some upbeat music for all of two minutes. From this, interested photographers can try and derive the lighting setups, the direction and generally read between the lines. With this video on Mario’s Youtube channel, you can see much more than that. It begins with a brief history of Mario and Vogue’s relationship, it then moves on to concepts for the special edition and then we get to see how the shoot was performed. This allows for a much more rounded view of the process. Each shoot is broken down and the thinking behind the images is delineated, making it a very interesting video indeed.

Depth of Field and Bokeh Simulator

This is one for your Bookmarks bar. Michael Bemowski has developed a great little application for both PC and mobile devices where you can simulate the depth of field and the Bokeh of a scene by selecting all the variables involved.

Although this has some real depth to it for those who want to delve in a little deeper, I feel the real merit of this application is for beginners who are looking to experiment with apertures, focal lengths and subject distances. This visual guide is also excellent for people to see the difference between full frame and crop sensors with the same lenses and focal lengths.

The Bokeh and Depth of Field Simulator

Steve McCurry’s Top 9 Composition Tips

Steve McCurry is a photojournalist who truly warrants his enormous reputation. His portfolio is one of the richest tapestries of colours, textures and culture available in one place. Those people vulnerable to wander-lust ought to avoid his website at all costs. If you aren’t quite as susceptible to dropping everything and becoming a camera yielding nomad, or aren’t interested in heeding my advice, the link to his portfolio is at the bottom of this article.

The short video above is Steve McCurry’s top 9 composition tips which could improve your photography immeasurably. The difference between this video and the myriad other videos and articles claiming similar sage advice is in two parts; the first is that this video is filled with Steve McCurry’s tips and the second is that McCurry uses his portfolio to show how he has used his own tips.

Steve McCurry’s Portfolio

Video by COOPH

Robin Wright’s Shoot for Vanity Fair

Perhaps this video is more interesting to models than photographers, but Vanity Fair’s behind-the-scenes footage of their cover shoot with Robin Wright really caught my eye.

Robin Wright, most recently famous for her role as Claire Underwood on House of Cards, is shown in this video to be photographed in a number of studio settings by the prolific Patrick Demarchelier. The shoot itself, although produced beautiful results, wasn’t outlandish or unique as you can see. However, what grasped my attention was Robin Wright.

Robin plays an important and powerful woman in House of Cards and she does so very convincingly. What I did not expect, was the presence she provides in the show to be maintained outside of it. As I say, perhaps this video is of more use to models, but then again, perhaps us photographers can learn from how Robin carries herself when we select and direct models in our own shoots.

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The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

If I were given absolute financial freedom, travelling around the world and taking portraits of beautiful people from all different countries would certainly be right up there on my to-do list.

Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc has done just that and set herself the quest of photographing beautiful people of all different ethnicities. Her project – The Atlas of Beauty – might be simple in aim, but it is captivating.

Ways of following Mihaela Noroc: